When the small female Rottweiler named Queen was surrendered to the shelter, the score was Queen 3, Cats 0. Even being just sixty-five pounds and having bad hips, Queen was still very adept at dispatching her feline foes. Her family, unable to keep her contained at the small trailer they rented as well as deal with the city fines for having a dog at large, had no choice but to turn her over. The tragedy of this was that they were alive because of Queen. Not just once, but twice, Queen had saved her family. The first life-saving incident had occurred when she chased off a Grizzly bear that had charged the family while they were out cutting wood. The second was the reason they were living in a rental where her containment had been an issue.
|Her majesty, Queen.
Queen was just as her name described, though small in stature, she was a regal and powerful female, controlling all she surveyed. Queen soon became the majesty of the shelter, ending up as the canine ambassador, when visiting local elementary schools, since her demeanor towards people was exceptional.
Aside from her friendly disposition towards people, Queen also became known for a few quirks she had. One involved buckets. Yes, buckets. Queen, for the most part, could care less about her regular water dish, but when someone donated a bunch of large, thick rubber-sided, horse watering pails, something triggered in Queen. She would become totally fixated on the buckets, replete with destructive intent. Her favorite pastime quickly became “get the bucket”, as the staff would say. Now keep in mind a couple of things. First, this six-year-old, small Rottweiler with bad hips seemed a mismatch for the large, thick rubber-sided containers that held nearly twenty gallons. Despite the odds, however, Queen decimated every bucket she could get ahold of. In less than a week, her first bucket looked as if the local militia had used it for machine gun practice. Its sides were perforated with countless, perfect canine tooth-sized holes and large chunks had been removed and tossed about the pen. This tenacious behavior with the buckets carried right over to tires and trees as well. Yes, trees. She might have been a small Rottweiler but it was common to take her for a walk, only to have her drag back a ten-foot-long log she found along the way. These, along with her amazing ability to catch mice and leave them in her water dish for the staff, and her love of tennis balls and a green squeaky moose toy, made Queen one of the most beloved dogs at the shelter.
In 2001, after 22 months at the shelter, I wondered if perhaps Queen would ever find a home. Still, like with all the dogs I worked with, I held out hope that God had a home waiting just for her. In late May, the shelter decided to hold a remote adoption at the local Costco store. Costco was kind enough to allow this to happen and had always been supportive of the shelter and its efforts, even setting up bins so people could donate items purchased there to the shelter. Several dogs were taken for the remote adoption event, but the two that I took were Queen and Adonis (See the blog, Heaven Sent, for his story). Both dogs had been there almost two years, and I desperately wanted to see a good home come along for the both of them. The crowd was thick on that beautiful Saturday, and though many people stopped to pet Queen, no one showed particular interest.
This was the case until a woman and her teenage daughter stopped to ask more about Queen and what was involved in adopting her. Queen put on her normal charms and rolled onto her back for a belly rub. Amy, the woman, explained that they lived out of town and were there to pick her husband up from the airport. They just wanted to get some shopping out of the way while waiting for the plane to arrive. She talked about how her husband used to own Rottweilers but hadn’t had one for years, and she said she knew that he would love to have another. I told her about Queen’s issues with cats along with all her good traits. Amy told me she would talk to her husband when they picked him up in a few hours and if he was interested they’d stop back by.
After they left I didn’t get my hopes up, as promises from people to come back are rarely kept. I knew this having been doing rescue work for several years at this point. The following is in the words of Crystal about how they broke the news to her step-dad:
We got to the airport and Mom had told Rich we had a surprise for him. He said, What a dog? Mom said yes! You could see the tears welt up in his eyes. He excused himself. We went back to Costco to talk about Queen. Queen what a beautiful name.
It was a pleasant surprise when Amy, Rich and Crystal did return that afternoon. Rich, was a quiet man and seemed somewhat gruff, which I understood considering he had just been on a long flight. Still, he at least tried to get to know Queen. As usual, Queen rolled over onto her back for a belly rub but looked away from him while he petted her. Rich seemed a bit bothered that she appeared disinterested.
“I don’t think she cares much for me,” Rich said dryly.
I was just about to explain to him how Rottweilers take a while to get to know and trust someone, but Queen beat me to it. She rolled her head over and licked his hand gently. The deal was done. In that moment, the gruff and tired man’s heart melted. The application and checks were completed, and Queen went home to her new family.
I thought it was a happy ending and for a while it was. Throughout the summer, the shelter would get updates from Amy about how Queen and Rich were always together, and they even heard that their favorite pastime was going for a ride in the jeep on their mountain property.
Sadly, after only a few months with her new family, tragedy struck. In August, while sitting at his desk at home, with Queen at his feet as was typical, Rich died of a heart attack. Crystal describes that dark time:
In August of 2001 a friend and I were visiting Montana when Rich passed away suddenly. Our lives were crushed. Queen would not leave the front door, she knew something was wrong, she knew Rich wasn't there.
After everyone had left, Mom had Queen. She was there for my mom when she was alone on top of that mountain. I would occasionally go back out to see them. Queen was so smart and she helped me heal from my broken heart. One night we came home to the front door wide open, we were scared! Queen could sense it, she went into protection mode. She stood straight up, ran around the house, woofed, checking everywhere she went for a intruder. She didn't stop until we stopped. I look back now and think she would have done anything to protect us, to protect the ones she loved.
I didn’t hear from Amy again until Christmas, in the form of a letter. It was one of those standard letters that people send out to all their family and friends as a Christmas gift. Its purpose was to let everyone know of the events of the past year. Amy’s letter was more somber than most. She told about the elation of adopting Queen and then the sudden loss of her soul mate. She then went on to explain how she knew that Queen was sent to her from God, to help her through this tragic time. It seemed that Queen, once again, was a hero, saving her loved ones from tragedy. Like most Rottweilers, Queen became more than just a dog; she became a protector, a confidant, and a supporter. Queen’s excess of confidence was exactly what Amy needed during this dark time.
For many years, Queen continued her watch over Amy and her daughter Crystal, making sure that the deer or other trespassers didn’t get to close to the house, while being wise enough to allow the moose to wander as close as they wanted. Queen was smart enough to know not to tangle with a moose.
There will never be another dog like Queen, she was one of a kind. I still think about her 11 years after she passed away. You wouldn't think a dog, would have an impact on you like that and people that have never had an animal will never understand. They are a part of your family, when you lose them it's like losing a part of yourself. Queen will always have a place in my heart.
The reason this latest blog has taken as long as it has is that I was focused on publishing my second novel, Lost Horse Park. Though a stand-alone novel, it connects to my first novel, Stranger's Dance. You can learn more about them at my website, www.troykechely.com.