On December 20, 1994, a friend's husband, who dealt in real estate, was walking through a field in Greeley, Colorado, with another developer when he came across three puppies nearly frozen together in a hole in the ground. It gets mighty cold in Greeley in the winter. The wind blows hard there. He pulled the pups out of the ground, wrapped them up, and took them to a nearby vet, who recommended getting warm milk into their stomachs and said that if they made it through the night they would probably survive. The vet estimated that they were seven weeks old.
The next day, with three puppies still breathing regularly, their tummies round with milk, our friend called the people in her address book with "soft-headed hearted" checked next to their names and had them come look at the black-and-white imps tottering around on the newspaper-covered floor of her kitchen.
All three found homes. The female went with us. My then-thirteen-year-old daughter (who is now twenty-eight) named her Ariel Miranda, because she was a mischievous spirit and had been rescued from a tempest. (The name also turned out to be appropriate as its homophone aerial, capturing her tendency to leap away from the ground.)
At the time, we had Heather (Aslan's Mountain Heather), a lovely blue merle Australian shepherd who had retired to our household following a career producing show-quality puppies. We usually adopt adult dogs, because they need us more than puppies do, but Bekah had been doing obedience training with Heather, who really already knew the ropes, and wanted to work with a dog who didn't know anything: to train from the ground up.
Both Heather and Ariel had half-white noses, white chests, and white patches on the backs of their necks. People thought Ariel was Heather's daughter. Heather did serve as Ariel's canine elder, presenting us with a model of patience and boundary-setting.
When Ariel was tiny, her little legs had a hard time keeping up with Heather's and our strides and she would scramble all-out behind us, until my daughter would pick her up and carry her for a bit. She wasn't much more than a double handful. Until relatively recently, however, for most of her life she took the lead on our walks and adventures.
Despite her unknown parentage, she looked enough like a Border collie to qualify for ILP listing with the American Kennel Club. In addition to the superficial qualities, she strongly displayed the Border collie's intelligence and herding instincts (along with ears and a coat that suggested some spaniel influence . . . which became more pronounced as she aged). When we applied for the listing, we also established the kennel name "Tempest," which seemed appropriate because any dogs we might register in the future would also almost certainly be rescues. So she officially became Tempest's Ariel Miranda.
The ILP number meant she and my daughter could not only train in obedience and agility but could enter trials and prove what they had accomplished . . . if Ari felt like it. Both of us trained with Ari: my daughter when she was home from school, and me during the school year. My daughter was the one who took her into the ring while I watched from a position that gave me the ability to see Ariel without distracting her as she worked. Sometimes I didn't get to watch because Ari was very sharp at scoping out her environment; I had to go hide behind a post and not peek out.
Because of her arthritis, which began showing up early, it took Ariel a long time to earn her novice obedience title, the CD (Companion Dog). A dog who limps at a trial is excused and not allowed to continue that day [thanks for the clarification, Julie! we need to train another dog and get our terms right; I've fixed the rest of this paragraph] disqualified (DQ'd), no matter what the reason for the limping or how much the dog would like to "play"—generally a very good rule that was put in place to keep dogs from competing when they're not sound enough to. It takes three qualifying scores under different judges to earn the title. Not being allowed to participate in an event can mean months of waiting for the next opportunity to come around. Sometimes we'd register her and then just go watch, because we knew she'd be excused. Sometimes she'd falter just a bit on the way into the ring and the judge would order her out.
She acquired her CGC paper more easily: this Canine Good Citizen evaluation requires dogs to have fundamental, significant self-control skills around humans and other dogs. I think all dogs and their owners would be well-served by going through this program. It would do a lot to improve everyone's life.
We thought Ariel might still be working on novice obedience as a senior dog (ten years and older), but she got her title before then.
Ariel (age 7), 2001
The green ribbon means she qualified for this round and it counts toward her title. The yellow ribbon means she was one of the top-performing dogs in her group; this was her third-place day. On another day, she earned a red (second place), and on the final leg, the one that earned her the title, she got a blue (first place).
We didn't continue her obedience competition after the novice level, because jumping (which she LOVED) was required and the jump heights were beyond what was safe for her. We let her train a bit longer in obedience and agility, planning her workouts to include low jumps and carefully angled approaches—although she was perfectly capable of sabotaging our plans and barreling up and over an A-frame or a teeter-totter at what we considered an unwise speed, or might swerve off and bound through another dog's jumping set-up, possibly messing up a knee upon landing.
Ari was going to work her body and mind whether we approved of her methods or not. We just needed to stay flexible and try not to be left in her dust. So we went for hikes.
Ariel (age 7), 2001
And we let her chase balls: she was very picky about which ball, and would search the whole dog park until she found EXACTLY the right one. When we figured this out, we took to hiding the "approved" ball in a spot where we could find it easily, so she would not have to work so hard locating it again the next time we got to the park.
Ariel (age 8), 2002
By the time she was 9, we had tried all sorts of normal latches, bars, and other fasteners to foil her efforts to get out of the back yard, with its 6-foot fence, whenever she chose. We finally discovered what would work:
Ariel (age 9), 2003
It seemed a bit drastic, but we ended up installing a cattle gate on the outside of the regular gates, and used both ties and latches to secure it. This gate is rated for 3500 pounds of cow-power. It did keep our 50-pound dog legally confined. FINALLY. She had never gone far, and never gotten in trouble we heard about. Sometimes we wouldn't even know she'd been out until a neighbor would remark, "I saw your dog taking herself for a walk the other day. . . ."
Ariel even had a brief career as a product tester for a noted dog-toy manufacturer, except that she could destroy almost anything they sent her so quickly the results weren't meaningful for most dogs. She was off the charts for "aggressive chewer," although once she passed puppyhood she always chewed appropriate items.
Even after she'd lost much of the strength in her back legs, she was always looking for something to engage her attention and energies.
Tussah (about 12, as far as we know), me, my daughter, and Ariel (age 14.75), summer 2009
She was willing to travel. . . .
Ariel (age 13.75) and Tussah, summer 2008
Especially if she could do new and interesting things along the way.
Both: Ariel (age 13.75), summer 2008
She loved running toward us (one of her favorite games was "Ari, COME!," racing back and forth between me and my daughter), and she loved snow.
Ariel (age 8), 2002
Ariel (age 15), November 13, 2009
- took me places I'd never have gone without her
- gave me many lessons in consistency and teamwork and my own ingenuity
- taught me to relax and find joy where I would otherwise certainly have missed it
Ariel (age 7) and me, enjoying a summer day, 2001—some people think I never slow down
She was not a perfect dog or a paragon of virtue. She had those escape tendencies. She would eat almost anything, and could inflict a too-eager nip on the fingers giving her a treat. She was allergic to many foods. But she'd agree completely with the quote from Charles Lamb that's on my tea bag this morning: "A laugh is worth a hundred groans in any market."
I hope that with my allotment of time and energy I do a fraction as well as Ariel did with hers.
Tempest's Ariel Miranda, CD, CGC
November 1 (?), 1994 - November 22, 2009
a strong-willed companion
a life well lived; a being well loved
Special thanks to Julie Yamane at the Canine Learning Center and to Jennifer Hendrickson and Chris Babiarz at Animal Answers, for helping us get off on the right foot (sometimes literally) and forge a strong working partnership with this spirited creature; to Dr. Julie Gamble, for providing Ariel with a lifetime of excellent vet care (we followed Julie from clinic to clinic all over town until she finally got her own practice); to Jill Reynolds, Deanna Rogers and Connie Fredman, for a combination of quality-of-life care and advice that made a huge difference over the past two years; to Doggon' Wheels, especially Mel, for making possible the joyful final movement of Ariel's symphony; and to Kris Paige and, by phone, Dr. Debbie Sunken for evaluation and wise counsel on a Sunday afternoon during Ariel's last few hours with us. And to Tussah, for being Ariel's buddy for half a dozen years.