A Serendipitous Meeting
A story involving a long wait, an empty gas station, sweet and sour chicken, and a little black dog.
I never had a dog in my life, not even as a kid.
In 2015 I was living in Portland, Oregon working for as a truck driver for a local supply company. It was July and they were building a Facebook Data Center in Prineville, about 150 miles southeast of Portland, and I had to drive a load of wire down to the construction site. It was a hot day, the truck didn’t have air conditioning, the seat was lumpy and springs were about to poke through the vinyl, so I made sure to grab an old blanket from my house to sit on.
I made it to Prineville just as the construction workers were breaking for lunch. They were having an employee appreciation BBQ, and the foreman told me there was plenty of food and I could join them because it was going to be 30 minutes before anybody could unload my truck with the forklift.
After lunch, they unloaded my truck and I headed back to Portland. I stopped in Madras to fill up the truck but the first station was out of diesel fuel so I had to stop at another station instead. All I had eaten at the construction site BBQ was a roll and a cookie, so I decided to stop at Safeway to get some Chinese food from the glass display case in the deli - I’ve always been a sucker for the deep fried sweet and sour chicken, and it’s easy to eat while driving.
Half an hour later, I was driving near the Warm Springs Reservation on Highway 26 and I noticed a skinny black dog standing on the shoulder in the opposite lane. I drove for a couple hundred feet and thought to myself, “That’s the saddest looking dog I’ve ever seen." I turned around my 26-foot delivery truck and went back.
The dog was still standing there and another car was just pulling over. It turned out to be a lady that worked for the Red Cross named Jessica. I grabbed my Chinese food and my water jug and asked if it was her dog. She said it wasn’t. We both approached the dog but it was skittish and ran over the small hill into the sagebrush. I was wearing boots but Jessica was wearing sandals and a skirt - not exactly dressed for a feral desert dog rescue mission. The dog eventually went behind a rock and a stump and laid down. The dirt was matted down like she had been sleeping there for a while. It was apparent this dog belonged to no one.
We saw that it was a girl, a Blue Heeler of some sort. She didn’t have a collar, her claws were ground down to the paw, her ribs and spine were sticking out, most of the fur was gone from her ears and she had at least two dozen ticks embedded in her black fur. She was in such poor shape that I didn’t know if she was really young or really old. I threw pieces of my sweet and sour chicken at her and she gobbled them in seconds. Then I poured water in the empty container but she didn’t drink out of it, it was almost like she didn’t know what to do with it. So instead I poured some water on the dirt in front of her and that’s when she started drinking it.
When she was done drinking, I picked her up and headed back to my work truck. I wasn’t even worried about all the dirt or ticks covering her. We moved the blanket I was sitting on to the passenger seat and set her on it.
Jessica was familiar with dogs because she had two similar breeds at her house, so I asked her if she wanted a third to join them. My wife and I had recently bought a house and had talked about getting a dog - a trail buddy to join us when we’d go to the coast or down the Columbia River Gorge. We decided that I would keep the dog and Jessica gave me her business card so I could let her know what the vet said when I got back to town.
My first stop back in Portland was the veterinarian. They examined her and determined that she was about 4 months old and had been living on her own for about 3 weeks. Since it was July one of the technicians thought maybe she got spooked and ran away during fireworks explosions. They scanned her for a microchip but found nothing. They pulled out about 30 ticks and gave her a shot of fluids. She only weighed 14 lbs. The vet asked what I was going to name her, so I said “Maddie” because we found her outside the town of Madras. I bought a few cans of dog food, a collar and a leash and we went home. I checked all the Craigslist missing pets posts from all over Oregon but didn’t find anyone missing a dog like her.
My wife came home from work and met our new family member. We gave her a bath and found even more ticks on her. For the first two days she was pretty lethargic, but we just chalked that up to her being a stray and finally feeling safe enough to catch up on rest. When Saturday came she could barely stand, she wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t drink and was occasionally throwing up. We called the vet and made an appointment for the next morning. By Saturday night though, she had gotten much worse. We rushed her to the 24 hour emergency clinic. They did a couple of tests and concluded that she tested “very positive” for Parvo. This was my first dog and I had no idea what that meant. The vet said it was an intestinal disease that causes the dog to starve and dehydrate itself to death and even with immediate treatment she would only have a 50% chance of survival. They gave us a quote that was about $2,700.
I told them to do whatever they could and I swiped my credit card at the counter.
The vet said we could call and visit daily to check her progress. We came to visit her Sunday afternoon. They made us put on these white jumpsuits and wear rubber gloves because apparently Parvo is extremely contagious. They took us down to the basement where they had Maddie quarantined. Her tail was taped up and she had an IV. They had the radio on for her, and I remember it was on the very non-offensive country radio station. We came to visit her every day but she never showed much emotion one way or another when we were there.
On the third day, the vet called and said that Maddie seemed like she wanted to play and didn’t test positive for Parvo anymore! We rushed over and the vet brought her out the backdoor to us. Her tail was wagging and she was acting like the 4 month puppy she was. The $2,700 turned into $3,600 but thanks to credit cards and the goodwill of family, friends, and internet strangers via GoFundMe, it wasn’t much of an issue.
Over the last 3 years, she’s gone almost everywhere with us: breweries, trails, road trips through California, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho and every July 15th she gets her very own cheeseburger from a fast food joint of her choice. Lots of people ask what kind of dog she is, and I just tell them that she’s a Blue Heeler mix of some sort. We eventually did a DNA test on her and the results came back as a mix between Blue Heeler, German Shepherd, and Staffordshire Terrier.
The gas station being out of fuel, the confusion with the customer ahead of me in line at Safeway, the half-hour wait to have my truck unloaded at the construction site...all those setbacks really did work out. If I would’ve just been a couple of minutes ahead or a couple of minutes behind I might never have ended up with Maddie. Although I’m sure that Jessica from the Red Cross would’ve taken her, I’m glad I got her instead. We still keep in touch with Jessica (and her dogs, Beau and Bella) and Maddie goes absolutely nuts whenever she sees her.
We later moved from Portland to Bend and adopted a younger brother for her named Chevy, a blue heeler/border collie mix from Herd U Needed a Home, and even though they’re maniacs together and sometimes sound like they’re fighting to the death when they play, they really are best friends. I just tell the neighbors that’s how cattle dogs play.