An Inspirational Rescue

Julie Klam asked me for a rescue story for her blog. This story originally appeared there.

It was August 25, 2001. I was hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains with my Basset, Hennessy, and my Golden, Bailey. At the top of the hill, at Inspiration Point, a huge Chow mix without a collar approached me. I was a little nervous, but he politely accepted some water and let me put a leash on him. Back at the ranger station was a note that some hikers had seen the dog put out of a car in the parking lot the night before. The rangers were busy, so I volunteered to take him down to the shelter. Halfway down the hill, he put his elbow on my shoulder, and I headed to the pet store to buy him a collar. Surely one of my friends would take him. He’s a redhead and I met him hiking, so I called him Johnnie Walker Red (yes, there’s a theme to my dogs’ names. The first two were Moet and Chandon).

A few days later my neighbor came over to meet Johnnie. He couldn’t take him, but did tell me where I could find the new convertible I was looking for. As he left, he said, “You know, you’re going to keep this dog.”

Oh no.

I didn’t want a third dog.

I didn’t want a big dog.

I didn’t want a long-haired dog.

I didn’t want a boy dog.

I didn’t want a Chow dog.

I was going out of town for Labor Day, and the kennel was fully booked. My Golden was elderly and not interested in the rambunctious newcomer. I couldn’t leave them all together at the kennel, so I asked a friend to take Bailey for the weekend. (Hennessy and Johnnie were instant friends. She lost 5 pounds the first week, keeping up with the younger man.) Turned out they’d been wanting a Golden, and Bailey got to go live with them and have her very own house for the rest of her life. Everyone was happy.

Including me. Johnnie was totally untrained and full of energy, but he learned quickly. Hennessy was glad to have someone to play with. I took Johnnie to see Cesar Millan and he calmed down considerably. In fact, he’s on season 2 of The Dog Whisperer as one of the good role models (he’s also in a lot of Cesar’s advertising. Look for that big bushy tail).

On September 12, I got two phone calls. One told me that my friend Ann Judge was on the plane that went into the Pentagon. The other told me my new convertible was ready. I just couldn’t watch the news anymore, so I went to pick up the car. I drove home on Olympic Boulevard into a brilliant sunset, in my new convertible, with tears pouring down my face. Then I went home and buried my face in my new dog’s neck.

Johnnie’s my hiking partner, traveling companion, and photographer’s assistant. Nobody will mess with me when he’s around, but he’s also a great way to meet people. Even little kids love him because he looks like a big teddy bear. Every day I get asked what breed he is, and I just don’t know. Chow/Great Pyrenees would be my best guess. My vet says he’s a cross between a bear and a lion.

It’s been 9 ½ years since I met Johnnie. Hennessy and Bailey are gone, I have a new Basset, Stella (that, too, is a liquor name, it’s for the beer Stella Artois). She’s had a tough life, but when she gets timid, she just gets behind Johnnie, because he’ll protect us all. He’s a gentle giant, good with other dogs and kids, and an ambassador for rescue groups. We do fundraising for my friend Dawn’s Basset ranch (where I got Stella), Daphneyland. He’s glad to pose for photos, especially if there’s a cookie involved. Or a cake.

He’s a serious goofball, one of the greatest dogs of all time. I’m very lucky he found me on a mountaintop called Inspiration Point.