Tag's Story

by Cathy Dehaan

I've just returned from the Collie Club of America Nationals in Massachusetts [April 1999], where I participated in a 'Rescue Parade' with Tag, my three year old Blue Merle. The Nationals is the biggest collie event of the year and hundreds from all across the nation attend. Tag wasn't happy to be there and I'll admit I was feeling my own apprehension at being the focal point of such a large audience, even if only for a few, brief minutes...

We had been waiting our turn for over an hour and were the last 'team' to enter the ring. Five others had gone before us, each with their own sad 'tail' being told over the loudspeaker. Tag was nervous and scared and trying to hide his head between my knees as our name was called. We stepped into the ring, the crowd cheering us on! I whispered to him, "Lets go buddy, they're clapping for YOU!" His ears perked up and he held his head high as he pranced by my side for our tour around the main show ring. Tag is not a show dog and this was definitely his 'moment in the sun'! The clapping abated only slightly when the announcer began reading our bio. It began with Tag's neglected puppyhood at the abusive hands of his owner in Alaska, his being dropped off at an animal shelter when he was only five months old, malnourished and diseased, to his eventually finding a permanent home where he is now a much loved family member. Shortly after the announcer began speaking, though, he stopped mid sentence. I looked over to see this poor gentleman's face buried in his hands, shoulders heaving, wracked with sobs as someone else continued on for him. He wasn't the only one touched by these brave collies' ordeals. I scanned the standing-room-only audience. All judging and other activities had been suspended for our little parade; everyone had paused to watch, even the hustling groomers busy with the next 'champion'. I saw many wet eyes; tears of joy for the happy endings of these six dogs, and perhaps tears of sorrow for the pain and suffering of the countless other abused dogs that they represented. I looked over at the rest of our group; a couple of them were crying, as well. I struggled to keep my own tears at bay as I realized the significance of my participating in this 'parade'. We were a reminder to the hundreds of breeders present that not every puppy born would have a happy, healthy life and it should be every breeder's responsibility to ensure that not a single pup born ever end up being abused or dumped at a shelter or worse.

Together, we six and our dogs took one final lap around the ring to the thunderous applause from all those who recognize the problem of unwanted pets and the need for people willing to give them a home. As we stood mingling outside the ring, our 'parade' at an end, one lady stopped and said, "God bless you all". I knelt down to give Tag his umpteenth hug of the day and thought, He already has...


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