By Mike “Duke” Venturino
Photos By Yvonne Venturino
Since gun people tend to like dogs too, I’m sure you’ve noticed our pages are regularly graced with smiling dog mugs. Well, this time I was ahead of His Editorship because I’d already started this column before he sent his note asking for pooch pics from us. I’ve always been more a dog person while Yvonne is more a cat person but there’s plenty of cross-over.
Some of the pets I’ve been closest too have been cats, and Yvonne has been responsible for bringing in five of our current six dogs. Besides being my photographer, Yvonne is also the local animal shelter’s photographer and special projects person.
Like most of my generation I grew up with Lassie. I always wanted a collie but for some reason never had one until I was 55. One winter evening as we sat visiting, I happened to mention to Yvonne the two things I wanted most at age 13 was a German army helmet and a tri-color collie. She looked stunned and said, “We have a beautiful one at the shelter and its going up for adoption tomorrow.” Briefly common sense intruded and I said, “No, we have too many critters already.”
The next day Yvonne worked it so instead of me driving myself she “had” to pick me up after my cardiac rehab exercise class. When we got to the fork in the road where a left turn was needed to go home she drove straight ahead. I said, “Where are you going?” She said, “You need to see that dog.”
Duke meeting Brady the first time at his foster home in Texas.
Duke says Brady may have saved his life.
Duke in his office with his first collie Brennan. This photo was taken
only a couple of hours before Brennan’s death.
He was a beauty albeit too skinny. How did he end up at an animal shelter? The city police found him running the streets trying to get into people’s cars and brought him to our local Stafford Animal Shelter. I cannot detail what I discovered about him with detective work but suffice it to say it did not reflect well on the human race.
By the second day a bond formed between us, the likes I had never experienced. He stuck to me like glue. I called him Samson but after my detective work I found his given name was Brennan. He answered to it immediately.
He went with me nearly everywhere. At shooting matches I could put him in a stay near my vehicle with water, food and shade and he would be there all day. Then after five wonderful years I was fooling around in the driveway with my pickup and not paying attention. He died there and I held his body until the folks from the animal crematoria arrived. I was devastated.
Yvonne was scared the grief would affect my already damaged heart and kill me too. She knew I needed a mission and found a collie rescue outfit in Texas with a tri-color that had been badly abused and needed a special home. She sent me to get him. Brady is his name. It took a couple of years but he hooked onto me as best as his past would allow. His age is a mystery but he’s obviously going blind now and has slowed down considerably in the last year. Heck, I have too. Still he may have saved my life.
Bonnie’s partner was Clyde and he is more interested in
being Yvonne’s friend than Duke’s.
Duke never expected to have the unreserved love and devotion of another collie
but it happened in 2015 when he adopted Bonnie after her owner passed away.
Yvonne got word through the shelter an elderly gent in town had passed away. He had two collies and no family or friends to take them. We did! They are a merle colored female and a tri-color male of six and five years of age respectively. They were named Bonnie and Clyde. Clyde was friendly when I visited but Bonnie was very stand-offish.
The caretaker said, “Clyde will be your dog but Bonnie is darn near feral. She doesn’t like people.” I replied, “Well we have a huge fenced back yard where she can live out her years in safety.” He was able to get a leash on Bonnie so I could at least get her home.
That first night both dogs were both scared of the new surroundings and the myriad other dogs and cats staring at them. But they responded well to food and warm blankets on the bedroom floor. Then a near miracle happened. The second night I sat down on the couch to watch TV. Bonnie walked in and made eye contact with me for a moment. Then she climbed up on the couch and laid her head on my leg. From then on she has been my constant companion, at home or traveling in the vehicles when it’s not too hot. On leash at summer animal shelter functions or even local gun shows, she behaves like a dignified princess. I am a lucky man.
What about Clyde? He’s a big friendly fellow but instead of bonding with me he prefers Yvonne and also seems to have adopted Brady as his buddy. He’s happy.
We have other dogs but those are my collie stories.
For info: www.staffordanimalshelter.org; www.texascollierescue.org. Check out reader dog pics online: www.americanhandgunner.com/gun-dog-fun/