Posted by: jility | March 16, 2011

Living With a Feral Dog

Ten years ago, almost to the day, we adopted our wonderful feral dog. We had lost our heart and soul dog, Bear (a Rottweiler x Border Collie cross), to bone cancer. She was 14 but, no matter how old they are, they are never with us long enough. I still cry about Bear after all these years.

Bear & her favorite little friend, Girlkitty.

After we lost Beardog, I went searching on for our next rescue. Our first standard Poodle, Isabella, had just turned a year old and she had also adored Bear. She needed a friend. I searched and searched all the Border Collie and Aussie mixes on and came across a face that instantly grabbed my heart. She looked like she was mostly Australian Shepherd but it was hard to tell from the photo. I had not looked to see where she was located but I was prepared to ship her from anywhere. She looked like the perfect girl to fill our void.

Upon further investigation, I discovered that she was located only 30 minutes away from us right in our local shelter! It was meant to be! Sir Cussalot and I climbed in our van and headed out to the shelter to see her. We brought Isabella with us and we were all very excited! They put us in a small room and said they would be right back with her. They referred to her only as 7355 because she had no name.

We waited for what seemed like an eternity and began to wonder what was taking so long. Finally, the door opened and the attendant appeared. We could not see a dog with her but then we caught a glimpse of little 7355 hiding behind her, refusing to budge. The attendant dragged her in and explained that the little dog, now about 10 months old, had never been on a leash or worn a collar. Then little 7355 peeked out from behind the girl and we saw her face. When she spotted us in the room, she was overcome by fear and peed all over herself. Sir C and I both began to cry and, through our tears, said in unison, “We’ll take her!”

7355 sitting a puddle of yellow fear.

The attendant said, “Really? Don’t you want to take her out into the yard and see if you are compatible?” We both said no, she would be fine and so would we. Both of us were in love with this petrified little girl and couldn’t stand the thought of her spending another night in the shelter. They explained that there was no way they would let her go without being spayed but we had them call our vet. He vouched for us and we promised to take her to the office immediately to have her spayed. They allowed us to leave with her.

Now that we were committed to taking her, they told us that this was to be her last day in the shelter. They had finally decided that she was unadoptable because of the fact that she was feral and so fearful. They went on to tell us where she had been trapped and that her sisters had been adopted but she was the most wild of the pack. It was in January when she was trapped. She and her pack were starving to death and were found tearing open grain sacks in a horse barn. They were eating the grain to survive. They called the shelter and they sent  traps for the pack.

The barn owners told the shelter people that this pack had been wild for generations and they lived on the edge of the freeway. Only the smartest and most cunning survived this very difficult life. 7355 was obviously still very wild but she was a survivor.

Sir C carried her to the van. Isabella saw her and was so excited that we had brought her a friend! They greeted and play bowed in the van and little 7355 was very happy to have a dog with whom to communicate. We drove to the vet and left here there to be spayed.

The next day, we picked up our new girl we had named Miss Millie Angle after a Sir C relative several generations back. She was sweet but scared of her own shadow (the dog not the relative). We brought her in the house and she immediately squatted and peed. I whisked her up and carried her outside. She pottied (marked really) and I praised her and brought her back in the house. She immediately marked again. I repeated the carrying outside and praising when she marked again. This went on about six more times and then she got the idea. She never again pottied inside! She never pooped in the house and would die before she had an accident. She was the easiest dog to housetrain I have ever had in my life! Isabella was a year old and she was STILL pottying in the house if I wasn’t on top of it!

Millie learned quickly to walk on a leash and we took our two girls everywhere with us. One time we went to a street fair. Millie was embarrassing as she tried to lick up every spilled ice cream and devour every dropped French fry or other food on the ground. It took quite some time before she stopped eating garbage she found on the streets.

Not too long after Millie came to live with us, we took a road trip to Carmel, California. The beach and town is very dog friendly and we used to love going there (before we had eight dogs to track that is). We walked along the beach and Millie loved it! Her favorite things though, were the dead birds she found along the coast. We spent most of our time convincing her not to eat the old rotten birds, fish and other unrecognizable creatures on the sand. Then she hit the mother lode; a dead sea lion lay decomposing on the beach! She thought she had died and gone to heaven. Before we could get to her, she had rolled in it and was beginning to eat it. MAN IT STUNK! She was cur dog through and through. We found a groomer close by and dropped both girls off for baffies. Millie was so proud of herself when we picked her up. They posed outside the grooming shop with their new bows.

Mille gained confidence with every day and every pat and hug (she was not fond of the hugging at all). To this day, only we can hug her. A friend she knows well tried once a few years ago and Millie bit her hard in the face and she bled a lot! I have to warn people to never get in Millie’s face and remind them that she was a wild dog and still has those characteristics, even at 11 years old.

Ten years ago, I started my agility career with Isabella and Millie. When I watch the old videos, I have to laugh. I was so bad and they tried so hard but had no clue what to do because I had no clue how to train or handle. Here are a couple of videos of Millie when we began agility. She spent the first run trying to bite me to speed me up a little.

In her next trial, she found a bee and spent most of the run chasing bees. We dubbed her “The Beezen Hunden.” It was all quite humiliating for me. NOtice the lovely “evil arm” at work and the begging and pleading while MIllie exhibits perfect calming signals. GOD HOW I SUCKED LOLOLOL.

After trialing Millie for a couple of years, Sir C decided to try his hand at agility and took over running Millie. Here is Mel’s very first agility run ever!

My how our handling has changed! THANK GOD!

Isn't she just the cutest?

Millie has been an amazing dog. She has taught me more about doggie language than any other dog in my life (and there have been a LOT of dogs in my life!). She acts like no other dog I have had. She raises our puppies in a fair but firm way. She gives them puppy license for a very long time but is not above correcting them when needed. She is swift and fair. She is the lowest in the pack order yet she really rules the pack in her own way. I have seen her bark at our dogs to get away from danger and run them back when she thought something might hurt them. I have seen her save one of the other dogs from the jaws of Josephine by attacking them herself in a playful way to lure them away from Josephine. Millie HATES Josephine and is not fond of Charisse either. Both came to live with us as grown dogs after their former owner, Lisa Greene,  passed away. Millie has never accepted them into her pack! Jose doesn’t play fair either and Millie has zero tolerance for dogs that don’t play by the doggie rules.

I have also seen her risk her own life with a very nasty Border Collie that went after Isabella. Millie, a dog that never wanted trouble and NEVER looked for a fight, got right in between Isabella and the BC when she growled at Isabella. The BC then went after Millie and Millie, never backed down (something she always did when she was the only one being assaulted). I have seen Millie throw herself in the face of danger to protect every single dog in her pack (accept Josephine or Charisse. They are on their own in her eyes).

Millie has an uncanny ability to know who is a good person and who is not. There are people she loves immediately and others she still hates after many years of being around them. She never met a treat she didn’t like and will do her tricks for anyone with a goody. Our granddaughters love to have Millie do her tricks. They tell her to curtsy and she backs up so they treat her. They tell her to roll over and she curtsies so they treat her. It is hysterical. It doesn’t matter which trick she does or which cue they give her, she gets a treat. That has taught her to love the kids (she was petrified of them at first) and had ruined her cues for tricks J but it doesn’t really matter in the big scheme of things.

The Santa Fe Dam in Irwindale, CA

Last weekend we attended a USDAA trial at the Santa Fe Dam in Irwindale, CA It is a HUGE and VERY busy park and the RV parking was quite a distance away from the agility rings. We were finished with the trial and packing up to go home. Sir C had gone ahead to the GW and I lagged behind talking (big surprise!). I was stopped along the way several times by people asking me about my new shoes. I designed these kick ass Structure Triax shoes at They are bright red and charcoal grey and glow in the day! They are trail runners with Gore Tex uppers so waterproof and have FTH written on the top of the tongue (those who have seen my Big Race video will understand FTH)! They are awesome. They are the best shoes EVER!


ANYWAY, I was standing about 100 feet away from the GW talking about my shoes when Crushie came trotting up to me all by herself! I couldn’t see the GW because there were other RVs in the way. Crushie and I walked back over to the GW looking for Sir C. I thought he must be close by for Crushie to be wandering around loose but he was nowhere to be found. Then I saw the Global Warmer door was open! Miss Millie Angel was standing sideways in the doorway, blocking the other dogs from getting by her. As the two puppies (now a HUGE 25″ tall!) pushed against her trying to break free, Millie growled at them, as if to tell them NO WAY are you getting by me! NOT ON MY WATCH!!! She saw me coming and stuck her head out the door. She looked scared to death. She was panting and worried but seemed relieved to see me coming. I called for Sir C but he was in the back of the GW putting things away. He said he thought he had latched the door but clearly , either somebody had unlatched it or …

“COUNT DOGS!” I said in panic.

 “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.”


“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven…”

“CRAP! Somebody is missing! Who is it?”

We looked around. The dogs had no collars on because it was a USDAA trial so they all looked alike. It took us a second or two but then we both said in unison, “MEME!”

We knew exactly where the little brat had gone! She had been trying to break free all day because she hadn’t gotten to run. She was only entered in one class the day before and she was pissed! She kept trying to make a break for it and run over to the trial site and she had finally made it. Somehow, she had bulled her way by Millie the sentry and busted loose!

I grabbed a leash and headed over to the trial site, about a quarter mile away from the GW. As I approached, the field still quite far in the distance, I could see a little black blur running around chasing the Border Collies that were running loose. I could hear people yelling to others to catch that loose dog but MeMe avoided them with the great joy that only a Poodle knows. I stood about 400 feet or more away and whistled (I have an amazingly loud whistle). She looked up, spotted me and I called her. She came flying to me and sat right in front so I could attach her leash. What a good little runner.

Thank GOD Millie had kept watch over the puppies and kept them safe. There were cars driving in and out of the park and some not that slowly. She stood there braced sideways in the door well so no other dogs could escape. She had her head out the door, scanning for a person to come relieve her before something bad happened to her pack.

A few years ago we did a blood test to see what breeds she might be. It came back as Aussie, Chow, German Shepherd, Collie, Norwegian Elkhound and God Only Knows What Else (but perhaps a little coyote as well).

If you really want to have a raw dog experience, go find yourself a true feral dog and adopt it. You will not regret it for a minute. Millie wasn’t a great agility dog (although she did win the Columbia Cup as a novice dog with Sir C) or famous or great at anything but being who she is. Miss Millie Angel is a once in a lifetime dog and we are blessed to call her our friend.

This is the life eh Millie?

My friend, the late Lisa Greene (former owner of our Josephine and Charisse Poodle), wrote thos rap for amillie many years ago. I really love it!

Millie’s Rap

by Lisa Greene

Now Listen up you people I got somthin’ ta say
It ain’t easy livin’ out the life of a stray
I was runnin with my posse – they’s my pack and my fam
Livin’ on the streets like we was out on the lamb
A frightened little street girl, my life was so tough
The food that we could find, why it was never enough
We stole some tasy chickens and some trash on the sly
And even ate some grain just to try to get by
The man he fine’ly caught me and he put me in jail
Then tha woman and her homie came and sprang me on bail
They took me to their crib and they treated me real well
They luved me up and fed me and they saved me from hell
So lissen up you people before you shed a tear
I was the one who made it and my folks hold me dear
And I’ll holler from the rooftops, through the rain and the fog
That I’m Miss Millie Angel and I’m a ‘jility dog!


  1. I loved reading Millie’s story. Helen, you always tell it so well. Millie was a special girl. RIP, Angel Girl.

  2. What a great story……

  3. What a neat dog!! So sorry to hear about her passing.

  4. […] […]

  5. I love Millie, tell her I said Good Job Millie!

  6. Love your blog Helen. I really loved the hair bow photos and story.

  7. Wonderful stories about your friends Bear, and MIllie. I love bear’s face, and MIllie’s quiet but definite presence is lovely to be around . YOu are all lucky to share life together.
    LOVE the little M and I . WOW MEME…. scary…. GOOD GIRL !!!!!
    LOVE LOVE LOVE the shoes. Never knew you could do that. I just got a wonderfu pair of Nike Gortex that I love !!! Wish they were red and black and said awesome bitch on them.. !!!!!

  8. Helen, what a heart warming story about your Millie. I am so glad i got a chance
    to finally meet her at the Silverado trial. I loved her curtsy and she seemed like
    the kind of pup that wouldn’t hurt a flea unless she had to that is.

    Hope to see you and Mel and all of the crew soon.


  9. Millie is so special, her story makes me smile through watery eyes

  10. Millie lets me hug her…I must be special.

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