"Although it's been a long time since my Ollie and I met, I'd love to share with you his story: 

"I was traveling from Missoula to northeast Washington on I-90, to go on a January vacation, when I saw a dog trotting on the bank of the highway itself, wandering awfully near highway-speed traffic.  I pulled over and saw that it was a black chow - I had known many dogs, but was a little wary of chows' reputation. I improvised a leash, and spent about 45 minutes coaxing him to come to me.  Eventually I got him in the car.  He wasn't exactly friendly, but never showed any aggression. 

"I spent the next several hours talking with people in the closest towns, following their suggestions, trying to find his owner.  None of the leads panned out.  I called the friends I was going to visit and asked if I could bring my find along with me, to which they agreed.  In the car, I was worried about his stuffy-sounding snorts, and took quite a few stops to give him cool air in case he had been an only-outdoors dog.  I quickly found out that he either did not know or was indifferent to any of my commands.  In the first week of our time together, I called him 'Chester'.

"During vacation, I took him to a vet and found out that he had tapeworms and was malnourished, and so I set to taking care of those problems.  He still showed no agression towards me, other adults, kids, or other dogs, but also wasn't a particularly affectionate dog.  He did hold quite still as I cut out his many mats, and seemed to enjoy either the attention or the increased comfort.  I had had labs and retrievers until then, and was surprised by a dog who showed no interest in balls or sticks or the water.

"I took him home with me to Missoula, to a rental where I could have cats but no dogs, and renamed him 'Ollie' after 'Ollie-Ollie-Oxen-Free', since he had been found running free and 'Chester' had come to seem the wrong name for him.  At first, he would only curl up on one small area rug and would look up, scared, if I came close to him.  He ignored my cats, loved as many walks as I could give him and sleeping in the sun.  Our gate blew open during a blizzard several weeks after I brought him home. He wasn't there when I went to let him in from a pee, and I was heartbroken at the thought of him being hit by a car in the dark wintery night.  I drove around and around looking for him, only to come home and find him sitting on my front step.  He seemed happy to see me and come into his temporary home. 

"I spent 6 months trying to find his owner or a responsible adopter.  Since he was unneutered, most of the calls I got were from people wanting to breed with a female chow of theirs, for money. I  was unfamiliar with backyard breeding and was apalled.  After I had him neutered, calls of interest basically stopped. 

"I felt a pang at the thought of losing Ollie as he began to seek me out and lean against me, or look up at me with a goofy look and black tongue hanging out.  With increased nutrition, his hair grew long and black and shiny.  No doubt, he was a very handsome boy!  I learned about chows' quiet ways of showing affection, and explored farther and higher trails hiking with him. 

"Eventually, my landlord found out about him.  I found a pricier place to rent, and realized Ollie and I were each other's.  I had been thinking about whether I could add a dog to my life at that time anyway, so I decided the gods had given me their answer.  He became the love of my life. 

"I took him with me to work on and off.  When I quit that job several years later, one of my co-workers came up to me and told me she had always known where Ollie came from: he had been the subject of a custody battle during a divorce.  The husband had stolen him to hurt his ex-wife.  This man let him run all day, often left town for long periods of time, and basically had no interest in the dog, just from keeping him away from his ex-wife.  My co-worker had not told me because she wanted Ollie to stay with me and was afraid I'd give him back. The strangest thing was that I found out he had orginally been named 'Chester'. 

"Two years ago, he got a little terripoo brother who hung on his ruff and chewed on his fur.  His initial annoyance was always tempered with extreme chow patience, until he came to like little Bennie.  He now takes Rimadyl daily, can only manage medium-long walks, and sleeps a lot more, as old dogs do.  My vets and the folks at our local humane society all guessed he was 4 to 5 when I found him; that's almost 9 years, making him now 13 to 14.  I trust he has had as happy a life with me as the incredible joy he has brought me. 

"I cry sometimes in anticipation of losing him, but I know that's not quite yet.  I recently had a patient who had lost his chow of 16 years.  As sad as it was to think of that, part of me was jumping up and down inside, saying '16 years! 16 years!  We have more time!'  He is healthy now, and still the bright star shining in my soul that he has been since weeks of coming into my life."

Katie MacMillen

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