Two and one half years ago I found myself walking through the front doors of the Central Oregon Humane Society. I was just going in to say hi to Lynne Ouchida that afternoon when I decided to take a stroll through the kennels.
That’s when I met Jo. The sign on his stall read, “Bite Quarantine” and another posted below it, “Do Not Touch”. Jo enthusiastically pressed him self against the chain link fence, signaling me to pet him. I reached my fingers through the cage and gave him a nudge. We bonded in those first few moments. I left there with feelings of curiosity and concern.
What would the future hold for this lil black and white spotted fella? That was a question that kept creeping up in my head. I went back the following day to pay him another visit, this time taking Jo out into the grassy yard to play. The staff told me that he wasn’t adoptable. Returning each day until he was out of his quarantine, I began expressing my desire to the staff that I’d like to bring him home.
And there I was sitting across the desk from the woman who processes the paperwork. I had filled out an application, was approved, and soon Jo would be riding shotgun in my car.
I felt like I could barely care for myself sufficiently at the time. How was I going to take care of this pup? I was dealing with a bout of depression and feeling some anxiety at that period in my life. That made my decision to become his guardian even more challenging.
Jo is a border collie. I remember my Great Grampa White, he had border collies, five of them over his lifetime, each one named Kalsie. I remember sneaking Kalsie The Fifth into the VA Hospital to see him in his final days. Soon after, his dog became our family dog and lived with us. It was a terror of a puppy. I was about ten years old at the time.
One of the best decisions I’ve made is to become Jo’s guardian, or should I say that he is mine, that he rescued me. These last two and half years, he’s rarely left my side, joining me nearly everywhere I go. I’ve learned so much from my best friend. He has a unique way of teaching me about patients, kindness, trust, loyalty, and forgiveness. He’s taught me how to love better.
Jo’s has now traveled over two thousand miles by bike, covering over six hundred miles of the Pacific Coast Highway and now going trans-continental. He’s backpacked all around Mt Hood, stood on the summit of South Sister twice, once at night, and for a portion of the five hundred miles that I’ve walked on the Pacific Crest Trail, he’s been there by my side with his pack on too. One of his favorite places is the beach; running miles of sandy shores.
His nickname, “Shoeless” came from the first attempt to put shoes on him two years ago. He rejected them at first, prancing like a Tennessee Walker, removing them with his teeth. Today he wears Ruffear shoes on occasion, preserving his paws for these long hauls.
Jo seems to have a deep sense of affection for children, although he’s happy to snuggle up to humans of any size. He becomes ecstatic if I off-leash him with a group of kids at the park. He loves herding them around, playing games of chase, careful to not nibble on them. Jo’s been to military bases, senior centers, hospitals and hospices, paying friends a visit, cheering them up.
Each year, Jo joins me in creating a brighter Christmas for children via Operation Elf Box. He likes to inspect the toys. Wooden trains and stuffed animals are his favorites.
Jo is happy to be wherever I am. And I’m a happier person having Jo in my life. I love Shoeless Jo.
Today we’re in Marathon, Texas at the La Loma De Chivo Hostel. Our last day off was about five hundred miles ago at Faywood Hotsprings. So we took yesterday to rest and explore this town. There’s one market here, The French Grocer. The next couple hundred miles will be barren, absent of stores and we’ll have further stretches between water sources. We loaded up on groceries and picked Jo up some extra chow to see us through to Del Rio.
To those of you reading who have been providing for us on this mission, Jo and I both offer you a ‘Hart-felt’ thank you.
With Love & Gratitude,
Josh Hart & Shoeless Jo