Eight years ago we were whistling Dixie all the way to a Cracker Barrel parking lot in Versailles, Kentucky.
Why Dixie? That was the name of the dog we were going to add to our little pack.
We’d had Alice for a couple of months and she was still recuperating from her double hip dysplasia surgery. Our veteranarian and Charlene, Alice’s foster mom, suggested that getting another dog for Alice to pal around with might encourage her to walk normally again. We’d never owned two dogs and Alice was already filling the house with her larger than life personality, but we thought it was a good idea. We were okay with the fact that Alice might bunny-hop the rest of her life but if another dog could show her how to walk on all fours again, we were willing to try it. Besides, Charlene had a lead on a young blue merle Aussie, not yet a year old. She was being fostered a couple of hours south in Kentucky by a woman named Agatha. The Aussie Rescue & Placement Helpline wasn’t going to post her photo because she was “too beautiful” (Dixie could land with a bad breeder or puppy mill) and they wanted to make sure she went to the right home.
(The first picture we received of Macy, formerly known as Dixie)
Agatha emailed a secret snapshot of “Dixie.” In the photo, she was sitting on a sofa, chewing on a small Dixie cup. She was (and is) a beautiful dog, with one brown eye and one blue eye, and a soft face that hinted at shy nature. She was a Milk-Bone cover girl. Agatha told us she was “active.” In Aussie nomenclature, this is code for hyper, nuts, energetic, awake all the time, mischievous, high-maintenance, possibly frustrating, potentially destructive if energies are directed at furniture and shoes instead of dog jobs like tennis balls and kongs, and above all else, highly intelligent. Despite her active status, Agatha also told us she was painfully shy and had a storied past. She’d most likely been severely abused and when Agatha rescued her from a Banfield Clinic attached to a PetsMart, Dixie was a day shy of being euthanized. Gasp. And gasp again. Agatha said she needed a boost in self-confidence and perhaps being around a confident dog would help her regain trust. We looked at Alice…it would be a match made in heaven. Alice could teach Dixie to have a little more moxy. And Dixie could show Alice how to strut her stuff.
On February 22, Agatha and her husband drove north to Newport, KY for a home visit with Dixie. Like all good and reputable rescue organizations, ARPH does their homework. They don’t just give dogs out to anyone; they inspect, they interview, they question, and they make sure everyone is right for each other. (Too bad they don’t do this with people.) And with Dixie’s background, they wanted to make sure she was going to a home that understood the Aussie way (believe me, it’s different from other dogs) and that Alice was going to accept a little sister into the pack.
Agatha had done some exceptional work with Dixie, getting her comfortable on a leash and housetraining her. When they brought Dixie out of the truck, she was shaking and darting back and forth, head and haunches low to the ground. After a fair amount of oohing and aahing and coaxing her near us in the front yard, we introduced her to Alice who immediately established that she was head dog of the house before retreating underneath the coffee table for a nap. Alice was fine, Dixie was thoroughly petrified, and we were sold. Our first Aussie, Autumn, had been abused as well. We’d helped her re-establish confidence? No problemo. The Purcell house would now be a two-dog, two-person establishment. We told Agatha we needed to think it over but we knew Dixie was ours. We also knew there was absolutely no way we could own a dog named Dixie. It just sound too prissy and small-dog for her.
We scheduled the pick-up for March 2. There was a UK game the night before and Versailles was near Lexington and sort of the middle point between Newport and where Dixie was being fostered. We got tickets for the UK game and arranged to meet in the parking lot of Cracker Barrel the next morning. And then we started the name-the-dog game. When changing a dog’s name, most experts recommend finding something that rhymes with the dog’s original name. Sheesh. Trixie? Misty? Frisky? Betsy? Oy. We were at a loss until we reach our hotel in Lexington and were getting ready for the UK game.
I was looking down into the lobby of the hotel. It was an ocean of blue and white sweatshirts and jackets and hats, the crowd suited up for the game. “What about Macy?” I asked Dave. “For Kyle Macy. Your favorite UK basketball player of all time.”
The next morning we picked up Dixie at Cracker Barrel; somehow it seemed appropriate. Our little roadside runaway with big-time self-esteem issues hitching a ride with us at the Cracker Barrel. Again, she was shaking as we loaded her into the back of our red pick-up truck (Dave’s vehicle for hauling band equipment). We placed her on the blanket Agatha had given us and added our own dog blanket, Dave’s childhood comforter with the names and logos of old hockey teams. The comforter had been passed down from Autumn who used it for fourteen years, to Alice and Macy. I spent most of the ride draped over the seat trying to comfort Macy, telling her she was going to a good place where she’d meet a good friend. I doubt she believed me.
The first few weeks with Macy were anything but easy. She was terrified of Dave, who was home most of the day working toward his PhD. We assumed she had been abused by a male and she made it clear that men were to be avoided at all costs. Only I could feed her. Only I could take her for a walk. She didn’t want anything to do with Dave. She ran away from him, hid in corners. She also started forgetting she was house trained and that she wasn’t supposed to chew on clothing, comforters, sofas, or anything filled with some type of stuffing. But man oh man could this girl run. She was lightning fast and graceful. Poor Alice was left in the dust, bunny-hopping across the yard and barking “wait for me” whenever we put them out in the yard.
Dave spent day after day locked in a bedroom with Macy and Alice, trying to make friends with our new addition. I’d come home from work and all three of them looked frazzled and wired and ready for a break from each other. After a full week of lockdown, Macy realized Dave wasn’t such a bad guy and that we were all to be trusted. She settled in and settled down, and followed Alice’s every move.
She also followed me…everywhere. I was her new buddy. Eight years later, she still follows me…everywhere. I call her my Foreman and my Muse. She follows me when I clean the house. Given that she’s a neat freak, apparently she follows me to make sure I’m doing a good job. She follows me to the kitchen, though I’m not sure why because she’s a very picky eater and turns down food more than she eats it. She follows me into the bathroom and even noses open the shower curtain to get a drink of water. Everywhere I go, Macy goes too. And when I’m writing, she’s right there on the bed cheering me on. Okay, really she’s sleeping but I know she’d offer editorial advice if she could. In fact, we’ve decided that she’d read romance novels and the classics along with her trashy fashion magazines.
Eight years later, she still retains some of her original shyness and fear. As much as we’ve worked with her, she’s a wallflower at heart. Unlike Alice, she’s not one to give over her trust for a mere bone. Macy plays hard to get, but once you’re in her circle, she’s yours for life. Just don’t look her in the eye — that’s too much confrontation for her taste.We call her our Goth Girl, for the black fur around her eyes, her own version of eyeliner, and for her pensive disposition. However, get out the leash and it’s Goth Girl Gone Wild. She’s the first one in line for a walk, and she can outrun most any dog at the dog park. She also can be a ferocious drama queen when someone knocks on the door.
We’ve never had a dog that’s so well-groomed. We’re not sure how she does it but we swear she must file her own nails when we’re not looking. Even the groomers are surprised when we bring her in for a trim and they don’t have to do her nails. She’s almost cat-like, but don’t tell her that because she’s not a fan of felines. Or mail carriers. Or squirrels. Or things that move quickly.
Best of all, Macy is Alice’s best pal and vice versa. Macy gives Alice an ear bath daily. We learned that the ear licking is a sign of submission and let’s just say Alice doesn’t mind the fringe benefits of being alpha. They eat, sleep, stroll, and bark together. Macy snuggles up against Alice for naps and takes comfort in Alice’s high level of confidence. Speaking of comfort, we’ve also never had a dog who can get as comfortable as Macy. She re-arranges pillows, fluffs up blankets, and generally makes herself a nice bed out of clothing, pillows, or anything else on the floor.
Macy is our snuggler, our mischief-maker, our athlete, and our beauty queen. During walks, we’re frequently stopped by people who comment on how striking Macy is. After they leave, we always tell Alice she’s pretty, too. You know, sibling rivalry and all that. But as pretty and delicate as she may be, Macy is one heck of a tennis ball player. If we’d had the time, we would’ve trained her for agility competitions because we’re pretty sure she could’ve held her own out on the course. One of our most favorite things to do is watch her run. Girlfriend has game, that’s for sure.
And even though we’ve struggled with Macy’s erratic and fearful behavior sometimes, she’s a good girl at heart. I couldn’t have asked for a better foreman and Alice couldn’t have asked for a better friend. Here’s to many more years with our Macerpants and her own brand of awesome Aussie-ness!