Our family toured the Gettysburg battlefield over April break eight years ago. The statue of the dog at the base of the regimental marker of the Pennsylvania 11th was pointed out to our kids by the tour guide.
Karen Belanger shares her family’s dog adoption story, and enlightens us on another important “rescue” dog in the battle of Gettysburg.
Our family toured the Gettysburg battlefield over April break eight years ago. The statue of the dog at the base of the regimental marker of the Pennsylvania 11th was pointed out to our kids by the tour guide. Apparently, the soldiers of the regiment insisted on having the regimental dog – a stray adopted by the men – included in the monument. During the battle of Gettysburg, their rescue dog, Sallie, was separated from the living members of the regiment, but stood guard over the dead, barking and chasing away Southern soldiers attempting to loot the bodies. Sallie became the main character in an epic poem published in book form – “Sallie, Civil War Dog” by Helene Smith.
We had no dog on that day, but we had already picked out a name. Later that week, on Good Friday, our family went to North Shore Animal League (www.animalleague.org) to find our Sallie.
Sallie is our family’s first dog. We had worked our way through an aquarium full of fish that can live with goldfish, graduated to gerbils, and finally had no excuses left but to get a dog. Don’t get me wrong, both my husband and I grew up with dogs, and we love them. I was just not really excited about caring for a dog when I had spent so many years catering to the physical needs of babies and toddlers (my kids were almost 3, 7, and 9 years old at the time).
Although I warned the kids that we might not find “our” dog on the first visit, I was pretty confident they would find a dog they loved pretty quickly. As North Shore typically has at least 400 dogs and cats available for adoption on any given day, we decided that shelter would have lots of dogs available for us to argue over which one to take home. We very quickly found more than one dog that someone in the family instantly loved. However, my eldest son was absolutely insistent that the quiet, shivering black puppy with the big brown eyes was definitely OUR dog. So, Sallie, our Rye rescue dog, joined the family!
There are many guesses as to what breeds Sallie is descended from. The shelter listed her as a Lab/border collie mix. A canine DNA test suggested a significant amount of Saluki DNA. She certainly has some lean dog genes – Saluki? Greyhound? She has a German shepherd-style spitz tail. She has the pretty face and long nose of a Collie breed. She’s uniquely Sallie. When people ask what breed she is, we like to use the line my husband quotes from a fellow rescue dog owner: “American Standard Mixed Breed.”
Like the original Sallie, our dog barks to defend us as well – in Rye in 2014 that means barking at the UPS deliveryman and certainly any male who dare enter the house. The weeks of renovating our kitchen were punctuated by a periodically barking dog. Nonetheless, she would never dream of barking at a child, and eagerly runs up to any child nearby. She loves running in Rye Town Park, chasing squirrels, playing with other dogs, and happily relaxes in her comfy dog bed. So often as the kids and their friends took over our household, I would look over at Sallie – giving thanks that at least one member of the household was calm and relaxed! As for me, I figure I have the modern version of the stereotypical suburban household (2.4 kids and a white picket fence). In my case, it’s a home in Rye, three kids, a dog, and an Invisible Fence. I think both Sallie and I got pretty lucky to get the life we now share!
If you have a happy tail to share, email RyeRescues@gmail.com. Saving one life at a time.