In Kip's first life, he was chained up to a post, night and day. He was never let off the chain, and although he had a dog house for shelter, he never came in a house or ran free.
For six months, from the time that Kip was a 6-week-old baby to his sixth month, this was his life. He didn't even have a name, he was just "the dog."
Then he escaped from his yard. He somehow got the chain undone from the post, and he dragged the big logging chain behind him, out onto a busy road north of Merced. That's where he met my friend.
She was riding her horse, along with a friend, down the busy road. When the puppy came trotting out in the road sideways, burdened with the heavy chain, my friend watched in horror as a car narrowly missed the puppy, running over the chain and flipping the dog over backwards.
My friend jumped off her horse, and grabbed the chain before another car came along. She looked down at the puppy. He had his mouth open, his tongue hanging out, and he was wagging his tail.
My friend took the puppy to the nearest house, and they said yes, he was theirs. They took him back to his post, and chained him back up. He laid down in a big, hollowed out place where he had slept, and eaten, and lived, for the past six months. When my friend walked away, she looked back over her shoulder at him, and he wagged his tail at her.
She came back to our ranch, and she told me about the dog. I said "It's terrible how people treat their dogs," and she said "Well, I'm going to go back and get him."
I knew better than to try and stop her, and she left in her little pickup truck. Within 15 minutes she was back, and the puppy was with her. She had convinced the dog's owners to release the puppy to her.
He was a beautiful blue merle, either a large Shetland sheepdog or a small Australian shepherd. He was a happy puppy, despite his bad start, and he loved everyone. We named him Kip, and my friend took him home.
That's when Kip's second life started.
Kip and my friend's dog Ty became best friends. They played for hours in the mornings, driving my friend crazy in her small apartment. Kip couldn't be cowed, he loved to play, he loved Ty, and he loved life. He was always happy, in fact, he nearly drove me crazy because he was always in a good mood.
He learned to ride in the back of my friend's little pickup, tied in so he wouldn't fall out. He barked at everything that the truck passed: telephone poles, trees, people, trucks, cars, you name it, he barked at it. But he wasn't barking to be mean. He was barking in greeting, saying hello to everyone and everything. And his tail was always wagging.
For almost a year, Kip was a constant fixture at our ranch. He never bothered chickens or horses or sheep, and he didn't fight with the other dogs. He loved to go on rides with us, and he especially loved his truck. He became special friends with a little rescue whippet I had, and the little blue merle puppy and the brindle whippet loved to play and run with each other.
When he was freshly bathed and clean, Kip was an absolutely beautiful little dog. When he was muddy and dirty and smelly, he was still a very pretty dog. And he never met a stranger, he loved everyone.
One day we took the dogs out to a ranch in Le Grand to work sheep. We took Kip with us, even though he had no talent for working stock. We had never been to this ranch, although we had known the owners for a while. We got to talking about rescue dogs, and the owners told us they would be interested in possibly taking a rescue dog in the future. I asked what kind of dog they would want, and they said, "One just like Kip."
My friend looked at the little dog, and then at the owners of the ranch. But he's not a working dog, she said. He's just a dog. The owners said they knew that, but he was such a personable little guy. They needed a dog that would get along with small children, and he was such a pretty dog.
We left soon after that, and my friend was quiet all the way home. When we pulled into our ranch, she finally said that maybe she should let the family have Kip. I asked her if she was kidding, and she said no. He would have the perfect life out there, she added.
And she was right. He would have the perfect life. Any dog would. The owners of the Le Grand ranch had cattle and horses and lots of kids on their huge ranch. They ran a summer camp for children, and they had a couple of super-friendly dogs. Kip would be very happy.
But could my friend give up that happy little dog? After all, she had saved him from his first life, and she loved him. He in turn loved her, but, then again, he loved everyone. We discussed the fact that we did rescue work so that the dogs we rescued would get good homes, and Kip was a rescue dog. And the ranch owners would certainly give him a good home.
So my friend thought about it, and then she drove Kip back out to Le Grand. She told the ranch owners they could try Kip out, but if it didn't work, she wanted him back. They promised, and she drove away, leaving him with two excited little girls.
We gave Kip about a month, and then we went to see him. When we pulled into the ranch, there was no sign of him. The other dogs came and greeted us, and my friend's face fell. Where is Kip? she aked. I hope he's OK.
One of the owners of the ranch came walking out, and we got out of the truck and made small talk. My friend kept looking around, and no one mentioned Kip. Finally, I could stand it no longer. I asked about Kip. Where was he?
The ranch owners said that the little dog was with her daughter and granddaughters, they had gone into town. She went on to tell us that Kip went everywhere with her daughter, but they should be back any minute.
Just a few minutes later, a big white pickup came into the yard, and there was Kip. He jumped out of the truck and came to greet us. He was happy to see us, and he let us pet him and make a fuss over him.
But when the little girls got out of the front of the pickup, he pulled away from us. He ran to them, with his tail wagging. The two children called to Kip, and the three went off together to play.
The girls' mother told us that the three were always together. Wherever the girls were, that's where Kip was. She told us that Kip was extremely gentle with the girls, and he's such a happy dog.
So we drove away, and Kip's third life began. I think that Kip's third life was one that any dog in the world would love. And I know that it was certainly the life that this happy little dog really deserved.
Reporter Carol Reiter
can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.