Ranger is our German Shepherd. We don’t know how old he is because we adopted him as a stray from the Coastal German Shepherd Rescue of San Diego in 2011.
What we do know is that his soul is older than his age.
My wife saw his picture online and said, “He’s the one.” We had seen enough emotionally scarred shepherds at shelters to know that we couldn’t just pick a pretty face, drive 6 hours (without Los Angeles traffic), and expect to leave with the perfect dog. So we did our research. We had a list of dogs to see at the Coastal German Shepherd Rescue of San Diego “meet and greet” event. When we arrived, all the dogs were lined up and ready for a walk but we knew as soon as we saw him that he was the one. Calm and confident, he sat with his foster parents refusing to contribute to the chaos of the younger males.
Apparently, Ranger was emaciated when they found him wandering a remote road in Southern California. Covered in ticks, they were sucking the life out of him. When he was ready for adoption, the ticks were removed, he had been bathed and groomed, had gained a little weight and spent a couple of weeks in the loving care of a foster home. But he did not have enough muscle tone to hold his hips steady as he walked. They rocked horribly and we wondered if he would ever be able to hike or run with us.
We adopted him anyways. On the way home, we stopped at a regional park in Las Casitas, CA for lunch and a quick walk with the dogs (we had brought our Australian Shepherd/Healer mix to the meet and greet). We picked a random trail for our walk and proceeded about a 1/2 mile before hitting “the wall.” A creek; a little creek. A trickle about 2″ deep and 12″ wide. But running water was the end. It didn’t matter! It could have been a wall 100′ high or the Pacific Ocean; Ranger wasn’t going to budge. He would not cross that creek despite all attempts at persuasion. We could not coax him verbally or physically. Sheba, was running back and forth over the creek wondering what the delay in our hike could be. We were contemplating our decision.
Fast forward a year.
Ranger adapted quickly. We watched him watch Sheba. All that we could figure is that he had lived in a cage (his teeth were worn down as evidence of chewing metal bars) and had no idea how to be a dog. But he learned quickly by observing our Healer mix, and whatever she did, he followed suit. When we took them to the beach; if she ran in the waves, he found the courage to follow. When we went to the desert; if she followed close behind on a trail, he was right by her side. When we went to the mountains; if she chased snowballs that seemed to disappear upon landing, he was right there with her, barking with excitement.
After a couple of years, we realized that, he had been from the mountains to the oceans. He had experience forests, grasslands, and deserts. Ranger had been on leashed walks in urban San Francisco and roaming free on remote walks in the Sierra’s (albeit his roaming distance is 20′ from us). He had swum in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, canoe camped on lakes, hiked through deserts all across the American southwest, snowshoed on Mt. Shasta, and backpacked in the Sierras.
Ranger had an incredible amount of courage to explore the world beyond that cage. Despite his trepidations, he took those first steps into territories unimagined. He is the ultimate travel companion.