I have an affinity for Australian Cattle Dogs. Check out the story of “Trudy” and you may see why. We had been ACD-less for years after having tried unsuccessfully with a few poorly bred puppies. If you aren’t familiar with them, they require a LOT of training and exercise. Giving them a “job” helps a lot but untrained and bored ACDs are a disaster waiting to happen. Such was the case with Ratchet.

We happened to see an ad on Craigslist for this little ACD and the text to the ad gave a glimpse into the “new home needed” desperation. We spoke to the owner who was an extremely stressed out mom of three who had gotten this ACD because “she was cute.” Why, yes she is, we all agreed. Her owner though was at the end of her rope (literally) and the pup’s next stop was a shelter. We checked around and there were no local ACD rescues despite the cattle country all around us. Our local shelter was “no kill” but also tried to refuse hard-to-place animals and suggested fostering her until we could find a place that was better suited for her. I, of course, told my darling wife I was going to keep her (the ACD. Keeping the wife is already settled law) because where she was at was not good.

We went to check out this little cutie and found that it was worse than we expected. She was six or seven months old, intact, no shots, and had gone from “run of the house”, to locked in a room, locked in the garage, and finally locked in a crate 8-12 hours a day. The owner told us all of this (and that she was afraid the dog was going to hurt one the kids because she was so “rambunctious”), all before we met the poor girl. When we did, it was at least 10 minutes of pandemonium as she celebrated her freedom, met everybody in the room at least twice, and then just lost her mind with all the yelling and coaxing to get her to “behave” by her current “owner”. Apparently this puppy had not read the puppy books or watched “The Dog Whisperer” and had no idea that she had a “problem”. She was so stressed out that when I finally held her, she trembled like she had swallowed an industrial vibrator. She looked at us with those “please get me out of here” eyes and of course we bought her for a stupid amount of money. But we knew we could certainly do better for her than this.

She rode in my lap all the way home, shaking like she’d had too much coffee and cigarettes before we showed up. Once home, she exuberantly met our “queen of the house” (our much loved Akita, Keiko) and investigated every square inch of the new abode. Two or three times for good measure. All to be expected except this occurred at about 90 miles per hour in every direction. Keiko was enthused to have a room mate but nonplussed by the seemingly boundless energy of our new addition. It was past Keiko’s dinner time and she wanted to watch TV! We crated the turbo dog that night, since that is what she was used to, and because she was not, even remotely, potty trained. Over the next few days we worked with her constantly and found that she was only semi food oriented, completely untrained, and wanted desperately to please but was clueless on how to do that. That made training both difficult and easy because she tried very hard to get it right.

Keiko gave her all the dog attention she could muster but ultimately it was not enough and eventually she set some snarling but harmless boundaries. Even she, who handled everything in her life with calm repose, wasn’t having this massive dose of juvenile delinquency running to and fro like a mad child. We both got the disapproving look from Keiko more than once.

With the ground rules laid down, we set about the laborious process of finding a more appropriate name for a dog that ran on rocket fuel. All the “cute” names were quickly dismissed. This was a dog that deserved a title befitting her true nature, not something soft and dainty. Despite her unquestionable good looks, “Missy” or “Barbie” wasn’t going to cut it. This was a dog that screamed out for a name that reflected her inner Viking or a female version of “Rambo”. Sadly, I won out with “Ratchet” cuz this little fur missile was either on a hidden supply of the world’s strongest meth or genetically wired for space flight. No matter what, she was always ratcheted up. If you’ve seen the “zoomies” in a dog before, that was Ratchet, 24 hours a day.

A diet of good chow and two to three long walks a day introduced some order to her life while we got her vaccines up to date and worked on potty training. She turned out to be a gifted child and mastered the potty routine in a few days and her new “job” was to get the daily mail. She excelled at catch and fetch but her OCD was crippling for her new (elderly), owner. Within a few weeks she was manageable but not happy with house life. Getting her spayed slowed her down for about 20 minutes. I think she realized she was a lighter, faster version of herself without the burden of ovaries. She healed amazingly fast and couldn’t be bothered with pain meds or being cooped up.

None of this was entirely unexpected or something for which we were not semi-prepared. In my past life, I’d had ACDs that I got when they were 6-8 weeks old. At that age, they can be reliably trained to adjust to a slower pace of life as long as there’s some fun and a job involved. Ratchet had missed all of that by the time we got her and she would look at us with those pleading eyes as she trembled nonstop in anticipation of a walk, a ball, a ride, ANYTHING to occupy her little tweaker brain. Even Keiko, in her ever dignified way, tried to wear out poor Ratchet with “chase” and tug-o-war but alas, she was not destined for house and yard duty. She had learned basic obedience, was house trained, and a model citizen when in public. She very much enjoyed her trips to Home Depot and the feed store. If she had thumbs, I think she would have driven herself there. But short of buying our little heathen her own cow (which is against the Home Owner Association rules), there was not much more we could do other than to accept some chaos in the house. Ratchet was not a happy camper.

After several months and hearing nothing from the shelter, we started a search of our own to find our little asteroid a proper home. Despite some well intentioned applicants, we did not want her to wind up in a shelter, or worse, when it was realized this little energizer bunny required no batteries and kept going and going. Fortunately, when we were giving up hope that, without a lobotomy, Ratchet was just going to be our maladjusted ballistic missile, a woman with several ACDs called. It was love at first sight for both of them and the woman brought a gift! Ratchet would be part of a competitive fly-ball team and have a real job! Needless to say, Ratchet went to her new home (and a new name) and (we hope) lives happily ever after. She was with us for over six months and when she left, I felt like I had failed her. What we learned is that fostering is hard on the heart. Really hard. And we probably won’t ever do it again.