Norman enjoying the scenery in the Colorado mountains.

Protected by copyright. Marilyn Watson 2009


From Unwanted to King of the Hills!

I guess Norman was a rescue dog. No one wanted him, that’s for sure. Funny looking, the runt of the litter, hiding behind everything, he was hard-pressed to find a home. That is, until my daughter (a freshman in high school at the time) got a glimpse.

Honestly, I didn’t want another dog. Not after such total heartbreak when Rita the Rottweiler passed. I hadn’t picked her for a pet either. Rita was my son’s dog. If you can imagine, she fell madly in love with him from the day his roommate brought her home as a puppy. Rita literally attached herself to my son, sitting as close to him as she could while looking adoringly at him with her big brown eyes. He had no choice! They became inseparable. Best friends.

When he moved to an apartment that wouldn’t allow dogs, you guessed it, Rita came to live with me. She also became my best friend when my son wasn’t around. We hiked, walked, sat by the river, stood on the mountaintops, cried, and laughed together. The day she passed away, my heart completely broke, my world destroyed.

I wasn’t feeling up to opening that heart any time soon when my daughter brought something to show me. From behind her back came two eyes peeking out of a tiny wild ball of fur…..Hello, Norman!

Half Shih-Tzu and half Jack Russell Terrier, he ended up on the short end of the stick when it comes to his ‘do’…..his hair is always in his eyes, flying haphazardly all over his head and neck but rather sparse everywhere else. But when it comes to his ‘doing’…..Norman is the hiking/backpacking king of the world! While I’m huffing and puffing, dragging one heavy foot after the other, slowly making my way up and over a 13,000 ft. pass, Norman scampers by, already having been to the top and back down several times.  “Just checking”, he seems to be saying, while I’m convinced that dogs must not breathe nor need oxygen like the rest of us ‘normal’ creatures!

In the fading light on any given day of a backpack trip, Norman will find a warm rock to sit upon, watching the sunset as if gaining some peculiar insight from all the nature that surrounds him. His nickname,  “The Dali Norman” fits him perfectly.

Yet Norman started life as no one in particular, nothing spectacular. No fancy breeding, no parents of any stature, no lengthy titles after their names. Just one of who knows how many unwanted puppies headed to rescue, if they are lucky that is. Now, Norman has a thousand tales to tell, a thousand miles he’s hiked, and some very lucky hearts belonging to people who love him.

Hats off to rescue and service organizations, providing a new chance at life for those particular animals and the special love they give their human friends. A really knowledgeable book that’s just come out, offering concrete advice to everyone interested in rescue is: Rescue Matters! How to Find, Foster and Rehome Companion Animals”  by Sheila Boneham, PhD. It’s available at bookstores and at Alpine Publications. (

Have any stories of your own rescued friends to share with us?  Norman would love to hear more about his ‘own kind’!

And as for Norman, more of his adventures to come!

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