Cassie is a nearly five-year-old female Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier who was surrendered to WIN just before Christmas. Her family had felt for a long time that they did not have the time for her. A lady named Jennie, having already adopted a wonderful older boy through WIN several months earlier (see Boo Boo’s story), wanted to get involved and give back some of the joy that is part of rescuing and loving a WIN dog. So Jennie, Cassie’s foster mother in Calgary, spent her Christmas holidays working with Cassie and getting her to come out of her shell. Boo Boo and Maggie, his Bichon sister, also helped…

After careful consideration, it was agreed that Cassie would come to live with us, another Canadian WIN volunteer family, on a foster-to-adopt basis. However, getting Cassie from Calgary to Winnipeg required her travelling over 1500 km, and booking a flight for her would be complicated (not to mention unreliable, given our crazy Canadian winters), so we decided to do our own WURL and did the long drive on New Year’s Day, meeting in Regina, which is approximately mid-way between the cities of Calgary and Winnipeg. Having driven 2500 km in a single weekend to get their Boo, Jennie and her husband Dev were already seasoned long-distance WURL’ers. My husband, Nick, and I decided to bring our own five-year-old male Wheaten, Baxter, along so that he and Cassie could meet on neutral ground.

The WURL started out promising on New Year’s Day, as the weather was to be cold, cloudy, and with the possibility of a few snow flurries. We headed out shortly after 7:00 a.m. and stopped every couple of hours to refill our coffee and have potty breaks. Baxter was a doll, pottied on request, and just sort of lounged/dozed in between stops. After a couple of hours, it began snowing and blowing, and visibility became very poor. By the time we got to Regina, the snow was heavy and dense. Picture big fat hairy snowflakes falling in clumps and swirling around madly. Amazingly, Jennie and crew arrived in the Tim Horton’s parking lot within 30 seconds of our own arrival–I know this because we called her cell just as we got there and she was pulling in the parking lot. Pretty amazing for that we both had been driving upwards of 7 1/2 hours!

While the snow melted and froze in our hair and we felt the feeling going out of our limbs, the dogs checked each other out and we shared hugs, tears, and tales of (weather) woe. Baxter, the easygoing, laidback, “I love everybody” Wheaten ambassador extended a friendly welcome and was promptly greeted back with a warning growl. Uh-oh, not a great start! Once the bladders were emptied, goodbyes were said, and we all got into our respective cars–Baxter seatbelted in the back seat of our Honda CR-V and Cassie securely in her crate behind the seat (part of the back seat was folded down so the dogs could “visit” through the crate bars), we were on our way.

The weather had deteriorated completely by this time and made for a real white-knuckle drive as the snow became heavier and the visibility was reduced to white-out conditions on the highway. As we approached the final third of our journey (home stretch, yay!), we eventually noticed that traffic had become quite sparse. We could still barely see as we peered through the white swirls in the darkness ahead, but at least we were no longer being utterly and frighteningly blinded by passing idiots and oncoming traffic. Twice, the “rumble strip” at the edge of the highway warned us that we were about to go off the road.

When we got to the next city, Brandon, we discovered the reason for our loneliness–the RCMP had closed the TransCanada highway in both directions! Seriously… there was a big gate and flashing lights across the highway with a huge “ROAD CLOSED” sign! So… here we were in a blizzard with a temperature of -28C and windchill of -42 (those were the actual figures according to the weather service), and a “heavy snowfall warning in effect”. No kidding! We ended up getting one of the last two rooms in the Super 8 Motel–Nick told them we had two dogs that were really clean and really quiet, and when the clerk looked a bit doubtful, he told her that they hadn’t said “boo” since Regina and were better behaved than our children, really!–we got one of those last rooms. Cassie loves the snow and didn’t want to come in, even though she was tapdancing on alternate paws because of the cold–picture a furry Gene Kelly. We discovered Cassie doesn’t have a potty word… every time we asked her to “go potty”, Baxter would do the honors. Eventually she complied and we praised and rewarded her profusely. Once back in the room, Cassie whined and barked to go back out, so we crated her and all went to bed. Both dogs were absolute angels and we didn’t hear a peep out of them all night. Cassie loves her crate (great job, Jennie!)

We arose at 7:30 the next morning to a bright, clear, sunny day, only to discover that the TransCanada was still closed! Apparently, they were still plowing and clearing away the debris from a multitude of accidents. We checked out of our room, hung around till 11:00 a.m., drinking coffee, burning gas, taking very short walks (Cassie was in heaven, silly girl), and exploring the immediate area, and then found a backroad, secondary highway which–amazingly–looked clear. So, we took this road north, then found another secondary highway and drove east, and then south back down to another town on TransCanada where that highway had finally been opened. This detour nearly doubled the length of the third leg of our trip, but was worth it. Besides, we got to drive through parts of Manitoba that we had never seen before! Both dogs were blissfully oblivious to our challenges, relaxing contentedly in the back.

When we got home, we were greeted by two-foot snowdrifts in our driveway, so we parked across the lane and shoveled it clear while the dogs continued to doze contentedly in the car. I went into the house at that point to get warmer pants so we could walk the dogs and was greeted by yet another unpleasant surprise….. Our 32 gallon aquarium had cracked during our absence, leaving less than 3 inches of water in the tank and 16 fish hidden in the tangle of plants lying on the bottom–including one poor angelfish who was hunched over in a pathetic attempt to stay submerged. Needless to say, our hardwood floor was covered with water which had also leaked through to the subfloor, the ceiling below, and onto the basement floor and into the carpeted rec room. Meanwhile, we still had two dogs in the car which was left running (now parked in our driveway) as the temperature had by now only risen to -22C. By 9:00 p.m., the fish were safely in a bucket (minus one cardinal tetra, who I’m sad to say jumped out unnoticed before we could devise a ventilated cover) with the heater and filter (which amazingly still worked, even though they had dried out in the crisis), the water had been mopped up, the dogs had been fed, pottied, and otherwise attended to, and everyone was happy… Thus ended our big adventure and a memorable start to 2005!

Cassie is a sweetheart and she and Baxter seem to be fine with each other. An upside of this is that they had lots of time to get to know each other on neutral territory. We won’t take anything for granted, though… We are implementing the NILIF program, teaching Cassie some important commands (come, off, and go potty, for instance), and establishing limits. It is interesting to note that Cassie doesn’t respond to commands, but Baxter does. So, “Cassie, come!” – Baxter comes; “Cassie, in your crate!” – Baxter goes into his crate on the other side of the room; “Cassie, go potty!” – Baxter runs over to his bathroom and obliges, even if he doesn’t have to go. It’s actually pretty funny to watch. Cassie is a good sitter, though, and she happily co-operates when we want to put a lead or harness on her. She is also very affectionate with us.

Cassie is a cutie with her big doe eyes, though she is somewhat overweight (she waddles) and is in need of a good haircut. It looks as though she had once been clippered all over–her dense coat is pretty much the same short length everywhere, her ears are shaggy, and she lacks both a fall and a beard. She seems to have warmed up to Nick and me both right away (again, great job, Jennie!), so we are looking forward to combing her out and bathing her. We are also putting her on a sensible diet so she can slim down a bit. (She was being grossly overfed in her original home.) Cassie is a dream to walk, rarely pulling on lead, so I am looking forward to both of us getting lots of exercise! Nick plans on trimming her head soon so that she will have more of a Wheaten look pending the growing out of her beard and fall. I think she will be a beautiful dog!

It is now a month later, Cassie has settled in beautifully, the adoption has been finalized, and life is wonderful! Cassie has already had two baths and recently got a haircut by Nick who managed to make her look like a Wheaten. She has lost nearly 3 1/2 pounds so far on her vet-approved diet and is looking quite fetching! Typical female, she has put Baxter in his place a few times, but they get along fine, share their toys and water bowl quite readily, and follow each other everywhere. We are now a two-Wheaten family and we couldn’t be happier! Thank you to WIN for allowing us to Lend a Hand!

Linda, Baxter, and Cassie
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada