September 13, 2007; shortly after paying a small fee to claim her as my family, we headed back up into the mountains to Nederland, where I was excited to have her meet my dog friend Gullivan.
Being the attentive dog that he was, he heard my car riding up the steep road and ran down to meet me in the driveway for his customary treat and lovin’. Little did he know I had a passenger that wouldn’t be going anywhere in the near future.
Claddagh was sitting in the back seat when I parked the car and opened the door. Gullivan happily jumped up on the ledge of the door opening, looking with happy anticipation. I said “Gullivan, I have a friend I want you to meet, I think you will love her!” Gullivan looked at me, and then he looked at Claddagh poking her head out from the back of my seat. He did a triple take, back and forth, and then started barking like “everything is wrong about this.”
I considered Gullivan my surrogate dog, and he knew it. He was not impressed with my passenger and made it known for about a week with bullying tactics. Then something shifted.
Gullivan was known to roam. He would disappear for hours and then return home muddy and disheveled. This specific day of shift, I had plans and when it was time to leave from my visit Gullivan and Claddagh were nowhere to be found. Tammi and I called for them, but they were long gone. I was starting to taste the first bits of fear that a pet owner gets when their animal disappears for the first time. I didn’t want to panic, I wanted to trust her… but I was pretty shaken on the inside.
I think I had to go to work, so I got ready to leave, and I just trusted she would come back. In my head, I told her that I was upset. I needed to be somewhere and I didn’t like the feeling of panic. Low and behold, she and Gullivan walked up the driveway as I approached my car. I didn’t know if I should be mad or happy. My priority was to make sure I wasn’t late.
The dogs were filthy. Claddagh looked happy, and Gullivan was walking side by side with her with no bullying behavior. Tammi later admitted that Gullivan would put other dogs through the gauntlet to see if they could keep up. He was actively trying to lose her in the forest. Claddagh kept pace; made it home unscathed and earned the respect of what would turn out to be her longest dog friend.
When she came back I mused how awesome it would be if we had camera’s on our dogs to see what the heck they get up to. This was a bit before GoPro cams were a popular thing. I still wonder where they went and how many roads they crossed to get there. What animal did they catch? I am sure that was part of the initiation.
Gullivan became Claddagh’s die hard fan. When Tammi would leave town, she would ask me to watch him. Even after years of being states apart from each other, Claddagh and I would come back in town and things were like the good old days. They would run and chase and try to escape the fence. At night, we would all cuddle together in bed, even as new additions came into Gullivan’s family.
Gullivan really helped Claddagh know how to be a “family dog with an independent personality.” He played with her and nurtured her curiosity as a wisdom keeper. Claddagh would take the adventurous spirit that he had fostered in her into an occasional break for freedom. Claddagh wasn’t an escape artist. She didn’t run away often, but when she did, it seemed like she had a reason.
In 2008, Claddagh and I drove down to Denver so that I could try and find a team for the 48 hour Film Festival. I didn’t know anyone, and I wasn’t certain anyone would want me on their team. It was just something I felt like I needed to do and was taking one of my signature risks in so doing. I sat at a table with a beer and it was like speed dating. People spend about five minutes talking to you, asking questions and getting contact info.. and if they like you, you get a call or an email.
Two teams were interested in me, but I chose to work with the one closest to me in Boulder. Often I would go to Boulder for shopping at thrift stores, and Claddagh was always in tow, so we would hit up the dog park for an hour or so during the trip.
A week or so before 48HFF, Claddagh and I were at the dog park and this guy without a dog started talking to us. It ended up that he lived in the apartments across the street. I told this guy about 48HFF, and he offered to watch my dog while we were filming. I thought it was a nice gesture, and thought it would be pretty cool to have her about two miles away, versus leaving her up the mountain. I got his contact info and we met up one more time. He seemed nice enough. Normal enough.
The day arrived for writing,filming and producing and I dropped my dog off with this guy. We spent the greater part of the day writing. We started filming that night and ended early morning only to get up and do it again. Our day ended sometime after 2pm and I was ready to get my dog back. I was invited to get her and to stay over night at the host families home, as all that was left was to edit and score the film.
I called the guy to let him know I would be on my way over to pick up Claddagh. He asked me to stay at his place. I told him “No. I just want my dog.” He told me I couldn’t have my dog unless I stayed over, and I couldn’t get her right now because he wasn’t home.
I wasn’t about to let some strange dude hold my dog captive in trade for a sleep over. I told my host family what was up, and that he wasn’t home right now, so I was going to go break my dog out of his apartment. They asked if I wanted someone to accompany me. I said “no.” I didn’t want to make anyone accomplice to what I may have to do.
Barefoot, I drove the few miles to this guys apartment and as I walked along the top floor I called for Claddagh. She immediately met me at a window to the guys bed room. It was summer and the window was open so there was only a screen keeping us apart. I pried the screen off the frame, walked into the room, opened the bedroom door and unlocked and walked out the front door. I put the screen back into the frame and hoped to God that no one was calling the police on a breaking and entering. We ran across the hot asphalt and hopped into the car. As I drove my legs were shaking uncontrollably.
I realized these were the lengths I would go to for Claddagh. I would break into a strangers home to save her. I would risk going to jail (again) for my partner. I kicked myself for trusting some random stranger at a dog park, who did not have a dog.
My host family loved Claddagh. We drank wine that night as I recalled the affair. It was wonderful to have a nice safe home to return to. Even they were kind enough to let her sleep with me in the guest bed.