Rescued: The Story of Oliver

by Jim Reed and Steve Blake

What a year this has been for us . . . we lost our two precious Airedale girls and gained a new boy.  Maddie and Pepper were the center of our world.  They were the most amazing Airedales – full of energy, a zest for life and all of the typical Airedale complexities that make us love them so much.  Both of our girls were diagnosed with kidney failure in late 2006.  That horrible disease overtook Pepper in June 2007 and conquered Maddie in December 2007.  After spending 13 months providing what amounted to skilled nursing care to our girls, we decided to take a break, go through a healthy mourning period and do all of the things that you can’t do when you have canine companions (like go out to dinner right after work and come home at 10pm).  After about 6 weeks of this freedom and after finishing two “memory books” of Maddie’s and Pepper’s photos and stories, we started to research Airedale breeders . . . a new puppy in May or June sounded good.

But, right around the time that we started our research, we commissioned Denis Curtiss to create an Airedale sculpture for us.  We wanted to memorialize Maddie and Pepper by burying their remains in our back yard and placing an Airedale sculpture on that spot.  In working with Denis, we soon learned that he and his wife, Barbara, had five rescued Airedales in their home – and, they have been very active members of New England Airedale Rescue.  After we exchanged a few e-mails with Barbara and Denis, they started to tell us about how rewarding rescue is.  One day, I asked Barbara to tell me more . . . she sent me a long, eloquent e-mail about all of the amazing experiences that she has had with rescued Airedales.  The next day, we found the ATRA web site and saw Oliver for the first time.

We will never forget looking at all of the pictures of “spare ‘dales” – we wanted to adopt all of them (especially since the loss of Maddie and Pepper was so raw).  But, there was something about the way in which Oliver was looking up at us in his photo that caused us to feel a connection with him.  We were intrigued by the fact that he is a black Airedale – but, it was that look that hooked us.  After two visits to Toledo, Ohio to visit Oliver and the application/ home visit process, we were approved for adoption and we requested Oliver.

When we drove to Toledo to pick up our new boy, we were ready for anything.  Cindi Mysyk (our coordinator) and Jane Hufstader (Oliver’s foster Mom) had prepared us to be ready for all sorts of behavioral issues that could arise.  And, as experienced Airedale caregivers, we knew about and had experienced most of the Airedale behaviors. 

When we arrived at Jane’s house, Oliver gave us an excited greeting –he seemed to recognize us from our previous visits.  He sat with us on Jane’s front stoop for a photo and then jumped right into our back seat and settled in for the long ride to Chicago.  From the moment that he entered our home, he won our hearts.  Although he is definitely an Airedale, he is a very mellow, well-adjusted Airedale – he doesn’t chew, he doesn’t counter-surf, he doesn’t react to loud noises (like thunder and car alarms), he doesn’t bark at other dogs when they pass in front of our house . . . he just hangs out, plays and loves being with us.

During the first month with us, he did experience nightmares – at times, he would wake us up in the middle of the night with loud yelps and groans.  But, by the second month, the nightmares subsided and now, at the end of our third month, he sleeps quietly and soundly every night.  We also noticed, at the end of the second month, that Oliver started giving us signs that he had accepted our home as his home.  He started giving us those very energetic and crazy Airedale greetings when we came home from work; without hesitating, he jumps right into our bed and rearranges the sheets and blankets to make an Airedale bed; and he smiles and wags his tail all the time – he went from being a cautious boy to being a happy-go-lucky ‘Dale.

Some other tidbits...

A few weeks ago, Oliver found his voice. The Siberian Husky across the street (one of Oliver's best buddies) started howling - he was in his front yard and watched his owner take her baby for a walk. He wanted to go - but, she wanted to leave him home. Oliver and I were out front and I could tell that he wanted to go see the Husky. When we got to the other side of the street, Oliver sat right next to the Husky and started howling with him - they sounded like a wolf chorus!

When I picked him up at daycare yesterday, I discovered that he has a girlfriend - he has fallen in love with a Golden Retriever. The Golden's owner showed up to get her at the same time that I showed up to get Oliver - so, we walked out together and let the dogs interact (Oliver kept licking her ears and rubbing up against her - he's such a flirt!). All of a sudden, just as we were getting ready to go our eparate ways, Oliver lifted his leg and peed on the Golden's head!!! I was so embarrassed - fortunately, the Golden's owner has a great sense of humor - she started laughing hysterically . . . we decided that Oliver was marking the Golden as his wife!


Should you have any comments on/or criticisms of this story or desire to contact its author, feel free to email  We always appreciate hearing from both uprights and downrights. Thanks for reading!