Birdie wasn’t the only dog that Laura Johnson has fostered, sponsored, adopted and fed over the years. She has a history of loving animals and caring for the lost and abandoned creatures that have crossed her path. Concho can almost claim finding and trying to return lost dogs as one of its greatest strengths.
In contrast to the way the town cares and protects the animals, some believe that roaming dogs, or barking, heel-sniffing threats from dogs that aren’t leashed puts them at risk of being hurt; that their owners are wrong to let them roam. The town also has it’s share of abandoned dogs.
Laura couldn’t imagine when she got up on that morning in July that her dog would be taken by a local man, Jon Fitzpatrick, who would write on Facebook, that he took her (Birdie), and would do it again.
Once rescued by Laura Johnson and then seen as a stolen dog for the benefit of her welfare, Birdie, some would say, is a lucky dog who was saved twice.
Laura met up with me recently and we talked about the history of Birdie in her life. Birdie was a “failed foster,” because she and her husband at the time, became attached to her. Fast forward, seven years later, and Birdie is still with Laura and some say has become the appointed mascot at the local Family Dollar store.
Birdie finds it hard to stay at home.
Before, the family lived on 180A and “she had a lot of room to run around,” Laura said, but as her husband needed more help as his health was declining, they moved to Old Concho.” The adjustment wasn’t seen as a problem for the Johnson family or Birdie.
Birdie was originally called Lady Bird because she could jump over fences like a bird in flight. One time, in an attempt to keep Birdie from leaving the yard, she put a tire attached to her chain on her. Birdie dug her way out underneath the fence with it anyway.
This is a dog from a reservation. She learned to survive from scraps. When the Family Dollar was built, Birdie may have believed it was the trading post for her to get food and attention, Laura said. Soon after, Birdie was making daily jaunts to the Family Dollar parking lot. People fed her. The bowls and cans with food in the grass made it look like Birdie was homeless. Laura feels bad that people thought she wasn’t caring for her beloved dog. It was difficult to keep her in the yard. The other dogs in the family stayed home, but Birdie seems to fly out often in other pursuits in the world.
Laura Johnson. the owner can’t imagine Birdie being chained up for the rest of her life. But Jon Fitzpatrick wanted to save Birdie from possible harm.
“I rescued Birdie. I was arrested and charged with theft falsely, and without an investigation. I have nothing good or bad relating to the owners of Birdie. I just love animals and thought I was helping,” Jon recently wrote to me in a text.
“Once he (Jon Fitzpatrick), found out that Birdie belonged to someone, he refused to give her back. That’s how he got in trouble. The sheriff took screen shots of what he wrote on Facebook and arrested him,” Laura said.
“She loves everyone,” Laura said, “she will get into a vehicle with anyone,” which accounts for the easy “rescue” by Jon. Birdie just went with him. The contact number for Birdie was on her collar. Jon mentioned that there was pressure from the community to take the dog, as another family dog was hit by a car.
Jon Fitzpatrick spent the night in county jail. He needed oxygen. He says he passed out a few times and wasn’t read his Miranda rights. He’s keeping his prison bracelet on until they go to court for a hearing. No date has been scheduled yet.
Birdie is staying closer to home and Laura doesn’t want to be seen as an irresponsible dog owner and accepts that she allowed Birdie too much freedom.
“I acknowledge it’s my job to keep her in,” she said. Laura wants people to know that Birdie is a really good dog; and wouldn’t hurt anyone.
Maybe Birdie is leading us to be mindful that dogs are more than just free spirits, or someone’s property. They are creatures that need to be protected and that some people are actually afraid of them.
Does this make Birdie a lucky dog? Or is she the doggy in the middle? The truth is most likely somewhere in-between.
Kareena Maxwell lives in Concho with her husband in a WWII styled Quonset hut. She’s a ten-time award winning author of seven books as well as the novel “The Birds of Concho.”