I was raised around cats. I never considered myself a “dog person” yet our dog is laying beside me as I write. My connection to the dog community has changed in an unexpected way.
Summer of ’11 I participated in rehoming a dog who was being neglected. He was adopted with the best of intentions originally. A growing family, with a new pup, was all good until the parents split. The wife was supposed to take the dog but ended up with a dwelling that didn’t allow dogs. The husband worked a job that had him on the road out of town most of the time. His Dad lived across the street and would daily come and tend to the dog’s food and water needs.
It broke my heart to pet sit when the Dad and step Mom who lived across the street were away. I would go to feed “Bonehead” and rather than pawing at me he would try to draw me to him with his paws and he would lean into me so hard as if he was trying to impress the contact of another being on his own to get him through to his next contact.
In ’11 the Dad died and the step Mom had many plans that included travel and didn’t want to be saddled with the responsibility of this abandoned dog. I asked if I might help. This dog was being kept on a chain that I don’t believe was more than 12 ft long and only had a 90 degree range from its pivot point. He was often on his hind legs standing to reach as far away as possible. He acted very fractious trying to soak in all possible attention. I had no idea what breed he was but called a friend who rescues cattle dogs thinking he could help. I sent him pictures and arranged a meeting.
When my friend arrived he walked into the dog’s range and to my surprise the dog sat right down and behaved with strict attention. He had a treat concealed in his hand which the dog caught as soon as it was tossed aloft. He sat back attentively awaiting the next command. It was even more heart breaking to see how intelligent this dog was. My friend said he was a Red Australian Heeler, a cattle dog, who similar to a border collie, needs a job to do for best results.
Within the week Bonehead became Jack, with a new home on a tree farm with a man who had just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and could use a loving companion. Jack no longer has a leash or a chain, he has friends and family and other dogs that run free with him. That one placement freed the dog, the owner, the step Mom, and me, it uplifted my friend and the friends that he connected the dog with. It was a major healing all the way around. Heart warming story right? I was surprised at how the next chapter unfolded.
I have relationships with many other dogs for assorted reasons. One dog in my experience, Jake, an old beagle, belonged to people I cleaned house for. When I started his owners let me know that Jake wasn’t the type of dog that required human attention, he never wanted more than a brief scratch on top of the head, if that. For a long time that was my experience with Jake. After this dog rescue, the next 3 times I went to his house, Jake positioned himself across the stairs and would not budge to let me pass until I had scratched him soundly from head to tail. His owners stood mystified wondering what the heck was going on. It happened again and again until they moved.
Another dog in my experience, Murphy, is an exuberant Wheaton terrier. She always gave me an excited greeting but the next time after Jack’s adoption she went absolutely gonzo! The Mom of the house was home and taken aback at Murphy’s reaction to me, she was so excited she literally ran so fast she’d run herself into the wall because she couldn’t stop fast enough. It was as if she was trying to explode out of her own skin to illustrate how excited she was. Neither of us had ever seen anything like it out of her.
A third dog, Monty belongs to a friend. Monty’s a Westie terrier who would always give me an attentive greeting but nothing like after Jack’s rescue. The next time I went there, he also almost jumped out of his skin demanding that I drop everything and tend to his attention immediately, he acted like nothing I had ever seen from him before.
The only thing that changed in between the occasions of encountering these dogs was the rehoming of Jack. This tells me that regardless of relationship, proximity or direct experience these dogs are connected, on a spiritual or psychic level if you will. What else would explain it?
If you have a pet, you well know that animals are sentient beings. They know what you’re saying to them, they know when you’re mad, they know when they’re safe, they know when you’re feeling love for them and they know when its bath time or time to get out the leash to go for a w~a~l~k. We have to spell it backward at my house because the dog has figured out the forward spelled version.
From this point of view it isn’t surprising to me that the world is in the condition it is. The atrocious way we treat animals as if they have no feelings or rights is being visited back on us as humans. If you stop long enough to think about what we have really done to all animals of all shapes and sizes it makes it hard to be human. I know I am re evaluating everything I have ever thought about my own consumption and use of animal products in general and what else I can do to bring peace and respect to my place in this world. In this moment what I can do is let my dog enjoy the other side of my electric blanket while they speak of single digit temps outside. Love to every creature on the planet!