I finished up work later than expected, and hurried outside to water the tomato plants before it got dark. Indoor/outdoor cat Manitou decided to accompany me, inviting me to admire how strong and handsome he was as he clawed his way up the fence post.
I had just gotten the hose out to the sidewalk when I noticed a black and white dog about 30 feet away investigating my neighbor’s brush pile, leaving his calling card. It was dusk, and I could see that the dog was wearing a collar. I kept expecting to see a leash or at least a person catching up to him, but it seemed he was alone—a very unusual circumstance in Seattle.
I’m part of a neighborhood online community called Nextdoor, and there are quite a few postings when concerned neighbors see a lost dog. There have even been times when someone frantically posts that their dog just got out and nearby neighbors actively get out and search. I wondered if I was looking at a dog that someone was searching for at that moment.
My feeling was that the dog did not just step out for a moment from a nearby house, so I thought about options for rescue. My last dog, Puma, had passed away a number of years ago, and now I lived with two cats. Manitou was naturally quite wary of dogs, indeed he was currently nowhere to be seen, and Night Sky had never met one. Given that Night Sky was highly territorial and violent when it came to expressing his opinion of the local cats who passed by our windows, I was uncertain his first introduction to a dog should be to one of unknown temperament. The fact that I had no leash complicated matters even more.
So, my only real option was to try to befriend him and see how things went. I would have to trust that if I were meant to help then it would work out.
I called to the dog. He seemed a little interested, but did not approach. Turning my body sideways in invitation, and crouching down, I made myself smaller and more dog-like. That piqued his interest, and he validated what he perceived as my excellent dog manners by tentatively approaching to sniff my outstretched hand.
In the deepening dusk I was able to see that his coat was clean and he was well fed, so he had not been away from home long. His collar had a name on it as well—chances of reuniting him with his people were increasing. His name was Jack, and it fit his appearance as a Jack Russell terrier mix.
Jack allowed me to pet him, and when the streetlight shone in his eyes I caught the sheen of the beginning of cataracts. Jack was not a young dog.
Before I could formulate the next step, another dog appeared, and it was clear that they were together. Now I was faced with the challenge of two lost dogs. The newcomer was light brown, a little shorter than Jack and somewhat portly. He also had a collar, and his name was Cody. Where Jack’s personality was cautious, Cody was more Mr. Happy Go Lucky. The world was a fine place, and I was a good person.
Introductions concluded, the two dogs decided to continue on their travels. Without a leash (or two), my only hope was to grow their trust in me, and after proper introductions the next best step would seem to be the offering of refreshments in the form of treats. I excitedly described the wonders of treats, and asked them to stick around while I went and got some.
Dashing into the house, past a bemused Night Sky, I grabbed the first bag of treats I saw, which turned out to be freeze-dried kangaroo, something I was pretty sure they had never had before. Heading to the door, I was followed closely by Night Sky who was excited since when the treats appeared he was sure to get some. This time he was to be disappointed since I headed out the door with the goodies in hand. I was sure I would have some explaining to do afterward.
By now the canine duo had made it to the opposite corner of my street, so I rattled the bag of treats at them, but there was no reaction. Perhaps treats were not a big part of their world.
Barefoot, I crossed the street and waved the first treat under Jack’s nose. His face lit up and the small treat disappeared. Cody made the next treat vanish in record time. Now I had their attention, so I began doling out treats to each of them in turn. They each took them very gently from my hand.
After several rounds of treats (which felt a little like a ping pong match with my head swiveling from one dog to the next), I swung back to Jack, but before I could offer him the next treat he abruptly sat down. The look on his face was pure anticipation, and the look on mine was surprise. In response to my “?” directed to him, Jack said, “Good dogs sit.”
A big smile spread across my face, and I shared my feelings of affection for him as I said, “Yes, good dogs sit, and you are a very good dog, Jack.” It seemed that I had not only established trust with Jack, but also leadership.
As a loose pack the dogs and I moved back to the corner I lived on, and began a slow amble down the sidewalk in front. I still had no plan on how to keep them at my house, when one of life’s small miracles occurred—my next-door neighbors pulled into their driveway, and I knew that they had a dog. With my new pack next to me, I explained the situation and asked Julia if she had a spare leash or two. She was happy to offer me the loan of their one spare, and went to fetch it.
By now Jack had decided that any friend of mine was a friend of his, and was already hanging out in Julia’s backyard. I clipped the leash to Cody, who cooperated like we were old friends. When we caught up to Jack I slipped the leash through his collar so that Cody and Jack were now yoked together.
I did not have a cell phone on me, so asked Julia if she would mind calling the number on one of the collars. She chose Cody’s collar, and got a man’s voicemail where she left a message.
When we looked at Jack’s collar we discovered that it had a different number, which seemed odd. After several hilarious failed attempts by us both to read the number in the dark, the call was finally placed. This time a woman answered. The conversation was brief, and when Julia got off the phone she shared that the woman had not seemed particularly concerned. The woman did say that someone would be by to pick the dogs up, but not when.
My mind flashed back to all the posts on Nextdoor, and the many caring and concerned pet parents and supportive neighbors who went the extra mile to reunite lost dogs and cats with their families. This lackadaisical response was not what I had been expecting.
By now both dogs had greeted resident pug Simon in his back yard, and seemed content with being part of a now slightly larger pack.
Suddenly I felt a shift in Jack’s energy—he was anxious. And I “knew” that he was going to slip out of his collar to get away from whatever was causing him to feel that way. I shared my concern that Jack was going to bolt with Julia and her husband Mike just as a rumble of thunder sounded nearby. Immediately the source of Jack’s anxiety became clear—he was afraid of thunder. Collarless, Jack made a beeline to the place he perceived as safe—the other side of the open door into Mike and Julia’s house.
Bless my neighbors; a request to borrow a leash had now turned into sheltering a strange dog in their home. They were concerned that Jack and Cody might mark over Simon’s territory, so I suggested that we take the dogs to their garage. Which is how I found myself sharing the closed up garage with Julia, Cody and Jack.
Jack was quite anxious about the thunder that was still expressing itself, so I sat down on the floor to be closer to him. From a seated position he backed his hindquarters up so that he was in contact with my hip. I could feel and see the tremors of fear that ran through his body, and wanted to help. I knew that petting a dog when they are fearful only tends to feed the energy, so instead I placed my hand on his back and offered to share Reiki with him if he wished to receive it. He did. With the calming flow of Reiki his trembling grew less. The thunderstorm moved away, and the fear left him.
By now, we were all starting to wonder if anyone was coming for the dogs, so Mike gave the woman another call. She said that they were just finishing up dinner, and that her stepdad would be coming by to pick them up. Clearly they were not in a panic.
Julia and I heard the stepfather coming before we saw him—he had a loud, booming voice as he spoke with Mike. He shared that his family actually lived in the country—they were only visiting. Cody and Jack weren’t even city dogs, much less neighbors.
As his leash was clipped on by his person, Cody maintained his easy-going manner.
While all of this was going on Jack continued to sit next me—he did not get up to greet the stepfather.
What happened next took me by surprise. Instead of walking to Jack, who was still sitting calmly by my side, the stepfather leaned far forward and grabbed Jack’s collar. Jack struggled to get away as the stepfather dragged Jack to him. Just as he was about to clip Jack’s leash on, Jack slipped out of his collar again, came back to me, and sat down.
Oh, dear. My heart twisted. I wondered if I had done the right thing…realistically there was nothing I else I could do but send him back to the people who “owned” him. Jack trusted me because I attempted to understand and communicate with him, and offered appreciation and healing energy when he needed it. The man was unaware that it was possible to connect in a more equal way with animals, and Jack had no reason to trust him.
As I watched Cody and Jack follow the stepfather back to his truck, they did not turn to look back at me, which helped me feel that it would be alright. I said a silent “thank you” to both dogs for their trust, and a little prayer that Jack would receive the recognition he deserved. Good dogs sit, and Jack was a very good dog.
Photo: Alexey Demidov, Unsplash
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A WILD WAY TO HEAL
Rose De Dan, Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing LLC, is an animal communicator, Reiki Master Teacher, shamanic energy healer, and author. Her classes, sessions and ceremonial work are inspired by wild and domestic animals who have issued a call to action for personal and global healing.
Her book Tails of a Healer: Animals, Reiki and Shamanism features heartwarming stories about animals and their role in her evolution as an energy worker and shamanic healer.