Sunday, January 22, 2006

Runaway Sam

Dan came breathless, running into the house, “Come on, quick! Get in your car. Sam ran off, headed up the road, and wouldn’t come back.”

I left my breakfast half-eaten, forgot to put on my coat, and rushed to the car. I drove north, slowly scanning the road and forest, left and right, for more than a mile. Later I headed up a neighboring road, again scanning slowly, looking for the shape of our handsome tall blonde Lab-mix dog, Sam. No luck.

This is the second time Sam has run off. The first time was a few days after we got him. He was so docile and loving that I felt confident to sit outside in the yard with him. I had a leash with me, but did not leash him.

No sooner had I settled into a sunny chair than he took matters into his own hands and trotted confidently out the driveway and up the road. After a panicked few hours and much driving up and down the road and calling him, Dan spotted him and brought him home. That was a sobering experience, and we resolved to not let him loose until we felt confident he was really bonded with us.

That was over two months ago. In the intervening weeks we have come to love this mysterious dog of ours. Inside the house, he is very sensitive to the slightest direction, and quickly obeys. He is very affectionate with us, neutral with the cat, and I think uncertain of how to relate to our exuberant female dog Ebony. Basically, he tells her to back off. But they lie together on the floor, go out the dog door together to check on sounds, and in general seem to be easing into a kind of canine companionship which we are glad to see.

Actually, it was because of Ebony that we even got Sam. After her beloved companion Bo had to be put down, she moped about the house. She waited for us to notice her, to play with her, and was just not doing much of anything. I took her for a ride to my daughter’s house, about an hour and a half drive, and she sat up front with me, savoring every minute of it.

She is so headstrong and difficult for me to handle on a leash, I took the vet’s advice and bought a Gentle Leader head collar for her, and began working with her in the yard. The results were quick and very encouraging. I should have kept it up. But meanwhile, after an intensive search, we got Sam to be a companion for her and the focus shifted to him. Also the snow and ice in the yard kept me from even thinking about walking Ebony.

Now Sam is out there somewhere. He has taken matters into his own hands, wants to be his own dog, and I respect him for that. I hope he will want to come home to us. But if he doesn’t, if he has some other business in this world, I hope he finds what or who he is looking for. He is a beautiful soul, and I am thankful for the friendship he has given us.

Dan and I have often wondered what his story is. How did this handsome, intelligent, well-mannered dog come to Animal Rescue? He was found in the road outside the shelter, shaking with a seizure, unable to get up. The shelter determined he was bout 4-5 years old. They sent him for tests, and it was determined that he had Lyme disease, the likely cause of the seizures and partial paralysis in his legs. Treatment for Lyme disease helped him physically recover, though he still had mild seizures every week or two, even on medication. During his five months in the shelter, many families had looked at him and wanted him. But when they heard about the seizures they were afraid to take on that responsibility.

That didn’t bother us at all, especially given what a beautiful creature Sam was. We had a dog some years ago who had occasional seizures, so we were prepared, and knew it was not that big a deal. Basically, you just get down with your dog and help to calm him until the seizure is over in about five minutes. Sam has had three seizures since we’ve had him, that we know of. He is fine afterwards, and we find it simply makes us love him more.

So Sam, wherever you are, I know you are home in God’s care because God is everywhere. I love you no matter where you choose to go. I hope you come back to us of your own desire. But if you need to be on a different journey, I bless you and thank you and trust you to His care.

* * *

We relaxed into the situation. Not much else we could do at this point. After all, he has a collar and identification tags. If someone finds him, we will surely hear. And anyway, if a dog or a person just doesn’t want to live with you – though we don’t think that is the case – isn’t it just better to loose him and let him go? I think that is what I did, in my heart.

In the meantime, here is our adorable dog Ebony, and I decide to give her some needed attention. I put on her Gentle Leader head collar, which I have now learned the trick of fastening. We go for a short walk around the yard, and I am amazed at how tuned she is to me, and how close she stays to me just naturally, without a lot of reprimands. This collar really does stimulate some basic animal instinct to stay close.

It is such a pleasure walking with Ebony, even for this short time, that I resolve to spend more time with her, no matter how the Sam situation turns out. I have been glad for her to have a dog companion, but that really doesn’t take the place of the closeness and adventures I miss having with her. She is such a fun, intelligent and playful companion, the unlikely cross between a black lab and basset hound. So she looks like a black lab, but has these short little basset hound legs, and nose with a mind of its own.

* * *

Some hours later the phone rang. It was a neighbor, not that far up the road, and he had Sam. He also had two dogs of his own, one of which was a female. I wonder if she is in heat. We are very glad to hear this, and Dan takes off immediately to get Sam.

Sam comes bounding out of the car and into the house. He seems every bit as glad to see us as we are to see him, and it is a happy reunion. Our neighbor remarked what a nice dog Sam was, how well behaved. This is no surprise to us, but it is comforting to hear. We have treats and hugs all around, and feel grateful that he is home.

Still, it is intriguing to think how little we know of our dog Sam, this intelligent, gentle being with ideas of his own. Can we blame him? Doesn’t everyone need some time unsupervised? Time to follow the leadings of one’s own soul?

In these days of what seems like extreme supervision, where every child must be accounted for at every moment, and every dog must be on a leash, aren’t there times when the freedom to be not known is as delicious as the first scent of spring?

gg murray 1/22/2006