Neighbor Dog

Pastor Adam preached on the Good Samaritan yesterday, a parable from Luke 10:30-37. The question always becomes: who is my neighbor? To whom do I owe loyalty, kindness, love and friendship? The Jews he spoke to believed it was to the chosen people only. And the parable made it sound like only if the person in question didn’t require too much time and effort on their part. Can’t be dead, either, because…unclean.

This past Saturday, as I finished running, I saw a black dog walking down Olympic Highway North. It was raining, and getting heavier. Thinking it was Dakota, I called her.

“Dakota! Come here!”

The dog turned its shaggy head, woebegone and bedraggled. It wasn’t Dakota. But it was going to get hit on the busy road if it didn’t move. I stopped and called it. It started forward tentatively, then stopped. By this time, cars had halted. I walked out into the road and took the dog’s collar. I hoped it wouldn’t bite me. I thought about rabies, too. Amenable to some human leadership, the dog – all 100 lbs. of him – trotted alongside me. Well, I figured, let’s get him out of the rain. I’ve got dog food and a dry place.

I opened the gate and Mr. Dog and I entered the yard. He seemed right at home, until Dakota bolted out of nowhere, barking her head off. Her fur stood on end as she gave the intruder what for. I stood still so Dakota and the newcomer could sniff each other. The interloper stopped as Dakota checked him out. Only his eyes betrayed his anxiety. She nipped at him, but he didn’t bite back. We proceeded into the house. I left the dog outside for a moment while I got him some food and water. I put Dakota in the basement where she could bark to her heart’s content. After all, it wasn’t even 8:00 a.m. yet. No one else stirred.

The dog, whom I temporarily named Bo, walked into the house as if he owned it. He wolfed down the kibble and slurped up the water. I got a towel and dried him off. By this time, Ruby was awake. She fell in love with him on sight.

“Ooh! He’s so cute! What happened?”

I relayed the story and went to get a shower. As I mounted the stairs, I had a momentary qualm about leaving Ruby alone with a strange dog. But he was tame, with a grizzled muzzle and a calm demeanor. The cats might not like him, but he had no beef with anyone. He was Zen.

He laid his bulk down on the floor in the dining room, content to be warm and dry. His back left leg hurt him and he had a tough time getting comfortable. I got a few photos and posted them on Facebook in order to try and locate his owners. Then, he promptly fell asleep.

Around 9:00, I woke Jonathon up. He heard the story, too.

“So there’s another dog downstairs?” he asked, blinking.

Yes.

He ambled downstairs and took a look at the dog that Ruby named Bear.

“He’s very mellow,” he noted. “What’s his name?”

I shrugged. He had no tag. He was very old, and I hoped no one had simply dumped him.

We talked about next steps. I emailed the animal shelter…in Shelton, Connecticut. Friends shared Bo/Bear’s photo on different websites. A friend texted me, alerting me to the possibility that it might be her neighbor’s dog. It wasn’t.

Meanwhile, we kept rotating the dogs around. If Bo-Bear didn’t find his way home, we would gladly keep him. Both Ruby and Jonathon were all for him. They liked his mellowness and thought it might rub off on hyper-vigilant Dakota. We put Bo in the basement, and Dakota stormed through the house, smelling all the places he’d been. When it was his turn to be in the house, he wandered and sought out Dakota’s scent. Hey, it’s what I read to do on the Internet, in order for dogs to get acquainted. A “let’s be friends” type of gesture.

Yeah. I know the cats appreciated it. Chloe marked a pile of Ruby’s dirty clothes to show her appreciation.

By around 12:20 p.m., we got a hit. Somebody knew the dog’s owner. The owner messaged me, and told me about some specifics. He’s 16 and his name is Spencer. He likes to get out and wander. In fact, he’d moseyed over from my parents’ neighborhood on the other side of town. He’d been out all night and probably got disoriented. No slam on them. Pets do crazy stuff. Look at my dog, who thinks anyone in a hoodie and baseball cap is an enemy. And the garbage man? Don’t even get me started.

The couple came and picked him up, grateful someone had taken their old gentleman in. It’s the least I could do. The least we could do, frankly. We’re no heroes. We saw a need and we offered the help we had. Isn’t that what being a neighbor is all about? I’d want someone to take Dakota in, though they’d probably pay a bit for it, at least at first. Because: who is my neighbor? It’s whomever is in my life, right here and now.

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