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To Own And Love A Dog

I know people love their dogs. I've read countless stories of heroic actions taken by canines in the face of danger and/or destruction. I married into a family of animal lovers. By association, I have evolved from my avoidance of them due to my allergies to being an "animal appreciator."

My feelings on the matter were drastically altered around 4pm on Sunday, June 2, 2013.

It was a hot and humid afternoon and we were dog sitting a toy poodle (and a former stray) owned by one of my wife's friends. It was a little thing. Quite wiry, more scared than friendly and definitely feeling like the little guy compared to my seventy-pound Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog - Aussie Shepherd mix. I had them tethered to one of my weights in the garage while I vacuumed out my car until it began to rain. I took them inside but my dog walked back out into the garage. The poodle followed. I called mine back in and he came. The poodle looked at me trotted out of the garage and took off down the street. The house doors were open my car doors were open. Thinking I could catch him I took off in a full sprint and did nothing to secure my home, car or dog. As little as he is, he's still a dog and was now running full speed on all four of his legs while I was a two-legged man wearing boots and tired from a run first thing in the morning. A car slowed down but eventually kept going. It was raining and I began to panic. All I could think was this dog is gonna die because apparently running down the middle of the street came quite naturally to him. And my next thought was what am I going to tell his owner when she comes to pick him up? I'm three blocks from my house at this point and I begin to worry about my own dog, my open garage and home and my own open and unattended vehicle. If we hit the four way stop another block away, I wasn't sure I'd be able to continue pursuing, screaming the whole way. Just then something caused me to turn around. My dog Leo, short for Leonidas (yes, King Leonidas of Sparta), was sprinting full speed down the middle of the street directly toward me. My heart sank. Now I had two dogs to keep up with. Only I didn't know that Leo was coming to my rescue. He came right up to me. Doubled over and out of breath I huffed, "You gotta help me, baby boy. Go get him. Go!" And just like that Leo took off, blistering down the street in all his instinctual herding canine glory, chasing down the poodle, who is now a good block away from me, in a matter of seconds. The poodle stopped, Leo circled him a bit and then casually trotted back down the street to where I stood. By then we had an audience of passerbyers  comprised of stopped cars. Especially since all of this was happing in the middle of the street. A woman jumped out of her husband's truck and scooped the disoriented poodle off the ground and brought him to me. She asked me if I was okay and I blabbered out my best explanation of what just happened. She said, "you poor thing," and offered to walk back to my house with me and my two dogs who had no leashes. I told her I'd be fine. And I wasn't simply being polite. I knew Leo got the seriousness of what was going on and wasn't going anywhere. I thanked her and her husband for stopping while other cars begin to pull around them. They waved goodbye and I walked quickly back home holding the toy poodle tightly in my right hand while talking to and reassuring Leo, who I've trained to walk to the left of me. He jumped around a bit and hopped along but he never left my left side the whole way home. He isn't even two years old yet.

I made it home to find my home and car untouched. A couple neighbors were putting a soft top on their Jeep and never noticed I was gone or saw me go screaming down the street. Leo walked inside and turned to me. I hugged him and almost broke down momentarily. I gave him half a bag of pepperoni slices and brought myself to give the poodle one. Ultimately it isn't his fault his nature as a stray kicked in while he was at a place unfamiliar to him.

The sun came back out and I went back to washing my car. This time I left both dogs in the house. I couldn't believe my dog got what was going on. It's not that I didn't know he had it in him, but I had no reason to consider it either. I didn't know his instincts, the magical things I read about in all these stores about heroic dogs, would kick in so that he'd know exactly what to do. My dog growls but almost never barks. He's very playful outdoors but spends most of his time inside asleep. Why did he come to me? Why didn't he just leave the neighborhood? What made him decide to come when he did? Why did he come back to me after stopping the poodle without having to be commanded to do so? I literally thanked God for my dog. And I never imagined I'd thank God for any animal other than appreciating His creativity in making so many of them. My dog helped me in a time of need and for that I am eternally grateful. Now I get the stories about the heroic dogs. But what I get even more is the dog behind the heroics.

Has your dog ever done something amazing that left you speechless and gave you a different appreciation for dogs?

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