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The Eighth Dog

When we got our dog Bella last year, I realized she was the eighth dog I’d parented/co-parented in this lifetime. How we ended up together is still a mystery. The law of attraction had something to do with it. Or maybe she represents that energy that my unconscious mind thought might be a fun and edifying life encounter. Or it’s Kismet. Whatever the cause, the effect is quite clear. She is the perfect dog: smart, cunning, territorial, playful, protective, and loving. An extroverted creature, she goes out of her way to say hi to every other dog in the neighborhood, even the big ones and the old cranky ones.

As mentioned she’s not my first dog. That was a Basenji hound I fostered in West Africa, given to me by the village where I lived to make me feel welcome there. That dog did just that. I would walk around the town with him on a rope as I didn’t own a leash. My neighbors would smile and nod and all was as it should be.

Back in the States, I adopted another dog as soon as I could. Zina was a beautiful dog, a black and white Dalmatian with one blue eye. She really never learned to bark but she was kind and loving and when she ran away it was easy to find her because the neighbors all knew her from our walks around the block. More dogs followed. The next two were a brother and sister from a rural farm in the south. We drove all the way out to California with them when we relocated. They survived and adapted and never asked for more than a warm meal, a clean bed and they were happy to hang out in the garden and chase after all the critters- rats and mice and an occasional skunk or possum who showed up.

Then on to Dog number 5 – the wild one. A Northridge earthquake survivor. Big and fast and bold- a happy camper to the end. Those dogs all passed on and two more rescues came our way. Designer dogs that no one seemed to be able to take care of during some hard times so of course we took them in. They were small delights, playing and running and barking when needed. The pandemic hit, our dogs passed on and we wondered if there might be a time, maybe a gap year when we weren’t dog parents.

But it was not to be, and our eighth dog appeared. This one was so much more attached. No idea how she happened to land in our lives but God or Spirit or some Divine influence brought this furry black and white creature to our door. When the woman dropped her off at our house Bella leaped into our arms. She moved in and then quickly met every other dog on the block. She’s a dog who loves dogs. Once Bella appeared, I learned every dog’s name on the street as she went right up to each of them as they walked by and gave them a kiss or a hug. I exaggerate a bit but that is the kind of dog she is – loving, affectionate, a little burst of light. I got to know their parents too and had long conversations about everything with so many of them.

One day not long ago we had to go to an appointment without Bella so we left her at home. Unbeknownst to us we’d left the latch to the driveway gate open. We got to the appointment and were sitting calmly in the reception area of the office when the phone started to vibrate. There was a text from my next-door neighbor.

Bella had gotten loose. She then had run down the street and around the block. My heart pounded in my head as I read this text. I called my neighbor back. No answer. Another text. She and another neighbor had run down the street and a third neighbor had caught Bella just as she rounded a corner. They brought her back to our house and closed and latched the gate and put some stones in front of our gate so Bella could not escape so quickly.

My eyes filled with tears. I was so full of gratitude. I remembered the many times I’d caught strays or a neighbor’s dog and found their owners or brought them home. So now my whole community had come
together to make sure our dog was safe. We got into our car and drove home quickly realizing the whole
way back how connected we were, so grateful to live in a neighborhood full of people who’d joined together to intercept our runaway dog.

And really maybe that is the essence of having a dog or caring for any other sentient being. Guard rails
are important but sometimes we have to care enough to act, to be bold, to exhibit kindness. So now our lucky little dog who received that collective response, that collective hug, is back home. Maybe she caused a bit of mayhem, but her love for all translated into reciprocal caring and kindness, the essence of love, the essence of Spirit.

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