This blog is a tribute to Belle, and all the dogs who have come before and after. They are my friends, my companions, my teachers and my students. They bring me both joy and heartache, laughter and tears. There is nothing as sweet as the smell of puppy breathe, and nothing as sad as the final goodbye.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Noah’s Nose Knows

Do you believe in spirit dogs? You know, those dogs that guide you while they’re alive and also after they’ve passed on. I do. I remember Ziggy, my little black Lhasa Apso who baptized every Christmas tree I ever owned for the 26 years of his life. He died in May of 1995, not without a struggle. The following Christmas, tree up, kids off to school, I sat down and for no known reason felt very sad, so sad that tears were streaming down my checks. I was startled out of my gloom by a commotion outside. I ran to the front door and saw a little Ziggy look-a-like running in front of the garbage truck. I bolted out the door, yelling to the truck driver, “stop, don’t move the truck”. I managed to get the dog and bring him inside my house. He so looked like a younger version of my Ziggy, with his jutting lower jaw and Ziggy mannerisms. The first thing he did when I lowered him to the floor was to strut over to the Christmas tree, lift his leg and pee.  He then ran back to me, tail wagging, ever so proud of his deed.  I knew without a question of doubt that Ziggy had returned. He was wearing tags so I called the owner to say I had their dog and asked if I could keep him for a few hours as I had recently lost a dog exactly like theirs. They agreed and ‘Ziggy’ and I spent the day doing all the things my Ziggy had loved.  The owners came for him later that day. They lived across town and were amazed that he had gotten out of their yard, something he had never done before, and that he had traveled so far without getting hit by a car.  I thanked them for the gift of Ziggy and told them that I believed my dog, who fought death to the very end, had come back to spend one last Christmas with me in the home he loved.

My girl, Belle was just a pup when Ziggy returned. Who knew then that she would change my life forever. My teacher, my student, my friend, she propelled me into training and into rescue.  She was a good dog with a heart of gold. She had a knack for finding lost dogs of friends and neighbors. She guided the numerous rescue dogs, teaching them the human and canine rules of the house. She didn’t tolerate bullies or fools or those without manners. She was as perfect a dog as a Labrador can be. She passed one month shy of her 15th birthday.

A few months later, my daughter Liz woke me late one night because she heard a dog moaning outside. That dog turned out to be Ruby, now my sweet pit bull. She was dumped on the curb of my house with multiple, severe bite wounds to her face and body, perhaps to die, or perhaps with the hope she would be discovered and helped. She was laying in a pool of blood moaning in agony. I ran into my house to get a phone and a flashlight. As I walked through the door I felt and smelled my Belle girl right beside me in that narrow hallway. Her presence was so strong and remained with me throughout that horrid night. Emergency Service was called to transport Ruby to an all night Emergency Vet. My daughter Sam came over and we followed the police car to the Vet. On the ride there, Sam told me that Belle was with her, guiding her to the house. I told her Belle was with me too. Belle had her job to do and a silly thing like death could not keep her from her task. 

Yesterday I was home alone with the dogs. I was upstairs sharing the bathroom with two tail wagging labs and a very serious pit bull. Suddenly Noah appeared, clear as day. He was wagging his tail so hard that his entire butt was moving back and forth as he did his little excitement, happy dance. He was smiling as only Noah smiled. I stood there for a moment savoring the gift of Noah, now gone 7 months. Then it was over and he was gone. I took the dogs outside for a potty break and saw, out of the corner of my eye, a black dog standing by the side of my house. I hurried the dogs back inside and grabbed a leash as I went to investigate. Sure enough, standing there outside the fence was a frightened black lab mix. It took a while for me to catch her. She was very skittish though she did not bolt as I approached. Eventually I was able to get the leash around her and lead her to the house. She calmed down almost the instant she was leashed and I could see she was a young, sweet girl. After numerous phone calls and with the help of a dog loving stranger online, I was able to locate her owners through Craigslist. There had been a house fire the night before, and their dog bolted when the firemen arrived. 

Did I imagine Noah in the bathroom or did he come to help a lost dog outside? Was Belle really there looking out for a young dog on the verge of death? Was that really Ziggy who came from across town to share one last Christmas? Are these spirit dogs or the figment of a crazy dog lady’s imagination? You, of course, are free to think what you may. I, in turn, will forever believe that these visits were real and that some animals bond so strongly that their souls, while no longer anchored to earth, are able to transcend time and space to return to us when they feel they are needed.