Another Dog Story



NOTE:  I just received a comment about this post I wrote 6 years ago and wanted to share it with you. The new book is coming along very well. I’ll keep you updated from time to time. XOXO

As I write this I’m agonizing over something that happened earlier this evening. During the summer I live in a remote, mountainous area with curvy, dangerous roads. This evening I was headed to town to attend a lecture by an eminent theologian when I came upon a huge, black-and-white shaggy dog standing in the middle of the road looking very lost and confused.

My first thought was to stop and help it.  My second, that it could be sick, rabid, mean, filthy, etc.  My third, that I really wanted to hear the lecture. As I slowly passed the dog I looked out my rear-view mirror. It was standing in the road forlornly watching me drive off. I felt as if it were saying, “Please help me.” I considered stopping. I drove on.

That look haunted me all the way into town where I discovered that the lecture had been rescheduled for two hours earlier and everyone had gone home. So I headed for the grocery store, arriving just in time to see the last two employees leaving. They close early on Sunday nights. My only option was to go home. As one who seeks meaning in everything, I wondered:  Was I being given a second chance to help the dog? I drove home more slowly than usual, scanning the roadside. If I saw it I would stop, look for a collar with a phone number, try to help.

Halfway home a teen-aged girl dressed in white staggered across the road and flagged me down. She had hit a big shaggy black and white dog which had run off howling, and her car had spun into a ditch. She was shaking violently and limping a bit, and there was a dark red globule of blood above her heart where the seat belt had bitten into her skin. This leg of the road has no cell phone service. While we tried to decide what to do, two more drivers stopped and one volunteered to drive the girl to the next town where she would call her father. I went looking for the dog. After searching along the road and in the woods below the embankment I left without finding it.

Back home I sat on the porch pondering these events. I realize they were not all about me; nonetheless, I can find meaning in them. The message I received was that I chose to listen to my head, which wanted to hear the speaker, instead of my heart, which wanted to help the dog.  Had I followed my heart the accident would not have happened. With that realization I saw a small, odd-looking lump on the deck and went over to inspect it.  It was a dead hummingbird. Symbolically, hummingbirds are spiritual messengers. The subtle message became a blaring headline: Woman’s Desire to Hear Wise Spiritual Words Trumps Spiritual Behavior!

After my parents divorced then my father died, being smart and “spiritual” became my major sources of comfort and self-esteem. But at what cost? I can write profound things about the meaning of religion and the importance of caring, but has my tendency toward intellectualization dulled my capacity for actually behaving with compassion?

I know I’m beating myself up over this and few would condemn me for a choice most of us have made, but the truth is, someone with more heart would have skipped the lecture and helped the dog. Had I done that it could be happily lying by my side right now where Bear used to snooze. Another dog, another death. Another thing to forgive myself for. At least I buried the hummingbird.

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

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18 Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing that… it’s always tough to know for sure what’s best “before the fact” as it were… and then experience can only teach us if we’re willing to look at ourselves “after the fact”…as you so beautifully did…

  2. Thanks so much for re-sharing this little story. I think as humans we chronically second guess ourselves and we also chronically beat ourselves up… I know it is a see-saw ride, but I feel we are always doing our best given what we know at the time and in the circumstances… Hindsight, as my son tells me is 20/20.
    If we could all just re-align with our higher selves, our hearts and our intuition… but maybe we are! We’re all also on the path to learning… Sometimes we learn a hard lesson so that when something similar comes around we are ready. Was that your case? That certainly has been mine.
    And then there is also the story about the farmer whose ox died and he ran to tell the town wiseman that it was the worst thing that couls happen to him. Don’t you agree, wiseman? he asked… and the wiseman replied maybe yes, maybe no.
    The next day, a wild horse appeared on the farmer’s field. He was overjoyed with his streak of good luck and preceeded to tell the wise man in town that it was the best thing that could ever have happened. The wiseman replied, maybe yes, maybe no.
    His son could now help him plow the field, but as he was on the horse plowing, he fell and broke his arm. The farmer ran to tell the town wise man that the it was the worse thing that could possibly happen; to which the wise man said, maybe yes, maybe no.
    Then the king’s men came through and took all able-bodied young men off to fight but the farmer’s son, with his broken arm was unable to go. How the farmer rejoiced. This is surely the best thing that could happen he ran to tell the town wise man, who responded, maybe yes, maybe no…
    So it is for us… we make decisions going on what we know to be true in the moment… when uncertainty strikes, we need to stop and tune into our heart, our angels, our higher self… and ask what is best. That is the only way to NOT have regrets. And even then, our heads can be so loud that we can have trouble hearing the heart… but with practice, like with everything it is all possible. Then we just have to stop beating ourselves up for other things 😉

    1. Thank you for the wise words, artemysos. In answer to your question about whether I’ve experienced how learning a hard lesson prepares us for the next similar thing, the answer is yes. A couple of years after that incident happened I saw an old white dog limping down the same road late one evening. She had a collar with no name or phone number on it, so remembering the shaggy dog I stopped, helped her into the back seat of my car—she was happy to come with me, and brought her home. She and Izzy–my son’s dog who stays with us in the summer–got along fine and after I made her comfortable, she spent the night on the screened-in porch. After a few phone calls the next morning I located the owner and took her home. They were thrilled to have her back, and my conscience was somewhat relieved. But I still think of that shaggy dog every time I pass that way!

  3. That is beautiful 😉 So lesson learned. Tap yourself on the back… I have a feeling we leave ourselves “clues” and you got yours, so a celebration is in order 😉 Blessed be!

  4. Jean, thank you for reminding us how the road not taken has unforeseen consequences. We have all done something similar (sometimes I feel downright “tested”) and wish I had paid attention to “the signs” (they actually remind me how alive the world is). I won’t forget that dog – perhaps he will keep me more vigilant.

    1. Thanks, Diane. I feel the same way about the “signs.” Meaningful coincidences make me think of quantum physics and the intricate, minute connections that are constantly being made in our bodies, minds, the world around us, and between all of these things. I wish I had the eyes to see them, but I guess second best is having the awareness to notice and be grateful for these connections when they show up in “signs.”
      By the way, in another beautiful synchronicity, this afternoon I’ve been packing my suitcase for tomorrow’s flight to New Mexico for a women’s retreat. Just before I sat down at my computer and found your comment, I’d packed The Unseen Partner to reread on the plane and before going to bed each night. So much refreshing beauty. Congratulations again on your Nautilus award for it! A HUGE honor! Here’s to vigilance.

  5. “There is no distance between thee and me / just the transparency of this web / my eyes cannot see . . . ” (p. 82). Enjoy the retreat!

  6. Oh, Jeanie…what a heart-felt story! Knowing you, I can imagine that this “lesson” haunts you…keeps you thinking…asking the “what ifs”. I’ve done a similar thing with a kitty that I saw get hit but not fatally wounded. She ran off and I often wonder just what happened to her. Choices, choices, choices!

    1. You’re right. It still haunts me. I teared up just reading your lovely reply. It’s often difficult for me to stay in the true ground of my heart, yet I know that’s the only healing way: grieve what has to be grieved, forgive what needs to be forgiven, accept suffering as part of the journey, take the next step that has to be taken without fear or regret. It’s the only way to be free. Love you, my sister. Thank you for writing.

  7. This is odd. Today a dog appeared in my living room, just wondered in my house. Then, later, I found an injured hummingbird in my bathroom. Maybe they are tandem spirits.

    1. Oh my! That is quite an extraordinary synchronicity. I don’t know if dogs and hummingbirds are tandem spirits or not, but there is certainly some meaning in this event for you. Sometimes a synchronicity like this is simply the “universe” or Spirit, or One Mind ‘s way of letting you know, “I am with you. You are known. You are loved.” Blessings, Jeanie

  8. I missed this one somehow and found it in my files today. Oh, Jeanie. How this hurts. Six years ago and it still hurts the heart. I get it and I understand your choice. I tried to help a wild looking dog on my rural road last summer, but it ran away–and I was glad because I was frightened about dealing with a wild or sick dog. What would I have done if it ran after me? It didn’t. I was spared the agony you faced. And the hummingbird, too. We all struggle, doing our best, making mistakes, being human. Fortunately, you reflect on the lessons. Sometimes that’s the only thing I know to do.

    1. Yeah, it still hurts. And yes, sometimes reflecting on the lessons learned is all we can do. But it’s a very good and healing thing to do if we want to keep growing in compassion! Thank you for caring and sympathizing enough to want to comment. I know you get how this feels. And I know you care.

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