On September 26th I had just crossed Golf Links Road with the dogs and was passing a gas station when I saw a large, reddish-blonde dog on the sidewalk up ahead, unsecured and unaccompanied by a human. As we approached, the dog ran into the street on Kolb Road, a major intersection during morning rush hour. She crossed the relatively empty southbound lanes successfully, but as I screamed "Noooo!" she dashed into the busy northbound lanes and was immediately hit by a car.
To my amazement, she got up again a moment later and ran off onto an eastbound side street. I was in no position to chase her, but I stood on the street there for some time, trying to get Siri (the iPhone’s voice interface) to recognize the word “Pima,” as in Pima County Animal Control. Eventually I realized that they would not be open yet anyway, and the dog was long gone. So the dogs and I continued south and finished our walk.
This morning, October 7th, my dogs and I were walking on the Escalante bike path just west of Kolb when we noticed a familiar-looking dog standing in the eastbound lane of Escalante, a street only slightly less busy than Kolb most mornings, but considerably less busy on Sundays. I coaxed the dog over and got hold of her collar, One of her rear legs supported very little weight, presumably from being hit. It was definitely the same dog I had seen hit!
The collar had no license or tag of any sort, or even a loop to hold a tag or clasp a leash to. I called my husband John to come get us in the car. She was a big dog, perhaps seventy pounds, and I was on my belly in the dirt by the time John arrived twenty minutes later, just trying to hang onto her and reassure her without killing my back crouching over.
Left to right: Cayenne and Ursa at church, shortly before the blessing.
You can also see a bit of Pepper on the right.
But this was the Sunday closest to the Feast of St. Francis, or, as I like to call it, Take Your Dog to Church Day, which we celebrate with the Blessing of the Animals. So I headed off to St. Michael’s, with three dogs in the car instead of my usual two. After all, what pet needed a blessing more than this injured stray? I decided to call her Ginger, just in case we ended up keeping her. She was a sweet dog, and John and I both liked her immediately. Still, three dogs was one over our mutually-agreed limit!
Father Smith told the congregation about Ginger during mass, in case anyone wanted to adopt her if her owner was not found. She was much petted and admired, before, during and after Mass, and one person offered to help pay her veterinary bill. But first I needed to at least try to find her owner. After church and coffee hour I took her to Valley Animal Hospital to check for a chip (and to make an appointment to have her leg looked it). Unsurprisingly for a dog with no license tag, she didn't have a chip, either. I took her home, posted pictures to Facebook and went on with my day.
Tonight I emailed http://www.found-pets.org/, which specializes pets lost and found in Pima County. Then I posted a notice on Craig’s List. Within half an hour, I got an email from the dog’s owner! He’d been out of town. The neighbors who were looking after the dog, whose real name was Ursa, had repeatedly let her escape from the yard.
The owner successfully identified Ursa by the markings on her tongue, and the dog was definitely glad to see him when they were reunited in the Safeway parking lot. Ursa was truly blessed today! And John and I are only a little sad that this dog has come and gone from our life so quickly, with no guarantee that she will be safe and healthy in the future.
I saw an article recently that pointed out that there was much more to the life of St. Francis than his connection with animals. I’m sure that’s the case, but I’m glad we celebrate the saint’s feast day by appreciating our pets and the rest of this world that God created. It helps us to remember that we are not the only creatures that matter, and that we have a responsibility to be good stewards of the planet and everything in it, particularly living things. This is a concept that we should remember and honor, whether or not we include God in the equation.
A non-Christian friend of mine from college saw my listing for the Blessing of the Animals on Facebook the other day, and asked what the point was, since the Bible made no claims about an afterlife for dogs. I replied that it wasn’t about the afterlife. It was about appreciating the animals now, as St. Francis did. This includes caring for them, including, it turns out, the gimpy dog in the middle of the road.†