Wednesday, July 06, 2005


Originally uploaded by Martina.
Saturday evening we were relaxing inside watching t.v. when the hounds started going crazy in the front yard. We looked out of the picture window to see what was causing all the commotion. As it turns out, an absolutely gorgeous, bear-like dog was standing at the fence, trying to get our dogs to play. At the time, we had no idea what he was. In fact, we spent much of the time he was with us trying to figure out what kind of breed he might be. It was only later that we learned that he was an Akita, but I am getting ahead of myself.

As large as he was, it was easy to see that the big beast at the gate was still little more than a puppy. Despite his friendliness toward our dogs, he was a little shy when I went out. It took some coaxing to get him to come. Once he realized that I wasn't going to hurt him, he turned into a big, slobbery, affectionate baby. Much to my surprise, this beautiful animal had no I.D. tag and no collar.

It was getting dark. With his dark fur, we were worried that he might get hit, so we did the only thing we could do. We took the giant stranger into our home for the night. Despite his size, he was incredibly good natured and immediately got on well with everyone.

The only problem in an otherwise friendly canine summit was my smallest dog, Baxter. Baxter is a stocky, little terrier, who is what animal behaviorists refer to as a bit of an asshole. Don't get me wrong, I love him to death. It's just that I've come to terms with the reality that my dog can be a real jerk.

Despite the fact that Big Dog outweighed him by at least 65 pounds, Baxter, who suffers from a canine version of short man syndrome, determined he was going to kick his ass. For his part Big Dog found himself unable to take Baxter too seriously. In the end we decided that Big Dog's "Can't we all just get along?" philosophy had to have its limits, and elected to separate Baxter for his own safety. This unfortunately meant that Big Dog ended up having to spend the night in the garage, which left me so guilt ridden that I sat outside with him until he fell asleep and then woke up at 5 a.m. and went out again to keep him company.

Big Dog accepted all of this good naturedly. The poor thing was so tired and hungry that I am guessing he was happy just to be spending the night indoors. He definitely was grateful. Every few minutes he'd get up to come give me big, slobbery dog kisses right in the face, if I didn't duck out of the way in time.

The next morning, we set to the task of finding Big Dog's family while he played outside with Toby and Ruby, whose sweet natures make up for any ill will harbored by Baxter the Belligerent. After a disappointing search of the Lost & Found, my mom decided to see if anyone in the neighborhood recognized Big Dog. No one did.

As much as we loved him (and who wouldn't love such a sweet boy?), we knew that we could not keep Big Dog. We also knew there was NO WAY we were going to take him to Multnomah County Animal Control. I didn't want to leave him anywhere where they euthanize. Besides, it was clear from the way he acted that he was used to being in the house and to being treated well.

Finally, we came upon the idea of calling the Humane Society to see if they could scan him for a microchip. After receiving confirmation that they could, we bundled Big Dog into the back of my Matrix to go for a ride to the shelter (not to leave him there, just to get him scanned). This is where it starts getting weird.

In retrospect, it actually started getting weird the night before Big Dog showed up, when I dreamt about finding a stray animal. I say "animal", because int he dream I couldn't figure quite what it was. In the tradition of my usual oddball dreams (remind me to tell you one day about John Wesley Harding and his magic bus!), the creature was like black, furry cat with an alligator head.

I spent most of the dream trying to figure out 1) what kind of animal it was, 2) where it came from, and 3) worrying about where to take it where it wouldn't be euthanized. Anyway, it is an odd coincidence that I dreamt this the night before Big Dog appeared at our gate.

But the coincidences do not end there. As we were pulling out of the driveway to go to the shelter, I decided that we should drive around the neighborhood a bit to see if anyone had posted a lost dog sign. After going around the block, we decided that it would be best to just continue on to the shelter. After all, if Big Dog had a microchip, our problem would be solved, so why waste time? We could always comb the neighborhood some more if the microchip was a dead end.

So, having decided to hasten to the Humane Society, we ended up taking a street a block down from ours to get to the freeway. Normally I would never go that way. It was lucky I did, because if I hadn't, I would not have been struck by the whim to stop and ask an old man working in his yard if Big Dog looked familiar to him.

As luck would have it, someone had just been at his house 10 minutes earlier, asking if he'd seen a lost Akita! Even weirder, as we were talking to the man, the people drove back by. As it turns out, they were friends of Big Dog's owner!

A few minutes later, the owner, who was also out combing the streets came driving up. I don't think I've ever seen anyone so happy. Big Dog, whose real name turned out to be Oreo, was as thrilled to find his mom as she was to find him. She almost cried when I told her we'd taken him in and fed him. What a nice feeling it was to have this complete stranger hug me in the middle of the street for doing no more than the right thing.

I am still amazed at the string of coincidences that lead us to her. If we'd left just a minute or two later, we'd never have run into the old man, her friends or the owner herself. As it turns out, Oreo and his 11 year old sister (who was sadly still missing at the time) had gotten spooked by neighbors' early fireworks and broken out of their yard. When we found him, Oreo had already been roaming for two days. It's no wonder he was so tired!

It sure seems like some force was on his side, though. Hopefully his sister was equally lucky and is now home safe with her family. Just to be safe, though, any time I hear the dogs bark, I go outside, hoping that maybe an 11 year old akita will be standing at the gate.


Jen said...

Awww - he is such a big old cutie! I was just telling my cats today that if they ever got lost, they needed to get lost near your house because you know how to treat pets right! I am so glad you found his person!

also consider this an official request for the Magic Bus dream!

Martina said...

You know, if I were a stray, I think I'd want to get lost at my house too! We are total schmucks for anything furry (unless it's a man's back).

As for the magic bus, request noted. It is coming soon in my Eastward Chronicles (aka the journal of our trip). I'm almost done writing it, so I think I'll start editing and posting it in installments. It will take me a while, I think, but hold onto your transit pass, for the magic bus is coming soon!

Jen said...

Oooh! Excellent! I know I heard part of it (involving JWH and flowers and was there an actual monkey on the bus? I know, I know, I'll just have to wait and see.)

Hey! Didn't this Powellhurst used to have a Chateau in front of it? Enquiring minds, and all that.

Martina said...

Powellhurst did have a Chateâu before it. The blog was, after all, named after the family estate. For some reason I had a whim to remove it the other day, but I may put it back.

And, yes, you do remember correctly. JWH's magic bus did have a monkey passenger (as any truly magic bus should). I'm glad I made some notes about the dream. Already the details are beginning to fade.