How my rescue dog showed me that she wanted me to keep her forever.

It was the first Saturday of March in 2015, a mild day that almost felt like the season was changing towards warmer weather. I decided to go hiking with my two dogs, Lady and Duke. I had adopted Lady, a Doberman mix, on December 31st, but I wasn’t too sure if I wanted to keep her.

Lady(left), just after arriving home with Duke (right)

I had told the owner that I would bring her back if things weren’t working out. Unfortunately, she was rather aloof with me and did not seem to want to get too close. It wasn’t that she was mistrustful; she just didn’t seem to want to bond with me.

She was a beautiful girl, with black and tan markings in all the right places and the most gorgeous pair of liquid auburn eyes. But, her aloof nature was beginning to get to me.

NO MORE PATIENCE

During the day, she paced around the house, peeking out the windows and barking up a storm. If I let her out in the yard, she would walk around, smell the earth, and howl to come inside after doing her business. She had already had a few accidents in the basement. So my patience was wearing thin and I decided to send her back.

This was supposed to be the last time I would take her hiking. Tomorrow, she would return to her owners, who had already found another home for her. I didn’t really feel any kind of remorse; I was slightly miffed that all my attempts to get her attention were foiled by her standoffishness.

I KNOW THIS PARK

I know my way around those woods where we went hiking, but it was a grey overcast day, and the footprints we left in the snow were rather wet and undefined over the masses of frozen leaves that littered the ground.

I took this picture at the beginning of this hike. The snow is not visible, although the ground was frozen and icy.

The trees and shrubs were destroyed and shapeless from a previous storm, so it was hard to make reliable markers so that the hiking trails could appear visible.

I tried using the tops of the intact trees to figure out where I was, but they were all similar from the storm that had cut their tops. There was no way to properly see the overcast sky.

Still, I wasn’t quite bothered by it. No problem, I thought. I know this park like the back of my hand. No way I can get lost in here.

THE FOREST WAS RUINED

The dogs ran ahead of me and sniffed here and there. It was then that I realized something; the storm had totally destroyed the landscape of the forest. It was so bad that the shrubs and smaller trees all looked the same. The forest was ruined.

The footpath was invisible because the wind had blown branches, dead leaves, and pieces of bark all over the place. I took a good look around me and said to myself that if all else failed, I could use the trees and their outlines to navigate my way out, even though the storm had destroyed most of them so badly, their branches hung in mid-air or lay scattered on the ground.

We trudged through the beautiful forest, listening to the sounds of many different species of birds singing and the rustling of their wings as they settled in the trees around us.

Lady posing on a fallen tree on the day of the hike. Notice the broken branches and the cut off top of a smaller tree in the foreground. Most of the forest was like this that day.

Everything was still; it was a beautiful day with just a hint of spring in the air. We heard Canadian geese honking and splashing in a stream. It was like being part of Nature.

I LOST MY BEARINGS

As I was admiring the beauty of the forest despite its disarray, snapping pictures here and there with my phone, I suddenly felt a little chill in the mild wind. It didn’t worry me, because I was dressed for the weather in case of any sudden change.

But, after a while, I began to tell myself that it was time to go home. I took what I thought was the right trail to get back to the parking lot. No luck. I walked for a long time and got nowhere. Everything looked the same. No matter where we walked, we made no footprints in the ground because the snow and ice were mixed in with the leaves making the earth trackless.

I kept returning to this heap of stones, no matter what direction I took to try to find the main trail

I circled and circled and started to panic. Somehow I had lost my bearings. I realized that I was walking right next to a heap of stones and that no matter what direction I took to try to find the main trail, I kept returning to it.

This had never happened to me before. The dogs followed, unaware of how upset I was.

NO CELL PHONE RECEPTION

I looked down at my phone in the hopes that perhaps it would have some kind of reception. But, no; there was nothing. I was alone with no map, no compass, no way to navigate my way to the trail. I could tell that I was off it, because now there were little trees all around me that hadn’t been there before. I tried to retrace my steps to where I had been before I saw them.

No luck.

After wandering around for hours and realizing that I was making the same circle over and over, I sat down on a log and looked around me, feeling completely helpless. The air was getting colder and I was tired of being in the forest. There was nothing I could do except stay in the same place and wait.

SO I PRAYED

There was actually another thing I could do: pray.

So, I prayed to God and asked Him to help me find a way out. Although I was dressed to handle the cold, and it was rather mild, I needed to get home in time for lunch.

After I prayed, it’s almost as though something deep inside me told me that I should tell Lady “let’s go home”.

Well, I had nothing to lose. It was getting late and if I stayed out here any longer, far from where anybody could hear me if I screamed, I would probably die from exposure once the frigid cold set in. And set it would in this northern country.

I looked at my rescue dog. She was far away, nosing something in the ground, pawing at it, completely unaware of my predicament.

“Lady, let’s go home!” I shouted to her.

NOTHING TO LOSE

To my surprise, she raised her head, looked straight at me for the first time, since I got her and circled the area a few times with her nose to the ground. Then, she set off running in some deep underbrush, Duke following her closely. Her long tail sailed behind her, wagging from side to side as she ran.

I watched her, unsure. But, then she turned, paused, and looked right at me, as if to say, “well, are you coming or not?”

Lady circling the area

Why not? I told myself I had nothing to lose after my unsuccessful attempts to find my bearings. If the dog got me more lost than I already was, that would be no different than if I would stay there making circles. I stopped taking pictures, tucked my phone in my pocket, and zippered it shut.

We headed through bushes, in muddy areas where creeks had melted on that mild day and around heavy still frozen shrubbery.

MY HEIGHT WAS AN OBSTACLE

I had to crawl on all fours at times, and even got whipped in the face by low hanging branches. Lady was going by instinct and of course she could not consider my height an obstacle to her course. But, boy was it ever!

I had to run to keep up with the two after dragging myself under bushes and clambering over rocks under thick shrubs. In no time, I was a complete mess. But, I followed them as best as I could.

After about thirty minutes of this, we finally came to a clearing. I was a bit behind my two dogs because I had to crawl out of what seemed to be a short tunnel made by a fox or a coyote. It took me a little while to get through it.

Lady stopped at that point and turned to look at me with what seemed to be impatience. It was almost as if I could hear her saying, “what’s taking you so long?”

READY TO GIVE UP

My knees felt like jelly, my hair was in a mess from getting caught in branches (I had removed my hat so it wouldn’t get too soiled), and my jacket was filthy from the dirty watery marshes we had passed through. My boots were caked in wet silt and grime.

I was ready to give up. This looked like a wild goose chase; maybe some poor rabbit was what Lady really wanted.

Just as I was about to sink onto a log to take a breath so I could collect my thoughts, I looked around me in the clearing. Lady was ahead and she turned and looked at me, waiting expectantly. I realized that we had finally found the main trail.

She kept running with little Duke in tow and before long, we were in the parking lot right beside my car.

THE STRANGEST, MOST DELIGHTFUL THING

When I fumbled to get my keys, she jumped on me and licked my cold cheek happily for the first time since I had adopted her. It was the strangest, most delightful thing. I was so happy I couldn’t contain my excitement at how she had found the car just by being asked to go home.

She may not have found the main trail that led to it right away; but because she is a dog, she went the way any dog would have, using her nose to guide her through the dense forest.

I COULD NOT GIVE HER UP

Because of her intelligence and how she cared for me, I could not give her up. I decided to keep her forever. She has never ignored me since that episode and has taken it upon herself to be my personal canine bodyguard and protector.

Since then, whenever I go hiking, especially in winter, I make sure that I map out my path properly beforehand and that the trail is clear. It was dangerous to assume that I knew where I was going after that storm had damaged the forest and the trails.

To this day, I am grateful to Lady because I might have been found dead much later on. We should never underestimate our companion animals.

Lady waiting for me to throw the ball

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