1: The Rescued

1: The Rescued

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: What I Learned from the Dog

The Rescued

The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.

~Mother Teresa

Panda was not an ordinary dog. He was the favorite Border Collie of our rancher friends, Pat and Sharon. Panda was much more than a favorite pet. He was a highly trained sheep dog that could herd a flock or a single sheep based on a series of varying, whistled commands. That made him a very valuable dog: several thousand dollars if he were sold, which he would never have been. Panda’s real value went beyond his skills. Those who have loved pets know what I mean.

Pat and Sharon came to the city to visit. While staying at a relative’s home, Panda disappeared. There was a frantic, ever-expanding search of the yard, the neighborhood, and a large park nearby. They called us to assist in the search, which we did, but there was no sign of Panda.

The next day we repeated the search, but Pat and Sharon had to return home that evening. Pat’s sister and my wife agreed to split the duty of checking the city animal pound and Dumb Friends League each day, which they did for three months. We printed flyers and posted them throughout the neighborhood and the park, but to no avail.

As the months slipped by, the thoughts of Panda became more and more infrequent. We had long ago given up hope of finding him, and shifted our hopes to the unknowable—hoping instead that somehow he was in a new, loving home.

Nearly two years later my wife and I were driving along a parkway near the downtown area. We passed an obviously homeless man lying fifty feet away on a sunny, grassy spot. Next to him was a Border Collie. My wife shouted, “That’s Panda! Go around the block!”

“What? Panda?” I said blankly.

“Panda! Pat and Sharon’s Panda! Go around the block.”

I said, “What? You glimpse some guy with a dog from fifty feet, and think it is a dog you’ve seen only a dozen times in your life, the last time two years ago? You have to be kidding!”

To humor her, I turned and we made a loop and drove by again. My wife became more certain that the dog was Panda and I became more certain that she had just made a leap into some alternate, delusional state.

When we got home, she immediately called Sharon. As luck would have it, Pat was going to be in a nearby town that weekend, and decided to drive the extra seventy miles into the city.

We explained to Pat the area where we had seen the pair. He went there and quickly spotted them. Pat parked nearby and walked over to them, stopping about twenty feet away.

So there they were—the dog, the homeless man, and the rancher, face to face. Pat whistled a command and the dog raced immediately to Pat’s feet and sat, wagging his tail furiously. Even after two years of separation, Panda’s reaction to the command was instantaneous. Panda had been found!

The homeless man was clearly surprised at the dog’s response, as evidenced by his shocked look, which quickly turned into a concerned look.

Pat said, “Is this your dog?”

“Yeah, I found him a couple of years ago,” the man said. “But he looks like he knows you.”

“Yep, and I know him,” Pat said.

There were a few seconds of awkward silence. The grizzled man cleared his throat and rubbed his chin as Pat knelt down and stroked Panda’s muzzle and shoulder. Panda wiggled from the tip of his tail to his middle, licking Pat’s hand and arm.

“I know that dog is yours,” the man said, “but you gotta know that he is my life. He is my only friend in this world. I found a vet who gives him free care, and the store downtown gives me dog food for him. I take care of him and he takes care of me.”

“I’m sure that is true,” Pat replied. “Where did you find him?”

“Down by the park. He wasn’t very streetwise. He almost got hit in traffic, so I rescued him.”

Panda then wandered back over to the man and sat beside him, but didn’t take his eyes off Pat.

“What are you gonna do,” the man asked?

“I don’t know,” Pat said. “Panda’s a great dog, and great with the sheep. He and I traveled a lot of miles together.”

“I knew he was smart and well trained,” the man said.

Another long and awkward silence followed. Pat stood up, and Panda immediately came to him and sat at his feet, looking up expectantly.

Far too many dogs have no one to love them, while other dogs are lucky enough to have someone who does, but it is the rare dog that is truly loved by two unconnected people. Panda was fortunate enough to be one of those dogs.

We saw the homeless man walking or lying with Panda quite a few times over the following years. I am still not sure if the homeless man rescued Panda, or if Panda rescued the homeless man.

~Daniel James

More stories from our partners