dog who healed a family
And Other True Animal
Stories That Warm the Heart & Touch the Soul
All the stories in this book are about animals, and all are true. What the stories have in common is the love and caring that can exist between animals and people. Nancy Topp struggled for weeks to get a seventeen-year-old dog home across fifteen hundred miles. Gene Fleming fashioned shoes for a goose born without feet and supported the goose in a harness until he learned to walk. Months after their javelina disappeared, Patsy and Buddy Thorne were still roaming ranch lands in Texas, Bubba’s favorite chocolate in their pockets, searching for their wild pig.
The Thornes recently sent a clipping from their local newspaper describing how a group of men out hunting with bows and arrows came upon a javelina. The animal stood still, gazing at the men, while they shot at it three times. When all three arrows failed to strike home, one of the men ventured close enough to pet the animal and found it was tame and welcomed the attention.
What is amazing about the report is not that the animal was Bubba—it was not—but that the hunters shot three times at a creature that was not big enough or wild enough to be a threat to them and that did not provide sport by running. And because the meat of a javelina is too strong-tasting to be palatable, they were not interested in it for food.
The hunters shot at the javelina because it was there, which is the same reason a neighbor who lives downriver from me catches all the trout within hours of the time the state fish and wildlife service stocks the stream. An amiable man who loves his grandchildren, the neighbor has built the children a tree platform where they can sit silently and shoot at the deer who come to the river to drink at twilight. He also sets muskrat traps in the river and runs over woodchucks and possums on the road.
The family doesn’t eat the deer; the frozen body of a doe has been lying all winter in the field in back of my woods. Nor does anyone eat the trout the man catches; he tosses them into a little pond on his property where they stay until they become too numerous and die from lack of oxygen. When I once asked this ordinary, pleasant fellow why he’d gone out of his way to run over a raccoon crossing the road, he looked at me in surprise. “It’s an animal!” he said as though that quite explained it.
To many people it is sufficient explanation. After all, did not Jehovah tell Noah and his sons that all the beasts of the earth and fish of the sea were delivered into the hands of man? Surely this is a license to destroy them even if we have no better reason at the time than the fact that they exist and we wish to.
Or is it? Belatedly we are beginning to realize that the duality of people and animals, us and them, is false, just as we have discovered that there is no split between us and the world. The world is us and we are the world. We cannot simply exploit and destroy, either the world or the animals in it, if we are not at the same time to do ourselves irreparable harm.
Consider what a Native American, Chief Seattle, said in 1854: “What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected. This we know: The Earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the Earth. This we know: All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons of the Earth. Man did not weave the web of life. He is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”
The world belongs to the animals just as much as to us. Let us be unselfish enough to share it with them openly and generously. Which is to say, when you come upon a lost dog or an orphaned fawn or a goose born without feet, give it nothing to fear from you, grant it safety, offer to help if you can, be kind. In return, as the stories here show, you will sometimes find a welcome companionship, and surprisingly often love.
Califon, New Jersey
The Puppy Express
Curled nose to tail, the little dog was drowsing in Nancy Topp’s lap as the truck rolled along the interstate. Suddenly Nancy felt her stiffen into alertness. “What’s the matter, old girl?” Nancy asked. At seventeen, Snoopy had a bit of a heart condition and some kidney problems, and the family was concerned about her.
Struggling to her feet, the dog stared straight ahead. She was a small dog, with a dachshund body but a beagle head, and she almost seemed to be pointing. Nancy followed the dog’s intent gaze, and then she saw it, too. A wisp of smoke was curling out of a crack in the dashboard. “Joe!” she shouted at her husband at the wheel. “Joe, the engine’s on fire!”
Within seconds the cab of the ancient truck was seething with smoke. Nancy and Joe and their two children—Jodi, twelve, and Matthew, fifteen—leaped to the shoulder of the road and ran. When they were well clear, they turned and waited for the explosion that would blow everything they owned sky-high. Instead, the engine coughed its way into silence, gave a last convulsive shudder and died.
Joe was the first to speak. “Snoopy,” he said to the little brown and white dog, “you may not hear or see so good, but there’s nothing wrong with your nose.”
“Now if you could just tell us how we’re going to get home,” Matthew joked. Except it wasn’t much of a joke. Here they were, fifteen hundred miles from home, stranded on a highway in Wyoming, with the truck clearly beyond even Joe’s gift for repairs. The little dog, peering with cataract-dimmed eyes around the circle of faces, seemed to reflect their anxiety.
The Topps were on the road because five months earlier a nephew had told Joe there was work to be had in the Napa Valley and Joe and Nancy decided to take a gamble on moving out there. Breaking up their home in Fort Wayne, Indiana, they packed up the kids and Snoopy and set out for California. But once there, the warehousing job Joe hoped for did not materialize, Nancy and the kids were sharply homesick and their funds melted away. Now it was January and, the gamble lost, they were on their way back home to Fort Wayne.
The truck had gotten them as far as Rock Springs, Wyoming, but now there was nothing to do but sell it to a junk dealer for $25 and hitch a ride to the bus station. Two pieces of bad news greeted them there. Four tickets to Fort Wayne came to more money than they had, much more, and dogs were not allowed on the bus.
“But we’ve got to take Snoopy with us,” Nancy pleaded with the ticket seller, tears welling in her eyes. It had been a disastrous day, but this was the worst news of all.
Joe drew her away from the window. It was no use getting upset about Snoopy, he told her, until they figured out how to get themselves on the bus. With no choice but to ask for help, they called Travelers Aid, and with kind efficiency the local representative arranged for a motel room for them for the night. There, with their boxes and bags piled in a corner, they put in a call to relatives back home, who promised to get together money for the fare and wire it the next day.
“But what about Snoopy?” Matthew said as soon as his father hung up the phone.
“We can’t go without Snoopy,” Jodi stated flatly.
Joe picked up the little dog. “Snoopy,” he said, tugging her floppy ears in the way she liked, “I think you’re going to have to hitchhike.”
“Don’t tease, Joe,” Nancy said curtly.
“I’m not teasing, honey,” he assured her, and tucked Snoopy into the crook of his arm. “I’m going to try to find an eastbound truck to take the old girl back for us.”
At the local truck stop, Joe sat Snoopy on a stool beside him while he fell into conversation with drivers who stopped to pet her. “Gee, I’d like to help you out,”