'Fairy dogmother' to a pit bull

A lost dog chose just the right person to follow to the parking lot.

Stephen Brashear/The Billings Gazette/AP/File
Shake, shake, shake: A pit bull dries off after a swim.

I secretly disdain dogs because they're overly enthusiastic when it comes to humans. They love anyone and everyone. No standards! No selectivity! At least, that's what I used to think – before I rescued a pit bull in the park.

There's an oasis of old-growth forest in my city, a small but deep valley of ancient cedars. As I hiked the trails one day, I heard something crashing through the undergrowth and dashing along the creek.

A couple of women came along the trail behind me and asked, "Are you looking for your dog? There's one loose down by the creek."

"Who me?" I replied. "I don't even like dogs." That stopped the conversation.

As I continued with my hike, the noise abated and I forgot about the loose dog. I finally looped back toward the park entrance and decided to go down to the creek.

Just as I arrived, a big brindled pit bull scrambled up the bank, dragging his leash behind him. I stopped in my tracks and waited for a person to follow him. But no one did.

I wasn't sure what to do next. The dog had the distinctive jaws of the breed, and he was huge (he turned out to be a pit bull/Akita mix). In other words, he was a large fighting dog, squared off against someone who disdains dogs.

The moment stretched out, and I started talking to him softly, but firmly: "What are you doing here all by yourself, huh? Where's your person?" He cocked his head and listened. "Hey, you're all covered with water and dirt. Are you the dog who's been racing around? What's going to happen to you?"

The familiar chill of responsibility crept over me. Uh-oh! I didn't really want to get involved. So I turned on my heel and walked up the staircase to the parking lot, leaving the dog behind.

About halfway up, I felt a furry breeze against my legs. The dog was now ahead of me, waiting at the top of the staircase.

He followed me to my car. In the parking lot, a couple complimented me on "my" dog. I explained that he was lost, and they seemed so distressed that I said I would call the animal shelter to come get him. They offered to hold his leash while I called.

The animal shelter confirmed that they would send a field officer, but they couldn't say when. It might be a while.

I took the pit bull's leash from my helpers and gently tugged the dog toward my car so I could get my sandwich. Then I tugged him over to sit in the shade with me while I ate.

He was docile and well mannered. About the time I finished my sandwich and gave him the last bite, someone new stopped to admire him and told me that the shelter wasn't very far – I could just take him there. So I spread an old blanket in my car, and the dog hopped in. Was this his plan all along?

The animal shelter checked him for tags and an embedded identification microchip, but found nothing. I signed some paperwork, patted him on the head, and drove away.

A few days later, I began to wonder about him. Was he OK? Had anyone come looking for him? I checked the shelter's website and found an advertisement for him. It was like a personal ad with a fabulous photo. The shelter workers had tested him, given him a name, and described him perfectly.

I decided to visit. The shelter employees assured me that he was fine, that it was just a matter of waiting for the right home – one with experienced pit-bull owners, no other pets, and no young children. I was relieved that I didn't fit the profile.

The next week, I went to visit him again. He was out in the dog run with two people I liked immediately. I told them the story of how I'd found him in the park. I gave him a hug and silently blessed the adoption. They took him home the same day.

Facilitating this event changed my attitude about dogs. I used to think they liked just anyone. But out of all the people in the park, "my" pit bull chose me. Smart dog! He seemed to know that it's not just anyone who can be a fairy dogmother.

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