I know what you’re thinking, “Well, that’s a pretty strange title.” But if you give me the time to have a cup of coffee, I’ll try to make the effort worth reading.
I bought wood from a lion in Oregon. The store shared a parking lot with an animal shelter. I wasn’t looking for a dog, but after loading my truck I thought I should go to the shelter.
“I’m not really looking for a dog,” I told them. “I already have one at home and my wife is not with me.” But when I went through the door into the kennel, it was there in the first pen. Close, said the name on the cage.
She appeared to be about a year old and was shy and stayed in the back of the pen. But we made eye contact. She was a beautiful German Shepherd, light brown and black with a beautiful copper color on her head and chest. Hiked the rest of the kennel area but really didn’t look any more.
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Fate told me, “Mike, it’s love at first sight.”
I went home and told Marilyn, my wife, that I might have found a dog that I wanted to adopt. The only way that “actually” could fit into that sentence was that it was May 2008.
We went back to the shelter late the next day. This time when I passed Nahes Stift she wasn’t that shy. In fact, it was the first time she spoke to me. She came to the kennel door, looked me dead in the eye and said with her eyes: “I am why you are here.” When Marilyn and I finished the adoption papers, it was almost closed. The clerk told us the diaries were closed and we could just bring them home.
“I can say that she is going to a loving home,” said the clerk. “Give us a donation later.” Fate had lubricated the runners.
The near name became Kare (the Maori word for love or friend). With its beautiful color and pleasant disposition, it attracted attention everywhere. One day when they explained to some children in a park that Kare was a rescue dog, they replied, “Rescue! Do you know how to save people? “I had no knowledge of K-9 Search and Rescue (SAR), but these kids and Destiny planted a seed.
To cut a long story short, Kare became a state certified SAR dog. We had to talk to each other for our trainings and callouts. “Search here,” I told her with my hands and voice. “I’ve found what to look for!” with her sitting and barking she would say our trained warning.
It sounds simple, but that warning meant hundreds of hours of training to build mutual trust and respect. Kare literally relied on me for her life, especially when we were working or exercising in dangerous situations. Our bond and working relationship could be seen everywhere we worked. And almost everywhere we went, people expressed gratitude that we were there.
I got questions a lot, but it was almost always about Kare, not me. I agreed to that; She was my partner. And when she wasn’t working, almost everyone asked if they could have a picture with her. If a picture is worth a thousand words, I think Kare wrote more than The Iliad and The Odyssey put together.
When the combined stress of my challenging job and duties became too much for me (Kare didn’t know the seriousness of her job; she always viewed it as a fun game where she got tidbits to find things) I withdrew from SAR and has changed our focus on therapy dog work. It was another facet of dog work that I had no idea about when I adopted Kare. But fate had its plans.
We have been registered with Pet Partners, a nationally known organization that supports animal-assisted interventions. As a representative of Pet Partner, Kare “talked” a lot.
“Tell me a story,” she said to residents as we visited an elderly care facility, and she leaned forward for a treat or a scratch. She liked to bring back memories.
“I hope you will be fine,” she said to the patients in the hospital emergency room as she snuggled into her chair and looked at them empathetically with her big brown eyes. “Maybe my soft fur and calm demeanor can calm you down, at least for a few minutes.”
“I think you’re doing a great job!” She told staff when we visited business offices to relieve stress. “You deserve a break to give me an abdominal massage.”
And their biggest message? “I’ll help you with this,” as she snuggled up with my daughter Erin as she went through chemotherapy. (Today Erin has been cancer-free for four years.)
This is my simple story about my wonderful dog. As you can see, Destiny had me in her sights when she arranged an unscheduled meeting with an unfamiliar dog so we could have so many adventures. And I thank her every day.
I lost Kare in August 2020 on one of the more difficult days of my life. But the love and camaraderie she gave me during our 12 years together was worth a lot of sadness. Dogs can open our hearts and talk to us in many ways. We just have to listen.