Note: This is a dog story. But one with connections to this blog theme.
We’ve all read amazing stories of dogs finding their way home after being lost. Here’s mine.
Our family dog, Alonzo, and I were walking in the woods during a downpour this past Sunday, when he slipped out of his collar and dashed, now unleashed, into Bull Creek nearby. (A flat-coated retriever, Alonzo is addicted to bodies of water.) With all the recent rain, that “creek” was something of a raging river. As I watched Alonzo flow rapidly out of sight, I knew the main danger was entrapment and drowning. I walked the trail for hours, looking for any sign of him.
The next day, we got word that someone had seen a black dog, front paws paddling, moving very quickly down the Swannanoa River far downstream. This gave me hope, though I imagined the fast river would have been difficult to exit. I called my friend Chris Gragtmans, who instantly responded that he would go with me to search for my dog. (I felt confident going with Chris, who happens to be an elite kayaker.) Chris and I paddled for several hours, calling and searching, with no luck. People watching us go by asked what we were up to. To a person, all wanted to help us find Alonzo. (The amount of support — both emotional and tangible — that we were receiving was incredible; but that’s a whole other story.) I went to bed for a fitful second night wondering where Alonzo was (or if he had survived the swollen river). Had somebody found him? Was he suffering from hypothermia?
This morning, when he still had not turned up, my wife and I set out to look further, post more flyers, check with local vets, etc. Just before leaving our driveway, up walked Alonzo — bedraggled, wet, tired, but otherwise okay. Great relief and joy for us, of course. But how did he make it back? (Note to self: dog helmet cam.) We know the sense of smell in dogs is extraordinary. Some might also suggest a homing instinct. For my purposes — permitting myself to perhaps anthropomorphize for a moment — I think that Alonzo had a singular goal of getting back to us. And if you could see the lavish treatment he is receiving from my children right now, you’d know why.
Single-mindedness describes Alonzo (and most dogs that I’ve known). It also describes, to some extent, elite athletes. But I’m not talking about the athletes who devote themselves fully to their sport and nothing else. I’m talking more about a kind of focus. That when an elite athlete is engaged in her sport, there is little that distracts her. For example, people often ask ultrarunner, Anne Lundblad, what she thinks about during her long runs — including her 24-hour races. She answers: “I think about running. I think about my pace, my form, my breathing… I pretty much just think about running.” Staying focused on the task at hand is a hugely important skill in athletics. And it will be the subject of my next post. But for now, I’ve got some lovin’ to give.
Welcome home, Alonzo.♥