Friday, December 3, 2010

On Lost Dogs and the Art of Positive Thinking

I am not always the most positive person. I try to be, I want to be, but I'm a worrier. And yet, I do have a strong belief in hope and miracles and the Universe. There are times, usually when everything in my life seems to be going wrong, where I doubt the magic. But I try to tell myself that it will all make sense one day, that this is just part of the process. Because the alternative choice, which is to just give up, really kind of sucks.

Recently, a dog went missing in Nanaimo. When I first got an email about him, I noticed he had disappeared from Departure Bay, which is quite a distance from where I live so I didn't pay close attention, just registered that it was a black lab cross. Almost a week later, after it had snowed heavily the night before, I headed out one morning to take Annie for her walk and spotted a black lab across the street. I stood still for a moment, but he didn't notice me and continued up the street. I wondered if he was a lab I'd seen wandering around before who lived in the neighborhood. I also remembered there was a dog missing, but dismissed it as being too far away.

I called out and he ran back down the street and hid in some bushes. I put Annie back into the house ( she was not happy about this!) and walked over to where I'd seen him dive into the bushes. I used all my best puppy voices, encouraging him, crouched down. Nothing. I got Annie, hoping he might come out to another dog. He didn't. Annie stared into the bushes, wagging her tail, but there was only silence. I didn't like leaving him there, but thought he was likely the dog from the neighborhood who someone had let out for a morning pee and that he'd go back home. I've rescued many dogs when out walking and the lost ones always come up to me. So I took Annie for a short walk, thinking of the dog the whole time. When I came back, I put Annie in the house and checked the bushes again. But he was gone.

Later I mentioned it to my husband, speculating whether it was the dog from Departure Bay, but again I dismissed it as being too far. My book was due back in a couple of days, so I was very busy and forgot about the dog. Then three days later I noticed a sign on the telephone pole right outside my house. Now I noticed his name was Jocko and that he was wearing a red collar. I felt sick to my stomach when I realized the dog I'd seen that morning had been Jocko. I quickly checked online and found a Facebook page for him. He was still missing.

I woke my husband up right away and forced him to listen to my agonizing about how I should've looked up his information sooner, should've used food to bribe him, wished hadn't made assumptions about him belonging to a neighbor, everything and anything. My guilt was enormous. I called his owners and they were nice and kind, which increased my guilt. Jocko hadn't been seen since that day.

Over the next couple of days I searched all the woods around our area, put up signs at my vet's, my blog, my Facebook, emailed everyone I knew, searched the fairgrounds, checking every stall, empty shed, barn. I called "Jocko" so many times my dog was starting to think it was her name. I also checked his Facebook page every day, hoping and praying for good news.

He'd been missing since November 16th and hadn't been since since November 23rd. My husband thought someone had taken him in. I wanted to believe so, but I thought that the type of people who would rescue a dog would call his owners or the SPCA. I also had my doubts whether he would allow anyone to catch him. Every morning when I walked my dog I called for him and I searched the fairgrounds. I knew the chances of him still being in the area were slim, but I couldn't seem to forget about him. When I looked on his Facebook page it was clear that lots of people were worried about him, many were searching and sending out emails, doing everything they could.I hoped that something would give somewhere and he'd come home soon.

I decided to make a vision board. I printed off his poster, crossed off "Lost" and wrote "Found" under it. Then I put positive affirmations around it. His owner and I had exchanged a couple of emails, and I confessed that I'd made him one, wondering if she was going to think I was crazy. But she emailed and asked about my board as she was thinking about making one and she also sent me some photos of him.

My husband came into my office as I was looking at them and I told him how worried I was. It had been over two weeks. Where could he be? I was starting to fear the worst. Time and time again, I went to our window and stared at the spot I'd last seen him.

That morning I emailed everyone I knew again. Then I printed off the photos Jocko's owner had sent and added them to the board with more positive affirmations. I took a white label and stuck if over the word, "Lost" which I had only crossed off before, and wrote "Found" over top of it. Then I searched the fairgrounds again: in the barns, under the barns. My heart leapt when I spotted a black dog in the distance, and sank when I realized he was with his owner. I'd been carrying Jocko's posters in my pocket, along with some food, and decided to stick one to a barn. I had nothing to pin it up with, but when I stuck it to the damp wood and wedged it under a board, I thought, Action creates action, movement begets movement. If one person sees this and tells someone, then they might tell someone.

Every time I thought about how the big the world was, and how long it had been since anyone had seen Jocko, I remembered a quote that I heard on TV one night, "Don't quit before the miracle happens."

I wanted a miracle for Jocko.

When I was in real estate if I did nothing, then nothing happened. But if I started calling "For Sale by Owners," then I'd get a call on a sign or a referral. Things don't always happen directly, but they happen. I knew it wasn't likely he was still in my area. But I thought if I put out all this intense positive energy and all these other people were doing the same all over Nanaimo, then someone, somewhere might find him.

An hour later I got an email from his owner. There had been a Jocko sighting back in Departure Bay, walking into a park near where he'd first disappeared from. They had been searching and calling but so far nothing. Right away, I called a friend who lives in that area. She had a bad cold, but she's a dog nut like me, so she wanted to help. I packed a leash, some food, his poster, and we were off.

After I picked up my friend we drove around for a while, debating where he might be. Finally my friend suggested we go back to the park. I grabbed my pack sack, my container of tempting tuna, and we were heading down the trail when I noticed a car pulling in near mine. A woman climbed out, asking if I was Chevy. Then she said the best words in the world, "We found him!" When Jocko climbed out of the of the car and ran over to us, I almost cried. It was the most amazing feeling of joy.

Jocko had disappeared from his owner's friend's house, who lived in the area. After they searched for him that morning they called his name all the way back home. A little while later, Jocko arrived. He may have followed their scent, their voices, or was heading that way already. But regardless, this is one amazing dog. He had been missing for 16 days and had lost a lot of weight but otherwise was in great health. When I think about how far he travelled, what he must have gone through, I don't know how he survived. But I'm sure glad he did.

Some can argue that my vision board had nothing to do with it, that he would have come home that morning anyway. Maybe, sure. But I'm choosing to believe in miracles and that positive energy from so many people protected him and drew him home. The power of community is an amazing thing, that so many people, strangers, neighbors, dog lovers, connected over one lost dog? That's wonderful. In this day and age, when life can be so hard for so many, it sure is nice to have a happy ending.

Don't quit before the miracle happens.

PS: This week I also heard about another missing dog in the DC area. Her name is Olivia and she's a Mastiff. I made a vision board for her right away, of course. And I just checked her blog and they've had a recent sighting. So paws and fingers crossed that Olivia's story also has a happy ending. For more information on Oliva, click here.


  1. That was awesome! The world needs more kind-hearted people like you. I'm so glad Jocko is safe and sound. The fact that you care so much makes me admire you even more as a writer. :)

  2. I have so appreciated all the many ways you have supported us bringing Jocko home safe and sound, Chevy. The picture of your vision board is very precious to me and will go into a little story book I'm doing for my granddaughter on Jocko's Big Adventure. I really think the visioning made a difference. (And that's my story and I'm sticking to it!)

    The kindness of strangers (and we'd never met before) has been one of the most amazing parts of this experience. This is the kind of strange that we need! So many people helped and now I continue to get emails from people who heard one way or another about Jocko being found and are giving thanks and sending good wishes our way.

    Jocko is curled at my feet, happily snoozing with his favourite blanket between his paws and the smell of sockeye salmon on his breath. He seems content to be home after his hero's journey. For some reason his journey has changed my perspective on everything as well. Each day since he's home, I “wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving” (Kahlil Gibran)...and then take Jocko for a walk to take down the many, many posters around town!

    Huge thanks and many blessings to you, Chevy!

  3. Hi Paula! I love to hear your description of Jocko with his blanket and salmon breath. And I adore that you're making your grandaughter a story book.

    Yes, it's quite amazing how many lives Jocko's story touched. I know that you also had a little "vision pile" for Jocko and I do believe that all of the positive visioning helped him. I was at Home Hardware today and saw one of his posters with the Lost" crossed out and a big happy " Found" replacing it. I smiled to myself. It's truly a Christmas miracle. And thanks to you and Jocko for reminding me of how much there is to be grateful for in this world.

  4. I love this story and am so glad it's a happy ending.

  5. This story made my evening. We dropped off kibble, towels and treats to the SPCA and I had to do everything not to run in and take everyone home with me. All dogs deserve a home.