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November 13, 2009

A Beagle's Journey Home

A little divine intervention helps a lost dog find his way home

The Humane Society of the United States

  • The beagle investigating our home. Karen Allanach/The HSUS.

by Karen L. Allanach

One beautiful Sunday morning, our family was driving home after an inspirational church service at Wesley Chapel United Methodist in Urbana, Maryland. Urbana is a small town, a nice balance of suburban and country life. We strive to keep Sunday a day of rest, but this day turned out differently.

"Ohhhhh! There's a beagle!"

We were driving down a side road through new construction when our 8-year-old daughter Celeste piped up. "Ohhhhh! Mommy! Mommy! There's a beagle! Alone! All by himself! Ohhhhh!"  

My husband Jeff and I looked around, but didn't see the hound.

"Maybe his owner is nearby, sweetie," Jeff said. I hoped so. I said a little prayer that the dog wasn't really lost, or if he was, that he got home safely.

My daughter spent the 2-and-½-mile drive home talking about the dog. "He was soooo cute," she went on. She guessed (correctly) that a beagle would have been a favorite of mine. (I love all animals, but have a soft spot for beagles and basset hounds.) I really hoped the dog she spotted would be okay.

The beagle is back

At around 5 o'clock that afternoon, our 4-year-old son Gavin pulled me into the yard to play Frisbee. Celeste was with a friend down the street, and Jeff was sleeping on the sofa. That's when it happened. As my son and I were about to trade in our Frisbee for a baseball, we noticed a sturdy little beagle walking our way. He wore a body harness, but no collar or tags.

I was stunned. The dog considered me, sniffed around the yard, did his business at our mailbox, and continued past our house. I snapped out of my frozen state. 

I wonder if maybe St. Francis paid a visit to Urbana that Sunday. Maybe he knew that dog needed help, and we were the family to do it? Maybe that is why everything came together.

"Gavin, go get Daddy!" I sent Gavin into the house, and called the dog back to me.

He did a good job of dragging me around the yard, and I held him the best I could. He was strong for his stout size.

Inside, Gavin told Jeff,  "Daddy, there is a dog outside."

"That's nice, Gavin," he replied, and went back to sleep. 

Gavin came back out to me. "Daddy is sleeping," he said. 

"No, Gavin," I said. "Tell Daddy I need him to come outside and help with the dog!"

Back he went inside, and a few minutes later, Jeff came out to help. He scooped up the beagle, and we brought the dog inside.

As the beagle investigated our home, and our cat Obi (temporarily secured inside an office) howled in protest, Jeff searched community chat boards to see if anyone had reported a missing dog. We called animal control, but there was no answer. We took photos of the dog to post online. We had no dog food, but he lapped up two cans of cat food and ate the rest of Obi's hard food. Our son got into the act and offered him a Sippy-cup of water.

An odyssey, and then home again

During this chaos, I marveled at this dog's odyssey and how our family came to participate in his adventure. How was it that this adorable beagle, whom my daughter noticed from the car window hours earlier, was sitting in my kitchen eating my cat's food?

A few moments later, the doorbell rang. A woman asked if we had seen a lost dog—a beagle. The woman was a neighbor of the dog's owners and was helping search for him. When she began canvassing the neighborhood, she stopped at our house first.

With the beagle in his arms, Jeff went outside with the woman. A teenage girl ran toward them, overjoyed at being reunited with her missing dog. As it turned out, this beagle, with his incredible sense of tracking, had safely found his way back to his own neighborhood after wandering for miles.

Friends of St. Francis welcome here

Was it fate that we encountered the beagle in front of our house after Celeste spotted him earlier in the day, miles away? And why did the woman select our house first in her neighborhood search?

Lately, I've been very involved in promoting St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and ecology. In celebration of the saint's feast day on October 4, we share St. Francis Day in a Box! resources and also pay tribute to the beloved saint through our regular feature on this website, The Francis Files, where writers express inspirational stories about animals and faith.

I wonder if maybe St. Francis paid a visit to Urbana that Sunday. Maybe he knew that dog needed help, and we were the family to do it? Maybe that is why everything came together.

I have been thinking about putting a sign out in the yard: "Friends of St. Francis Welcome Here."

But then again, maybe they already know that.

Prevent your pet from getting lost

• A pet—even an indoor pet—has a better chance of being returned if she always wears a collar that has an ID tag with your name, address, and telephone number.
• Ask your local animal shelter or veterinarian if permanent methods of identification (such as microchips) are available in your area.

Karen L. Allanach is associate director of faith outreach for The Humane Society of the United States


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