The Secrets of a Rescued Pet

One of the aspects of pet rescue that most people experience is getting to know something about the animal that you never even suspected. Our cocker spaniel Leaf has brought us surprises from time to time that reveal his secret past. This morning, Allen experienced one of the most touching ones. He tells his story below.

I took our cocker spaniel Leaf to one of our better city dog parks this morning. The park is over 4.7 acres with a small river, Minnehaha Creek, running through it. What a joy to see Leaf realize that he was free to run, search, and play to his heart’s content.

The park is fenced but because of its size and the forest and underbrush, no barriers are visible. It was a thrill to watch Leaf’s instincts take over. With nose to the ground he searched for any rabbit or squirrel who may have been on the trail moments ago.

I threw his ball into the river, expecting him to dive in after it with our usual game of retrieval. At home, Leaf has a toddler plastic swimming pool and he loves to play in it. He splashes in the bathtub for his baths. We walk along the lakeshore trails at other parks, and he enjoys watching the ducks. But he’s always on his leash and never goes into the water on his own.

Today, I watched Leaf hesitate at chasing the ball bobbing in the river creek. From the expression on his face, I realized that until this point, he must have always had his four feet planted solidly on the ground. A piece of his history was coming to life before my eyes — Leaf had never been swimming!

Not realizing that this would be Leaf’s first time actually doing a doggie paddle, I had thrown his ball far out in the water. It would have been just above knee level for me if I had walked to where the ball landed. From Leaf’s perspective this ball must have looked far away and unreachable.

I watched him walk from the shore until he sensed that it would be dangerous to go farther. He stopped. He looked at me. He looked back at the ball. This was his precious ball that meant fun and playtime. We brought this ball to all our outings, to other dog parks, and even threw it in the house occasionally.

I spoke softly to Leaf. “You are brave. Trust your instincts. Go get your ball.” I knew I would rush in and get him if there was a problem.

Being adopted from the shelter when he was about a year old, I knew that Leaf had had to take care of himself and become a survivor. Now, he appeared to be considering the situation before him. I could tell he was questioning: Should I dive into the unknown? Should I retrieve my ball even if there might be danger? He seemed conflicted.

He watched the ball slowly move away from him, floating downstream on the river. He moved along with it, at shoulder level, in shallow water, where his feet continued to touch firm ground.

Then he made his decision. He moved forward. When his feet were no longer on the ground, he instinctively began doing the doggy paddle. He grabbed his ball and swam back to the sandy beach.

I was so proud of him and praised him with gusto. Leaf had trusted. He had taken a risk. He had found freedom. He had discovered a talent he didn’t know he possessed. What could be better than this — for dogs or for humans?

See photographs of Leaf watching the ball, making his decision, and swimming for the first time at

Have you witnessed an animal discovering something new about himself or herself?

We welcome you to answer this question and the “Something to Think About” question at our blogs and forums, so everyone can see your comments. Look below for blog and forum URLs.

Join Allen & Linda at the Minnesota State Fair

What? Interview with Sage Lewis, The Creature Teacher! on her radio show The Pet Playground

When? Sunday, August 30, 2009, 6:00-7:00 p.m. Central Daylight Time

Where? AM950 KTNF Booth at the Minnesota State Fair

Why? To discuss their new book, Horses with a Mission: Extraordinary True Stories of Equine Service

How can I participate? Stop by the booth. Sage will give away a free book. Call in the listener line at 952-946-6205.

We hope you’ll consider pre-ordering HORSES WITH A MISSION: Extraordinary True Stories of Equine Service (New World Library, September 1, 2009). It’s available, autographed, at Angel Animals Online Bookstore,, (, Barnes & Noble (, Borders Books & Music (, New World Library ( and other online and independent bookstores.

“With hearts and minds open, we can learn from the wild and domesticated horses in this wonderful book.”
–Joe Camp, author of THE SOUL OF A HORSE and creator of the films starring the canine superstar Benji

Go to to read excerpts of the book, see video clips of stories, and join in the fun of launching this exciting new book.

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Don’t forget to enter the Dogs and the Women Who Love Them True Story Contest described in the announcement below. We’re looking forward to reading your stories. CONTEST DEADLINE – SEPTEMBER 30, 2009 – IS FAST-APPROACHING.

Allen and Linda Anderson
Angel Animals Network