Behind her, she could sense fear, feel the heat of the canine edging closer. Then in a heartbeat came a touch as gentle as an angel's kiss. In that sweet moment, their unpredictable journey had begun.
"I'm not a dog person, scared to death of them other than my own," Kim Jasper said of the stray. "When I was a little girl, I was bitten."
But this anxiety has never stopped this Moses Lake, Wash., pet lover from trying to help homeless animals over the years. Kim has accumulated 20 pets on her five-acre plot of land, including two rescue pigs, a llama and a lone goose, along with a few dogs in the mix -- all neutered and spayed.
So when she noticed a weary border collie across the road from her place one summer, she thought it might be abandoned.
"I'd never seen him before," Kim said. She had arrived at home at the end of the day after a fundraiser for homeless pets. "Next morning I went out to try to get him to come to me -- it was the end of June and a 100-degree-plus weekend -- but he was too afraid."
Early on she called the sheriff hoping they could rescue the stressed dog, but they were unsuccessful. She called her husband, Jan, who was working in North Dakota and he told her to "keep trying, honey. You'll catch him."
Even though there was a good chance the stray could be anything but angelic, Kim couldn't bear to see the black and white pooch suffer in the heat. At first, she carried water and some food a distance hoping to keep the canine from the highway, splashing the cool liquid to get its attention.
"I did this early Saturday morning through late Monday night and still couldn't get close to him," Kim said about moving the dish every two hours. "By then I'd brought the water and food up by our home."
Still the border collie mix cowered near the railroad tracks just shy of Kim's property. Making one final effort before her work week was to begin on Tuesday, the determined woman sat cross-legged on the ground, her back to the frightened dog.
"I sat quietly with my head down and after about 45 minutes, I felt a breath over my right shoulder," Kim said. "And he slid his head down my arm and licked my wrist."
But just then a car drove up and frightened the dog, which had been abused -- his eye kicked-in and paws bloody from running. But the next morning early before work, Kim again spied him. Trembling, it approached.
"When I brought him into the yard and I looked in his eyes ... "Kim said, pausing as she remembered what felt like a heaven-sent connection, "I've never seen that look in my life, and I thought, 'I can't move him on.' "
But during the couple's traditional long distance conversation that night, her husband firmly rejected the idea of taking on another homeless animal.
"I said, 'He has a look' and Jan said, 'No he doesn't!' " Kim said with a smile, recalling his clear-cut feelings. "He said, 'Honey, you'll find him a good home.' "
Even though Kim was very drawn to the dog, almost a spiritual connection, she totally understood the logic about not taking on one more pet -- another mouth to feed. In agreement, the couple said their sweet goodbyes across the miles.
Then in the wee hours of the morning, the landline rang. It couldn't be Jan; he always called her bedside cell at 7 or 8 in the morning. As Kim raced to the phone, her mind reeled at unexpected news.
" 'Honey, I want you to keep that dog.' " Kim recalled her husband's shocking words, how he said he was restless and couldn't sleep all night. And then he had added, ' "I can't believe I'm saying this.' "
It was a decision that would be easy to regret: veterinarian bills, a dog constantly escaping from the yard, handmade outdoor furniture torn to shreds and more.
"Nobody wants the front of their house chewed off and it was noticeable," Kim said about the 12 feet of ripped siding. "I told Jan on the phone that there's damage, but when he got home he never said a word."
It was Jan's first time to meet Ruckus, who had been aptly named. But Kim's mom saw the dog's goodness the moment she met it.
"She said, 'I have chills, Kim. I think an angel gave you this dog,' " Kim said. "At the time I laughed and said, 'I don't think angels do stuff like that Mom, angels are good!' " Kim said.
While Kim labored with her 8-month-old pet in obedience training, her husband returned to the Midwest to work. By early spring Ruckus was invited into beginner agility classes where Kim said they were the "class clowns." By September, the pair had made some progress.
"The next morning Jan said to me, 'Honey, I'm so proud of you and that darned dog running around out there,' " Kim said, remembering him relaxing on the bed, hands clasped behind his head.
It's an image she holds close as she and Ruckus continue to train and have earned six American Kennel Club titles in two seasons.
But Jan isn't sitting nearby to cheer for the pair. On Oct. 25, 2013, less than a year after adopting Ruckus, this father and husband died suddenly of a blood clot, a day Kim said, "Our lives changed in the blink of an eye."
Grief beyond measure, each day was eclipsed by tears. But slowly over time a path to healing emerged.
"God knew what he was doing when he sent me this border collie," Kim said, referring to how the agility practices and competitions have given her focus since her husband's death. "I do think Ruckus is an angel."
An angel that had to earn his wings.
(Lucy Luginbill is a career television producer-host and the Spiritual Life editor for the Tri-City Herald. In her column, she reflects on the meaning of her name, "Light Bringer." If you have a story idea for Light Notes, contact her at email@example.com.)
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