I just love a happy ending.

I seem to be presented with lots of opportunities to rescue dogs lately. Wally is just one recent example (see several posts regarding finding Wally and placing him with friends from April 2008). Another happened tonight.

I was riding my bike around Mercer Island. It's a route a do frequently when I want to get in an evening ride. From my house, it's 20 miles, a designated route where drivers are used to yielding to cyclists.

I was about 3/4 of the way through my ride when I came around a bend in the road and saw a dog dash up a drive and into the road just ahead of me. He was clearly unnerved and frightened, looking all around. Lost.

I put on the brakes and pulled my feet out of the pedals as I called gently to him. To my surprise, he came right to me as a straddled my bike frame. So often, lost and scared dogs run away in their fear. Not this dog - he seemed relieved to find a friendly human.

He appeared to be a very large Soft Coated Wheaten terrier (example below). It was hard to tell, as he was wet from head to toe, having apparently just come out of Lake Washington. Either a Wheaten, or a cream colored Standard Poodle. But he had a beard. Wheaten, I think. A very tall one. And young. He was very puppy-ish in his behavior.
He had a Haltie style head harness, but the muzzle portion was hanging from his neck. No leash. No other collar, so no identification. He was fine with me controlling him by holding onto the portion of the Haltie still around his neck. He shook, drenching me with water from his soft, curly coat. Clearly he had just come from the water.

I was wearing my cleated bike shoes, so walking was awkward. I placed my bike in some shrubs next to the road, then walked with him across the street to the driveway I'd seen him run up from. No one there; no activity at all. The nearest house appeared empty. No way could I walk down that steep driveway to another house down below without slipping in my shoes.

What to do? The few cars that drove by didn't seem to even notice a cyclist, still wearing her helmet, holding a wet dog by the collar. I thought we made a very odd pair.

I had my cell phone. I could call 911. But what would that accomplish? I decided that, if all else failed, I'd call 911 and ask that animal control come take the dog to a shelter if no one showed up and darkness neared. I couldn't wait forever.

But I simply could not let him run free. He was clearly car-stupid - as are my own dogs - and he'd be hit by one in no time. I'd never forgive myself.

I took him to the lawn of the nearest house and sat next to the road, hoping an anxious owner would soon drive by. The dog sat next to me, then started rolling in the grass with happy abandon, tossing his paws in the air, pushing against me...snorting is glee. He was having a grand time! All the while I hung onto the makeshift collar of his Haltie. He didn't seem eager to get away from me.

Ten minutes later, a car drove up and made a beeline for us. Aha! The owner! A young man in his early 20s got out and went straight for the dog, hugging him and smiling. He then looked at me and explained what had happened - the dog was with him and his wife visiting friends when he spooked at something and ran under a fence; the more they called, the faster he ran away. Some boaters reported him swimming past docks ten houses down the beach. Which explained why he was wet and came up a driveway that came from a home on the shore. The owner introduced himself - Peter - and thanked me profusely for rescuing his dog.

I told him I just couldn't let him run down the road, risking getting hit by a car. Peter admitted that the dog (I can't remember the dog's name; sorry) was hit by a bus just two months ago. And he's only 11 months old! Hearing that made me even more glad I'd stopped and kept the dog safe.

I diplomatically pointed out to Peter that even when using a Haltie, it's critical to always have the dog's regular collar with ID on him, for just such unanticipated situations. I couldn't call the owners, even though I had a cell phone, because the dog had no ID/contact info. Peter kept telling me how grateful he was, how he was frantically searching. I told him that I would hope that others would do the same if one of my dogs got lost, so no thanks were necessary, I was happy to help and know the dog was safe.

All's well that ends well.

When I got home, still smiling at my role in the dog's rescue, my own dogs greeted me with way more enthusiasm and sniffing than usual. I interpreted that as an "atta girl!" from them.

Some people would have just ridden on by, perhaps thinking "Wow, hope he makes it home okay." It's even harder to stop and help when you're driving by in your car. But as today's experience pointed out, it's the right thing to do and worth a try. The reward of witnessing the reunification was well worth the small inconvenience of an interruption to my ride.