Thank you, Mary, for sharing this beautiful story with us!

I definitely have a Soul Pet in my dog Ace. Around the time Ace was born, or just before, I started doing volunteer work with Paw Placement, a dog rescue in Scottsdale, AZ. I had had dogs growing up, but didn’t feel I had the time or space for one of my own, and I wasn’t ready to give the commitment I believe a dog deserves full-time.

A dog named Sassy and her 7 new pups were rescued from the pound by Paw Placement and farmed out to various volunteers to await their time to be adopted. After a very short time, it was determined that they had been exposed to distemper while in the pound, so an email went out to volunteers seeking foster placements with volunteers who were petless, so as not to risk getting any well animals sick. I decided I could manage the puppies for a short time and took in 3 brothers who the previous foster mom had named Ace, King & Joker. They were about 8 weeks old. Although they all came to me on medication, except for some sniffles, they seemed like normal, happy, rambunctious—not to mention adorable—pups.

After just a little over a week, Joker had a seizure in the middle of the night. The next morning he was examined by the vet and his accompanying symptoms, like having fluid in his lungs, lead to an immediate conclusion that he wouldn’t make it, and he was put down within the hour. Ironically, it was the same day the pups were due for their next round of distemper shots, and being symptom-free, the vet went ahead with shots for both King & Ace.

Another week to ten days passed when King began having seizures. The vet decided to try medication to control them, but it had no effect; the seizures came every couple hours and were heartbreaking to watch. Ace & King spent most of the rest of the night sleeping on top of each other. I slept on the floor with the two puppies, knowing it was likely King’s last night, and as predicted, the next morning, King was also put down. Over the course of time since I had gotten the puppies, the rest of the litter was also having seizures and ultimately, each of the other 4 succumbed to distemper and were euthanized. That left only Ace.

Although I had fallen in love with Ace, or more that because I had fallen in love with him, I went through with my intentions to only be his foster mom. Nothing had changed in those short weeks to change the time or space I had to devote to him, and I thought he deserved a family that would be able to also give him a yard and kids to play with. So after 8 weeks with me, he was adopted by a wonderful couple. They didn’t have small kids anymore, but they had a large yard and a doggie door and had wanted to replace a beloved dog they had lost a couple years before. They invited me to visit Ace within just a few days, and at that visit, they suggested I could come walk him any time I wanted; I worked mostly nights, and they worked days. They had a fenced-in yard and told me I was welcome to come anytime, and if need be, call Ace out the doggie door.

I took advantage of their offer and walked him 1 to 3 times every week, depending on my schedule. They had told me they had someone to watch Ace if they ever went away, but I prayed he would come stay with me instead, and he did. Literally on an afternoon I was wishing for him to come stay with me, I got the first call asking me to watch him while they went away for a weekend! Ace is considered to be part chow and he exhibits typical chow traits of being extremely loyal. I know he loved them, but clearly our bond was unbreakable. Ace’s new dad sent Mother’s Day cards & Valentine’s cards from Ace. I don’t have human children, so it was especially touching for me to receive that first Mother’s Day card. Ace’s parents referred to me as “Mother Mary.”

We had amazing communication early on. We could be walking in a wooded area off leash, and Ace would duck under a low branch. All I had to say was “Ace, I can’t fit under there,” and he would turn and go another way, with no low hanging branches. “Ace, we need to turn around,” and he would turn around. There was no leash; I didn’t have to direct him; he just responded to what I said.

After nearly 2 1/2 yrs of not missing a week walking him unless I was out of town, Ace came back to me permanently. Ace’s parents were moving to a new home, just a few miles away, and asked me to watch Ace while the movers came & got them into their new home. The first night I had him, I had a dream that he came to live with me permanently. The next day, I told Ace that the only regret I had in my life was that I had given him up, but I followed it up with gratitude that I still got to see him anytime I wanted and how grateful I was to have him in my life.

A few days later, I phoned to see how much longer I would have him. During just the couple days since I had picked Ace up, his dad had a breakdown and was hospitalized. Right before he was, he had remarked to his wife that they should give Ace back to me permanently. This would have coincided exactly or within one day of my dream about Ace becoming my dog forever.

There’s so many additional pieces to this story; prior to his coming to live with me, I had felt like I wanted to leave Arizona. I had lived there many years and felt ready for a change, but I knew I could never leave Ace. We moved a year after he came to live with me to San Diego. It was a really difficult time for me because I went without a job and several months with no money coming in. Ace was really my inspiration for making a life for us, and I’ve felt several times that in many ways, he saved my life. When I get upset, Ace comes and sits next to me. He communicates with me mostly by staring into my eyes. Not a day goes by that I don’t express gratitude for Ace in my life. He is one of the greatest gifts I have ever received; a true teacher of unconditional love, acceptance, forgiveness, energy, fun, and the list goes on. He exemplifies the saying “if you love something, set it free.” He came back to me and it’s clear that he’s mine, although I like to think more of myself as his guardian, companion, mother, anything but “owner.”

The year before I started volunteering with Paw Placement, I had made plans to bring my family cat (we had always had dogs, but after the last dog died, a kitty showed up on our porch & ended up staying) back from Illinois, where I grew up, to live with me in Arizona. I had planned to for a long time, but never flew an airline that allowed pets. I finally made a reservation with United and called my dad to tell him of my intentions. I had told him over & over that one day I would take the kitty (my mom had cared for her, but my mom had since passed away), and always asked about Miss Kitty when we spoke over the phone. This time, when I said I would bring her back, he said “We’ll talk about it when you get home.” I asked what he meant, but he wouldn’t tell me. I called my brother and learned that dad had taken Kitty to the pound several months before and not only neglected to tell me, but had lied to me several times about her. I had feelings of hate for my dad for this betrayal for a long time. I put aside this “hate” and still found love for my dad, but any time I thought about it, the bad feelings toward him would arise.

A couple years later, however, it finally dawned on me that had I had Miss Kitty when the email for “petless” volunteers came out to take Ace’s litter, I would not have been able to welcome the puppies into my home, and I never would have known Ace. It really made me realize the way the Universe works – another huge lesson – in the things that seem like the biggest tragedies, there so often is a greater plan at work. Every ounce of anger I had toward my dad dissolved, and I realized that I have my dad to thank, and I can believe that Miss Kitty found a loving home at the pound, it’s possible – she was older, but so sweet, very adoptable and perhaps was the perfect companion for someone else (I was allergic to her actually, too).

Ace helps me remember when it’s raining, literally and figuratively, to look for the rainbow!

If I can share one more quick story about Ace – one of the most awesome, amazing things he’s done – and proof, really, that he’s my Soul Pet – when he was just visiting me, still living with the other couple, I came home from a long shift on my feet as a waitress and laid down with my feet throbbing. I said out loud, I sure wish you could give me a foot rub, Ace! And literally at that moment, he started licking my feet, long, slow purposeful licks. I’m not kidding. And he’s been doing it ever since!

Ace turns 8 in August!

If you have a special connection with an animal, we’d love to feature you—just contact us Mali & Joe, authors of The Soulmate Experience: A Practical Guide to Creating Extraordinary Relationships