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A true story that taught me an insightful lesson.
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One beautiful summer day, Melissa and I took our Labrador mix, Libby, for a walk down our favorite dead-end road. It was the perfect street for dog walking since half the road has woods or ocean marsh on either side and the other half is planted with multi-million-dollar beachfront homes owned by people who live in other states. As a result, the street has very little traffic even in the summer.
We were walking back to the car when Libby decided to venture off the road and onto a path in the woods. She looked back at us for permission, and we told her it was okay as we followed close behind her. We were about to go on vacation for a week without her, so we were trying to get in as much “Libby time” as possible.
The path went into a peaceful wooded area of a wildlife sanctuary. We didn't have time to go far, as the sun was setting, so we let Libby venture about 25 feet up the path.
Melissa said to me, “I love watching her sniff around and enjoy herself,” as Libby began pawing some leaves and investigating a scent with her nose.
Suddenly, a metal, spring-loaded trap snapped shut on Libby’s right front paw. Libby immediately started screeching in pain and trying to run away, but the trap was chained to the ground so she couldn’t escape. Worse, every time she pulled her paw to escape, the metal trap clamped tighter, causing her to panic and squeal all the more.
Melissa and I couldn’t believe our eyes. It took my mind a few seconds to acknowledge what was happening. I thought, A trap hidden under the leaves? Is that even possible? Is it legal? We frantically dashed to Libby’s rescue who was now wailing in pain.
Melissa put her arms around Libby, trying to get her to stop pulling away from the trap and calm her frantic body. I wrapped my hands on each side of the contraption to pry it open, but the springs were so tight I couldn’t free the paw by merely pulling on its clenched jaws. I scoured the trap for some kind of lever or switch that might discharge it but saw none.
I glanced at Libby’s paw in the clutches of this cold-hearted weapon. Her toes were being crushed and I feared that the damage inflicted by the teeth of this device might be permanent. All the while I was having visions of rushing her to the animal emergency clinic located 45 minutes away (because all the vet centers were closed by this hour), as well as thoughts of her not being able to walk on her bandaged paw for months.
What are we going to do? I thought to myself, mapping the directions to the emergency vet in my head. She must be in immense pain. Why do these things always happen after business hours? Surely, we can’t possibly go away on vacation now.
As I investigated the trap for a release button, Libby panicked and began shrieking at the top of her lungs, further pulling on the trap and chain. Melissa calmed her one more time by hugging her tightly and talking to her quietly.
I was angry with myself for having no idea how these traps work. As Melissa calmed Libby by rubbing her chest, the trapped paw moved enough so I could now see a lever on the opposite end where her paw was jammed into the mechanism. I pushed down on it with all my might and the trap opened a tiny bit. Although we still couldn’t get Libby's paw out of its grasp, it seemed to have eased some of the pressure. It was at this point that I noticed that the trap didn’t actually have teeth. It was a nasty clamp, but with no claws.
Having found the lever on the side of the trap, Libby was now calmer but clearly still in pain, and the metal jaws were crushing her paw such that her nails were all jammed together like one big claw. Beads of sweat formed on my forehead as I struggled to hold down the lever, and I prayed she wouldn’t panic again causing me to lose my grip.
Melissa called the police on my cell phone, hoping they’d know how to release the trap. The dispatcher had no idea how it worked but signaled a patrol officer to the scene. I held hope the officer might know how to set Libby free when he or she arrived.
Melissa stayed on the phone with the police dispatcher while caressing Libby to keep her still. The woman told Melissa that traps are still legal but carefully regulated, and she didn’t think they should be placed in the middle of a path. After all, what if a child had walked up the path?
Libby, seemingly in shock, decided to lie down. As she changed her position, I could finally see another lever under her injured paw on the other side of the trap. At the risk of making things worse, since I had no idea how much pain it might cause her, I grabbed both levers and pressed down with every reserve of strength I had left. The trap opened and released Libby's paw, which laid there limply.
We were unable to determine the seriousness of the injury, recognizing that Libby wasn’t even licking her paw. That can’t be a good sign, I thought to myself. She’s even afraid to lick it. I’ll be carrying her up and down the stairs for weeks. I envisioned a long night at the animal hospital and a long road to recovery.
I saw the police cruiser through the trees, so I ran to the road to guide the policeman up the path. As he and I hurried back to where Melissa and Libby were waiting, I saw that Libby was now sitting upright, putting pressure on her right front paw. I was amazed and quite relieved. We all interpreted it as a good sign.
Cautiously, we encouraged Libby to stand up and try walking, although I was scared to death of the pain it might inflict. I could tell from Melissa’s facial expression that she feared the same. Astoundingly, Libby was able to walk. She didn’t even limp. In fact, as we all reached the road, you’d never have known she’d been traumatized. Instead, Libby skipped around, delighted that she was free. She even flirted with the police officer.
We got Libby home and she went right to bed. We checked her paw out immediately and again the next morning, but she seemed to be okay. I'm sure she had some pain, yet going by our vet’s phone recommendation, we wiggled all her digits and nothing made her flinch. Miraculously nothing was broken, though we all felt the trauma of that incident for a while.
The experience was a lesson for me in staying in the present moment. My own personal distress during the incident was surely made worse by my projecting into the future. Had I focused on what was real in the now, I wouldn’t have envisioned the teeth of the trap piercing the toes of her little paw. I wouldn’t have experienced Libby suffering during the 45-minute ride to the emergency clinic. I wouldn’t have seen us missing our vacation to nurse our dog or visualized myself carrying Libby up and down the stairs for weeks at our house.
If I had kept my imagination at bay by remaining in the present moment, I would have experienced twenty minutes of trauma and it would have been over. On the contrary, I experienced stress on the way to the clinic, hours worrying while at the clinic, and weeks of distress at home during Libby’s recovery. Yet none of that really happened because none of it was real. It was a projection of what might happen that I made up in my mind.
Sadly, the body and mind don’t know the difference between what’s real and what’s imagined. Physically and emotionally, we react to both traumas. As a result, we suffer unnecessarily causing our stress levels to increase, all because we haven’t learned how to stop projecting into the future what might happen.
Lesson learned: Living in the now is an idea worth practicing. It’s so easy that even a dog can do it.
Thanks for reading! I’ll meet you in the comment section.
Keep smiling! 😁
Bob Olson is the host of Afterlife TV, author of two books, Answers About The Afterlife and The Magic Mala, and creator of the directory of psychics and mediums, BestPsychicDirectory.com. His latest venture is Bob Olson Connect, where you can read Bob’s articles before they become books. View subscription options.
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If you like true stories with a life lesson, let me know with the like button.