Recently I wrote about “Fifi” and my client’s challenges in potty training this dog. When I checked in with her last week, she shared a story that sounds as if it came straight out of a Lassie episode. Fifi’s behavior has nothing to do with training and everything to do with a dog’s instinct to serve her pack, an instinct inextricably bound to survival.

The dog in question is a Bichon Shih-Tzu mix. My client, Ruth, is an elderly woman who lives alone but enjoys frequent visits and support from an adult daughter who is enjoying quite successful career.

Ruth’s memory challenges have made training Fifi an ongoing project but the spirit of all concerned and the sense that surrendering Fifi would devastate Ruth have made any extra effort well worthwhile. The incident that Ruth described recently has eliminated any question of Fifi’s surrender!

Ruth suffers from a medical condition that can cause unexpected and unexplained blackouts. Recently, while waiting in her yard for Fifi to do her business, Ruth lost consciousness. Evidently as she fell, she knocked over a garden ornament on top of herself.

When she regained consciousness, Ruth realized two things: the ornament had fallen on her and removing it was a challenge to her strength; simultaneously Ruth realized she no longer had a grip on Fifi’s leash. As she frantically called Fifi’s name, Ruth pondered her predicament.

Moments later strong hands removed the ornament; kindly neighbors came to her assistance. The story the neighbors told astounded Ruth as the events had the neighbors. Fifi had managed to escape Ruth’s fenced yard and had run to the residence behind Ruth’s. Barking frantically at the neighbor’s door, Fifi evaded their grasp when they came out. Instead, she led them barking to the shared back fence, from where Ruth’s predicament was obvious. The rest, as they say, is history. Whatever challenges Fifi may present she will never be surrendered.