When my friend Jack Rudloe asked me to check in with SurfDude, the elusive dog that travels the highways and byways from Panacea, FL to Tallahassee and back, I couldn’t wait to connect in and see what the globe-trotting dog had to say.
I had a little information and a lot of ambiguity to go on, and before I share my conversation, I’ll share what I knew (and what I didn’t).
SurfDude is a medium-sized yellow dog of indeterminate breed and uncertain age. Over the past few years, he has generated a large following of concerned individuals who worry over him as he trots from here to there over hundreds of miles on busy roads. He even has is own Facebook page where people post pictures of sightings on a regular basis. A master at eluding capture by well-meaning people who want to offer him a forever home, he has even been shot with a tranquilizer dart by the local animal welfare agency, yet still managed to get away.
His biggest champion is a guy named Bill, who feeds SurfDude on a regular basis and makes sure he gets heart worm preventative. He keeps track of the dog’s whereabouts (as much as possible given SurfDude’s Forrest Gump compulsion to stay on the run) by means of a private Facebook group: The Adventures of Bill & SurfDude.
One of SurfDude’s favorite haunts is a local campsite, and some have speculated that he might have been abandoned there by his family many years ago. How many years? That’s one of the things I didn’t know (and still don’t). The things I didn’t know that compelled me to connect with SurfDude for a telepathic conversation were: Why does he run? What is he running to? Or from? How does he feel about the people who try to catch him? Does he know that he is a celebrity? Does he understand that the people who are trying to catch him are only trying to help, to offer him a loving forever home of safety and ease? What does he think of Bill, the man who has done so much for him, including understanding his need to be free, even though there is no safety in that kind of freedom?
Is SurfDude even a real, live dog, or is he a ghost? His ability to elude capture, dodge cars without harm, and disappear in the blink of an eye has caused some speculation of the metaphysical kind. Several weeks after Jack and I started talking about SurfDude, Jack saw him running down the highway. Jack pulled over and got out of his car to take a picture, then called me, spooked, because in the sliver-of-a-second it took Jack to lift his phone to take the shot, SurfDude had vanished. “And there was nowhere for him to vanish to!” Jack exclaimed.
How can SurfDude be a live dog when he can literally disappear? And how can he be a ghost, when people like Bill have seen him eat? Is it possible for him to be a little of both? Or perhaps there are two dogs, one in physical form and another with the ability to vanish or appear at will? I didn’t know, but I meant to find out.
When I do my telepathic thing remotely (in other words, I’m not in the same zip code as the animal I’m talking with), I like to have a good photograph of the animal that clearly shows their eyes (windows of the soul). But as you might imagine, there aren’t many clear photos of SurfDude looking into the camera lens. He is usually turned away or staring into the distance, if not actively trotting in the opposite direction. For my focal point in this conversation, I used a portrait of SurfDude that was painted by a local artist. I felt that the portrait captured his essence better than any of the available photos.
When I asked SurfDude why he runs and what he’s running to or from, I was given the information that he was traveling with his family and got away from them. His intention was to have a little adventure and come back when he was done. He heard his family calling him but felt free to ignore them, thinking that he had plenty of time to finish his exploration of the area before returning. But when he came back to the campsite, his people had left without him.
He doesn’t blame them for leaving him there; they did call him, and he chose to ignore the call. That’s why he’s always running. He knows that he screwed up, and he feels that the responsibility is on him to find his people, wherever they are. He isn’t aware of a home base for his family that he could return to; perhaps they were as nomadic as he now is. He follows the trail his family took all those years ago, from Tallahassee to Panacea and back again. And again. And again. Always looking, always hoping that he will see them, or that one day, they will see him trotting on the roadside and pull over to pick him up.
How does he feel about the people who try to catch him? Does he understand that the people who are trying to catch him are only trying to help? SurfDude knows that people are trying to help him. But he isn’t interested in being corralled by anyone, no matter their motives. He intends NOT to be caught by anyone, for any reason. And he is certain that no one who tries to catch him will succeed; perhaps he does have some supernatural abilities that assist him in defying the dangers of traffic and confounding any would-be captors. He doesn’t blame any of them for doing what they do, but he keeps a healthy distance from anyone who seems just a little too interested in getting close to him. People with catch poles are a definite no. Animal care authorities, with the best of intentions, have tried and failed to catch him, many times. He thinks that perhaps they have given up, but he’s still on guard, in case anyone has an attack of conscience and tries again.
Does he know that many of the people who worry about him would be happy to offer him a loving forever home of safety and ease? Yes, he does. But he is on a mission, and he doesn’t have time for safety and ease. Maybe one day, when he finds his long-lost family and makes peace with them, he will be ready to trade his nomadic existence for a comfy couch by the fireplace.
What does he think of Bill, the man who has done so much for him, including understanding his need to be free, even though there is no safety in that kind of freedom? SurfDude loves Bill. But more than that, he and Bill understand each other. SurfDude and Bill are twin flames, closer in many ways than humans and dogs who live together. Their hearts call out to each other, and each fulfills a need in the other. I haven’t spoken to Bill. I don’t know him; we have never met, not even online. But SurfDude tells me that Bill understands his wildness and respects his need for freedom. Bill knows that SurfDude would reject a life of comfort and ease. SurfDude gets all the love and devotion he needs from Bill, who is able to love him with a deep generosity that doesn’t need to possess.
Does he know that he is a celebrity? Is he aware that he has an online following of people who keep tabs on him? No, he doesn’t. And when I tried to explain it to him, I felt his attention driving away, as elusive as his physical form.
Is SurfDude even a real, live dog, or is he a ghost? I honestly didn’t know the answer to this question when I started this conversation. I know that there are many things in this universe that we don’t understand, and that allows me to entertain such concepts with an open mind. In my work as an animal communicator, I have—more than once—spoken to animals who were dead but didn’t yet know it. I wondered, at first, if SurfDude might be a ghost whose strong mission to find his people helps him to incarnate in a solid physical form.
SurfDude tells me that he is a real, live dog. Not a ghost, not part-ghost, part-dog. Not two dogs, and not a succession of dogs that look the same and do the same thing.
Just. One. Dog.
But if that’s the case, how is it that with all the close calls between him and vehicles on the road, he has never been hit by a car? People report close calls they’ve witnessed on the Facebook page, and others write posts like, “I saw a dead dog on the road this morning; I hope it’s not him,” and within minutes, someone else will reassure them, “No, it wasn’t him. I’m looking at him right now.”
How is it that he seems never to get sick, or to age? People have been seeing him for years, and Jack tells me that no one knows for sure how many years he has been running the roads.
So my last question for SurfDude is whether he has some sort of metaphysical super-powers that allow him to disappear when he needs to.
And just like that, he’s gone again.
I’ll take that as a yes.