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She Believes Dog Is Telling (That's Right) the Truth

February 05, 1989|TOM GORMAN | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — When philanthropist Joan Kroc tries to find the owner of a lost dog, she doesn't just tack up a flyer on the neighborhood telephone pole.

First, she sends the dog to an animal therapist to tap the canine's consciousness. Then, convinced the dog is truly homesick, she places ads in newspapers and offers a $100 reward for assistance in reuniting dog with master.

The dog is a German shepherd-labrador mix. And this story is a cross between Disney and Donahue.

Kroc, of course, has a bent for altruism. She has given $10 million to help build a hospice, $6 million to Notre Dame's International Institute for Peace Studies, $3.3 million to improve animal exhibits at the San Diego Zoo and $1 million each for Ethiopian famine relief, for St. Jude's Childrens Hospital in Memphis and for the Democratic party.

Now she's made up her mind to get Boots back home.

Kroc saw the mutt outside a Rancho Santa Fe restaurant last November, bloodied and ragged.

First she took Boots to her home. Then to a vet. Then, she took Boots to an animal therapist so the dog could tell her tale of woe. Convinced that Boots wants to go home, Kroc now has placed ads in San Diego newspapers offering a $100 reward for information that will reunite Boots with her master.

Wary at First

Kroc admits she was wary about taking Boots to meet with animal therapist Samantha Khury of Escondido, who has made a name for herself in the business of communicating with animals. She meets with six animals a day; some are regular clients who receive maintenance therapy.

"It's a mystery, and animals can't speak and I know that, but maybe in some way they can communicate with her," Kroc said.

Kroc, the owner of the San Diego Padres baseball team and the widow of McDonald's fast-food empire founder Ray Kroc, had taken Boots to Khury to try to better understand why the dog was trying to run away from her Fairbanks Ranch estate in northern San Diego County. It's a wonderful home even for purebreds--what with the fountain to romp in and all that grass--so why was Boots the stray trying to run away?

Khury had the answer after her meeting with Boots, face-to-face, or something like that.

"The animal told me she misses her owner very much, that they had spent a lot of time together. She talked a lot about him," Khury said.

Boots recalled falling out of a bright-colored pickup truck on either a Saturday or a holiday--Boots knew it was so, because her owner wasn't following his normal work schedule, Khury said.

"She tried to find her owner, but couldn't. She started hunting. Nobody wanted to touch or feed her until Mrs. Kroc came along," Khury said.

Talk to the Animals

Khury understood all this, she said, because she has an ability to communicate with animals, whether they be kittens or thoroughbred race horses. Sometimes, in extreme cases, Khury can simply see the animal's emotions in its eyes. Sometimes, for instance, an animal cries and, hey, how hard can it be to figure there's some grief here?

Boots wasn't so easy to peg, though, because she was enjoying her life with Kroc. Still, she missed home even more, Khury said.

Kroc might not have been so believing about Boots' story, Khury admits, if it hadn't been for the fact that Boots related the entire rescue episode to her during the therapy session--of how Kroc picked her up and put her in a car, then took her home, then put her in a pickup truck and took her to a vet. These were facts that Kroc herself hadn't told Khury. But Khury told of the sequence of events to Kroc, and it all jibed. Hmmm.

So then, why can't Khury simply put a map in front of Boots and let the two figure out where home is? Don't be silly, Khury says. Dogs can't spell or read.

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