What may be a wild dog to some is an unknown prayer answered for Ahwatukee Foothills resident Marcia Kennedy.
When Kennedy first saw the dog running loose in the desert in early October she thought maybe he had been out there for a couple of weeks. He was very skittish around people but he looked healthy. She'd see him in the morning as she went for walks and eventually decided to bring him some food.
Kennedy started with food and bones and, eventually, treats from her hand. Not until Thanksgiving morning did she pet him just slightly and even then he was still afraid. Yet, even though he wouldn't let her come too close just yet, he began to wait for her until she came around on her morning walks.
Kennedy named the dog BABEE, an acronym for big adorable boy, elusive, yet engaging. She noticed BABEE was only near the trails in the early hours and seemed to disappear into the desert for the rest of the day.
"If I didn't see him I'd go out a little earlier," Kennedy said. "I was arranging my schedule around this dog thinking ‘My friends must think I'm crazy.'"
BABEE seemed to enjoy seeing Kennedy as much as she enjoyed seeing him. Each morning he began following her until, eventually, they were walking together through the desert and he was letting her pet him.
"He has taken me places far out that I as a walker out on the street always thought I wanted to go up there but it was kind of scary because I'm by myself," Kennedy said. "He is just so courageous. I swear that dog owns this entire foothills area. Sometimes I would lead, sometimes he would lead. If he got in front of me he'd stop, turn around and look. He took me up cliffs that I thought I couldn't do - but he had done it. After doing that everyday for four days I thought ‘Piece of cake. I can do this.'"
One night Kennedy woke up to the sound of coyotes walking near Desert Foothills Parkway. She ran outside with a feeling that BABEE would be near. Sure enough BABEE was there, walking along behind the group of six coyotes. The next morning Kennedy noticed a small cut on BABEE where it looked like a pellet had hit him, possibly by someone aiming for a coyote. From that night on he has slept on her porch but still refuses to come inside.
BABEE has been an inspiration to Kennedy. She says she's learned trust and love through watching him, but she realizes large dogs are not appreciated in her condo complex. Her homeowners association requires a leash on all dogs walking in the neighborhood - but it's just not an option for BABEE. Kennedy has called the Humane Society for help to catch him so that she could adopt him, but somehow he always gets away and Kennedy has realized he'd be miserable inside a home.
"I did get him on a leash once," she said. "He let me put a collar on him. After I got the collar on him I coaxed him inside with treats... When I got the leash on him he started going in circles. He climbed in the bathtub. He went in my bedroom and into my closet and climbed onto boxes, trying to get away. He finally just curled up in a little ball. This poor dog was terrified. I thought, if I can't get the leash on him and take him for a walk and bring him back like a normal dog, I've got to let him go."
Kennedy is still in the process of letting him go, which is easier said than done considering the dog follows her and sleeps on her porch at night. Each day she offers him the leash and he backs away, so she walks on and tries her best to ignore him.
Though some neighbors complain, Kennedy just says the dog does not belong to her. BABEE belongs to the desert and to God.
"That's where I finally got my peace," Kennedy said. "This dog has been in the desert for at least two years from what I can piece together from neighbors. He's navigated at least two summers and probably two winters. The cold, the hot, the coyotes, the rattlesnakes, the tarantulas, the scorpions. Oh gee, what makes me think I have to take care of him? I think God's done a pretty good job of taking care of this dog."
Now Kennedy believes God is using the dog to take care of her as well.
"I feel like I've been learning how to make me trust again," Kennedy said. "I'm divorced; I had a really bad situation in my marriage. I loved my husband a lot but there were a lot of trust issues. I just really think God has used him [BABEE] to heal a lot of the leftover brokenness in my heart."
Kennedy hopes when her lease is up she can find a home with a yard and maybe convince BABEE to live with her there instead of running into the desert. Until then she's trying to trust God that everything will work out and BABEE will be protected like he always has been.
"Every morning I just say, ‘OK God, he's yours. He was yours before and he's yours now,'" Kennedy said. "It's just a great lesson because that's what I learned with four kids and going through a bad divorce. I just had to trust God to take care of them. Basically, we have little control over things in our life. That's probably the paramount lesson. God's in control of everything. It's really just about loving someone for who they are."