Tuesday, January 18, 2011


We've all seen the pictures in our neighborhood. LOST DOG. My heart always goes out to the family missing them, to the dog scared and hiding.

I almost had to make those posters on Friday night.

I have to confess that I am extremely overly protective when it comes to Lily. Despite having a fenced in yard, I am ALWAYS checking on her when she is out in it. Not every so often. Like every few minutes. I can't relax. This is because she's a friendly dog who loves children. She is especially obsessed with teenage boys (probably because her therapy work is primarily with teenage at risk boys). She has been known to jump the fence and walk the neighbor kids home from school. After the first phone call from the mom who lives two doors up, I became hypervigilant. Imagine answering the phone to this, "Hi, Jenn. This is (name). Lily walked the boys home. Is it okay if she stays and plays for a bit?"

Um, no. That would be a reward. Which means she would jump the fence every day. Now if they want to play, they have to come over and ask. I was making sure that she either wasn't in the yard when school let out or we were walking when it did so that she could say 'hi' to all the kids and get her petting in.

Problem solved. Most of the time, she is too tired to jump the fence anyway. Does this look like a dog ready to make a run for it?

She gets two walks a day during the week - an hour in the morning, an hour in the evening. On the weekends, she gets at least an hour and a half hike (think biiiiig hills) in the morning and an hour walk in the evening. In between, she resembles the picture.

Friday night, The Hubster worked late. Around 7pm, Lily and I return from an extended walk - an hour and twenty minutes. She lays down on her blanket in the yard while I do some housework. I check on her, then walk into the bedroom. When I return two minutes later, one of our gates is open. This one leads into the neighbor's yard.

I don't panic. She's wandered into the neighbor's yard before. She LOVES them (who are we kidding, she's a "pit bull"...she loves EVERYONE unless they have german shepherd in them) so I figure she is probably sitting on their back porch scratching at their door to be let in.

I poke my head into the yard, but don't see her in the darkness. I call out to her. Nothing.

No big deal. She's wandered through their yard into the front yard before. But never farther. She has done this twice on The Hubster's watch (in four years). And he's had to hear about it both times. For years afterward.

But she isn't in the front yard.

I walk slowly down our dark street. For some reason, our section was skipped over when they put in the streetlights. No yellow bathes the sidewalks here. The night seems darker and the shadows blacker. No sign of her.

I walk up the street, calling her name calmly, followed by her recall word. When I reach the top of the block with no response and no sign of her, the panic starts to rise. You know the feeling - bile in the back of your throat, that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach. But I fight it down.

I run down the street, figuring maybe I missed her in the deep shadows. Perhaps my chipper voice and the pounding of my feet on the pavement will excite her and she will run out to chase me.


By the end of the block, I can't catch my breath. It feels like Hulk Hogan has his hands around my lungs and is squeezing them mercilessly. My brain freezes. I can't think. Now, panic rushes through me and adrenaline kicks in.

I run one street over because it is well lit. Look up the street. No Lily. Down the street. No Lily.

My brain restarts, but this isn't good. I run horrible scenarios in my mind. Now, I'm thinking about her breed and her overly friendly and extremely enthusiastic greetings. This is the dog who failed three parts of the Therapy Dog test the first time she took it for being "overly friendly." I'm not kidding. You are not allowed to greet the tester with kisses. You are not allowed to greet the neutral dog and play bow to engage them. You are not allowed to give walk by kisses when you have to wander through the crowd. She didn't miss a hand. Not one. And anyone who has visited our house can attest to her greetings. Gushing affection. If she could talk, she would YELL
"OHMIGODITSYOUIHAVEN'TSEENYOUINFOREVERI'MSOGLADYOU'REHERE. (gulping breath, then more yelling)ILOVEYOU!ILOVEYOU!ILOVEYOU!" (yes, it would be all run on like that)

Dogs like Liy get shot because they have big heads and rush enthusiastically to greet police officers. I watched it happen to a homeless man's "pit bull." Sweetest dog ever. She came all wiggly butt up to police officers, wanting to greet them like she did everyone else who happened on her path. They shot her. Then they let her bleed out while her owner screamed and begged them to let him go to her side, get her to help. While we yelled and cried and screamed with him. While she whimpered, yipped and died alone and terrified in the middle of the street. All because she was well socialized and used to telling everyone 'hi' every single day of her life.

That could be MY dog because of the same ignorance.

I run faster now barely seeing through the tears that well in my eyes and spill over onto my cheeks. The panic rushes through my body and out my mouth. You can hear it in my cries of "Lily! Lily, QUICK!"

I don't know why I run down the street. If I was really thinking, I would have gone up. There is a house a few streets up that gives Lily cookies on her walks. She loves the Cookie House. She will lay down on the sidewalk across the street from it because she knows that house. She will always try to turn you down that street, up that street, toward that street.

I didn't think of the Cookie House.

It's a good thing that I didn't. She was down the street.

I find her in someone's front yard having the time of her life in their sprinklers. She loves sprinklers almost as much as people and cookies.

Her head tilts quizzically. She bounds toward me, excited that I'm here to share in the fun. She stops at my feet when she hears my sobs. My hands shake so bad that I don't think I'll ever get the leash attached to the collar.

Thirty minutes later, I have found her. My heart. My dog. My furchild.

I cry all the way home. For the first time in her life, she doesn't try to sniff a single lawn. Instead, she walks with me, her wet body pressed close to mine for reassurance. She comes right in the house. I towel her off, then sit on the floor. She crawls into my lap - all 80 pounds of her. I cry into her fur. Tears of joy mingling with tears of what might have been and tears for Princess, the homeless man's "pit bull" who loved to greet everyone just like my dog does. Who isn't alive to do that anymore.

And I promise that there will be no more outside time without supervision.

I can't tell you much it sucked to watch the Jets-Patriots game through the windows.

I am so thankful that she is safe. I think I will be able to use this experience in the future when I write, when one of my characters is in a precarious situation, when he or she is running from something or to something. I will be better for this - a better owner, a better writer.

What about you - are there experiences you have drawn on that you feel have helped make a scene in your work better?


  1. Oh Jennie! I have tears in my eyes. What a scary experience! I've had nightmares about pets escaping, but it hasn't happened (and hopefully never will). You just never know! And that story about the other pit bull was just heartbreaking... Thank goodness Lily made it home safe and sound.

    I'm so glad everything turned out alright for you guys!

  2. Wow, that was intense! I'm so so happy that you found Lily - I've had similar experiences with my dogs so I know the feeling.

    And how awfully sad about the man and his dog who was shot by gun-happy ignorance...my heart broke at that point.

  3. :( The man and his dog made me cry. I get that way about animals and sad stories about people's ignorance and mistrust and cruelty. Hate it.
    I'm so glad you found her and she is home safe! She sounds like such a wonderful pup!! I love her and I don't even get her goofy kisses and hellos!

  4. I actually feel tears in my eyes reading your story. I can’t imagine going through what you went through. I had a similar experience a few months ago. My husband let the dog out and because we can’t have a fence in our neighborhood, everyone keeps their dogs on a leash. My husband leaves the dog out there for a while, although I check every couple of minutes, just like you. I went to check and the dog was gone. The leash broke off. I panicked. My husband ran out and whistled. Joey bounced back from three housed down.

    Ref: Princess. That’s unbelievable. You have no idea at the rage I feel at those cops right now.

    Ref: My heart. My dog. My furchild. – First of all, that is just beautiful writing. Isn’t it strange how there is no DNA connection between a human and an animal and yet there is that maternal feeling you get when you’re an animal owner. Although you don’t give birth to them, they ready to become your children. Once a while ago, I was working on Mother’s day and a customer asked me if I was a mother. I told the lady that I didn’t have kids of my own but I had two cats and a dog (that was before I was married, the animals remained with my mother). The lady told me that I too am a mother, although I never gave birth.

  5. I think you will definitely be able to use the high emotions you spoke of here in future writing because reading this I was right there with you, feeling your panic. I'm glad you got Lily back safe and sound (and sorry you had to watch the game through the windows!).
    - Sophia.

  6. Oh my goodness, I am SO glad you found her and she was fine.

    The homeless man's dog getting shot has me in tears. I'm wrecked right now.
    I love my furbabies, too.


  7. Thank goodness you found her! How awful. And the story of the homeless man and his friendly dog is just heartbreaking. I hope you're ok!

  8. Our dogs growing up were that kind of friendly. It's terrifying when they go missing. Glad your story had a happy ending.

  9. Oh man, that must have been awful! I could feel your emotions through the screen! Glad you have her back safe and sound!