The Great Escape.
Maaaaaaaaaaaan, WHAT a morning! Today has been a strange day in every sense of the word. First off, after months and months of hot summer sun, it’s been pouring rain all day. The air is cooler and alarmingly humid, and it feels like fall is looming. This is relevant to the rest of the story ahead, I promise.
Usually our mornings consist of early morning work time, followed by family breakfast, and a quick hug and kiss goodbye to dad before he catches the bus. But this morning Casey had a few extra minutes, and ran to the hardware store to get something that we needed for a time-sensitive project. This is also relevant. Bear with me.
Also atypical, on most days we are up and out the door first thing in the morning. We try to take advantage of our pre-nap playtime window by maximizing our time at the zoo, parks, or at friend’s houses. But today we had plans with an old friend I haven’t seen in a while, and we weren’t planning to get together until much later than normal. This left us with a few solid hours of playtime at home, which was unexpected and actually really nice, especially on a rainy day.
Since we were home, I let the dogs have some extra playtime in the backyard. I opened up the back door for them and let them run around in the rain while Cullen and I headed upstairs for playtime (him) and laundry folding (me). We had been up there for a while when I realized I hadn’t heard them bark (which they often do), so I did a quick double-check to make sure our back gate was closed by looking out the back window. Looked good!
About an hour passed while we were upstairs, and we finally headed down just as we were expecting my friend to arrive with her son. I was surprised to not hear the dogs clicking around in the laundry room. I opened the back door and called out to them, and I felt my stomach drop as I heard a deafening silence. I looked at the gate again (which is the only place they could possibly escape), and still – it was closed. My mind raced and none of it made sense. Did I mention it was pouring rain?
I walked outside across the yard and over to the gate. Was I missing something? It was only as I got within a foot of it that I could see that the gate was indeed “closed” – but it wasn’t actually latched. In the rush of the morning, the gate must have bounced out of the latch when Casey came home from the store, and he didn’t hear or notice it because it was raining so hard (a very easy mistake). The latch was resting right against the lock, but the door could have easily been nosed open. Enter: PANIC.
I ran inside and grabbed my keys, cell phone, and wallet (why?) – and immediately called Casey as I became borderline hysterical. Cullen and I were both barefoot, it was still raining, and I frantically tried to buckle him into his car seat with my entire body – and hands – visibly shaking.
Our dogs have escaped from (most of) our houses before, but we’ve learned from past mistakes and they haven’t actually gotten out in several years. In fact, the last time they escaped was way back when we were living in Alexandria! I had no sense of what direction they might have gone, and I knew they had likely been gone for over an hour at this point – long enough for them to gain a serious distance on me.
I rolled my windows down as the rain flew in, and shouted HUEY and INDY at the top of my lungs over and over again. A small bright spot in an otherwise horrific situation was that Cullen found this to be hilarious, following each of my calls with a giant giggle and a shout of “HUUUU, DEEEEE” of his own.
Thirty, forty, fifty minutes passed and my mind and my car continued to just go in circles. I called Casey and told him I was not emotionally prepared to deal with finding one or both of their bodies on the side of the road. He got in a cab and headed home to join the hunt.
I drove around for what was actually an hour, and felt like ten. I stopped every person out on the street (of which there were very few) and asked them if they had seen two dogs running loose. No dice.
My heart raced but I tried to force myself to remain calm and to drive safely and slowly. We didn’t need to get into an accident, and I also didn’t want to end up running over one of my dogs if they did, indeed, hear my calls. I thought about them being scared and wet (although I knew they were probably having a blast), and tried to tell myself that they were both wearing tags and that someone would eventually find them and get in touch.
I thought about how quickly I let them annoy me. How when they bark at the UPS man during nap time I want to kill them. How frustrated I get when I find another one of Cullen’s balls deflated and shredded in the backyard. How angry I was just this morning when Huey ate the rest of the zucchini bread that I had been looking forward to having at breakfast. How I have come to view picking up poop in the backyard and taking them for walks as a huge nuisance instead of being a totally normal part of dog ownership (which it is).
And I thought about how Cullen loves to turn music on and asks the dogs to dance with him. And how happy Indy looks when he lays in the sunny spot on the back deck. And how I try to ignore how grey Huey is getting and the fact that he enters double digits next month. And how much they have been through with us as our lives have moved and changed – marriage, a new baby, more new houses than I can count – and how they have always, always been there.
And then they weren’t.
And I realized how much I really, really wanted them to be.
I had been driving around for over an hour when my phone rang. A sweet, small voice asked “Are you Indy Malone’s mom?” I found myself literally shouting back, “YES, OH MY GOD YES, DO YOU HAVE BOTH OF THEM?” The answer was yes, and that they were at a local elementary school.
I broke down sobbing begging this kind soul to stay put, and assured her I was only a few minutes away. I pulled up in front of the school to find two filthy, stinky, thirsty pups – wagging their tails and being held and loved on by what were essentially two children.
The girls, who I came to find out were twelve years old, said they had seen the dogs run by three times over the course of the hour. At first they assumed the owners must be nearby, but by the third time they knew these pups must be lost. They found my number on the tags and the rest was history.
I gave them both huge hugs and thanked them to the point that I think I might have actually scared them. I pulled the pups close to me, gave them each big kisses despite all the mud and funk, and tried not to think about the disaster they were about to make out of the back of my car.
In total, they were gone almost three hours – their greatest escape by a long shot. We are very lucky that they stuck together – in all of their escapes over the years, they have never separated. Adorable, right?
Thank goodness they headed toward a dead end section of the neighborhood, and not the other direction which is an enormous state park. We are also so lucky for the kindness of sweet strangers. I have never been so happy that kids these days tend to have their own cell phones! There is hope for America’s youth after all.
I don’t know what sort of trouble they got into but whatever it was it sure wore them out. They have been passed out on their blankets ever since, most likely dreaming of their next big adventure together.
While they definitely have their moments, and drive me absolutely out of my mind at times, I feel sick just thinking about how silent our house was when I realized they were gone. And as we sit here on the edge of yet another major life transition, I am happy and grateful knowing that – as always – they will be here.