When the dog-child runs away

I sat under the tree in the backyard at midnight crying. My dog (the one in the picture, now full-grown) was gone. She ran out through a gate left ajar by the new gardener. For a while I heard her rustling through the forest that surrounds our house, but now I heard nothing but the ocean in the distance. it was a dark, cloudy night with no stars or moon showing. I had done everything I could to raise this puppy to adulthood and keep her safe, but now I didn’t know if I’d ever see her again. Oh, how I cursed that gardener in my mind. The gate had looked closed, but he didn’t hook the latch, so Annie must have pushed it open.

I wandered the neighborhood calling for Annie, swinging my flashlight around. The growth was too thick in most areas for a human to walk. When I didn’t find her nearby, I drove my car slowly down the streets where we take our walks. Everything looked different in the dark, the trees gray and spooky, the houses dark and silent.

I was exhausted, but I couldn’t go to bed without finding Annie. I feared she would be attacked by a coyote or fall into a ravine. If she got out onto the highway, she could be hit by a car as easily as the raccoons, squirrels and possums I see on the road every day.

No sign of Annie. No one to call at that hour. I was completely alone–except for God. I sent up a prayer and drove home. Once upon a time, when I had both Annie and her brother Chico, I used to be able to get them home by waiting in the open car. They’d think I was leaving and jump in. I parked my Honda Element in the garage and settled onto the tailgate with my flashlight, a box of Milkbones and the garage door remote control. In a few minutes, I heard twigs crackling. And then, praise God, Annie ran and jumped up beside me. Before she could think, I closed the garage door.

I gave her a big hug. “You’re grounded,” I informed her. My dog is my child. My only child. Thank God she’s back.

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