Yesterday was the last day of Hippie School for an entire WEEK, because it turns out that hippies take their vacation breaks pretty seriously. The kids had already had a wild field trip day on Thursday, so yesterday was more of a “regular” day. As I puttered around my office yesterday afternoon, I thought that I might finally grant one of Monkey’s most fervent wishes.
“Why don’t you ever bring Licorice when you pick me up??” he always demands, as if I am specifically leaving the dog at home to agitate him. The truth is that due to our carpool arrangements, I only do pickup a couple of times a week, and as there is 1) already a dog at Hippie School (because OF COURSE THERE IS) and 2) pick-up time is complete mayhem and 3) Licorice is already kind of neurotic, it has just never seemed like a good idea.
But yesterday was the last day before vacation, so I figured: What the heck! I finished what I was doing, then grabbed the leash and went out on the porch to call the dog.
I’ve already explained how ever since we finished the fence, Licorice has preferred to spend a large chunk of her days outside, eating grass and stalking squirrels. There was a time period in there when the deck was in ruins and she couldn’t go out—and lo, it was tragic—but now that the deck is almost done (almost! almost always and forever, world without end, construction is pain, amen!) she is back to spending a lot of time out there.
So I had my purse and the leash and I stepped out onto the deck and called the dog and… she didn’t come.
This isn’t entirely unusual; sometimes I want her to come in when she wants to continue eating dead things, and then she ignores me, because that’s what all of my children do when I’m not bending to their immediate will.
I called again. And then the world went into slow motion as I realized that… the porch door was open. I called the dog one more time, straining to hear the jingling of her tags, and… nothing.
Earlier in the day, the Bug Man had come to spray. And apparently when he was doing the perimeter of the house, he’d left the porch door open. And I hadn’t seen that it was open, the last time I let the dog out. But the dog had, and now she was GONE.
Readers, I cannot tell a lie: As I flew down off the porch, circling the house, calling her name in ever-increasing hysteria, I was doing The Ugly Cry. Licorice loves us, but she has a stubborn/independent streak, and there were two things haunting me at that moment: 1) Because she normally spends a lot of time outside, I wasn’t entirely sure how long she’d been gone (MOMMY GUILT MOMMY GUILT OH GOD MY DOG IS DEAD AND IT’S ALL MY FAULT), and 2) we often joke that the dog’s nose is broken. Like, if you have her toy and she wants it, if you hide it under something or behind something she can never find it, because her sense of smell appears to be impaired. And in the movies, pets always find their way home by scent, and my precious babykins has a busted nose, so if she ran off chasing a squirrel and got lost she wouldn’t even be able to sniff her way home and she was probably already dead on the side of the road somewhere and OH GOD….
(I’m unflappable in a crisis. It’s a gift.)
I walked all around, calling and calling. I went down to the pond. I walked through all of the neighbors’ yards where there are dogs to see if she’d gone visiting. Nothing.
I called Otto, who was on his way out of town and far too far away to help, but I realized I was freaking out and needed him to calm me down. True to form, Otto reassured me that SHE WILL COME BACK because she loves us and also because we have kibble. I blubbered about how she could’ve been hit by a car or gotten lost and he firmly assured me that none of those things had happened. She has tags AND a microchip, he reminded me—probably she would foist herself upon a stranger who would call us. He advised me to call Hippie School to let them know I’d be late, drive a couple of loops around the neighborhood, and try to stay calm.
I did all of these things, but I didn’t find Licorice. And although Teresa had been very kind when I called school, I didn’t want to leave the boys there for too long, so I finally drove off to pick them up.
When I got there, Teresa rubbed my arm in sympathy as her dog ambled up for a pat. I tried not to cry. I corralled Monkey and Mario (because the only thing better than a missing dog is a missing dog on a day when we have an extra kid coming home with us!) out to the car in a hurry, and as we pulled away from school, I told them that Licorice was missing.
Monkey could’ve easily flipped out. But Mario immediately started regaling him with stories of all the times his dog has gotten out and how they go around shaking the treat jar until he comes back, and as I white-knuckled the steering wheel, the boys started planning exactly how they’d help look, when we got back—Monkey could ride his bike and Mario could borrow his scooter and they’d bring some treats and maybe her favorite toy and THEY WOULD FIND HER, because she was probably cold and lonely and hungry.
I did manage to send up a silent prayer of thanks for Mario. Without him there, the ride home could’ve easily spiraled into WOE and DESPAIR.
As we neared home, I detoured through the neighborhood where we most often walk Licorice, and we rolled down the windows and drove slowly, Mario shaking our treat container and Monkey calling for Licorice.
We turned out of that division onto our street, and the boys kept calling, and by the time I turned onto our driveway, I was honestly wondering how in the world I was going to hold it together.
Halfway down the driveway—as I always do—I reached over to punch the automatic garage door opener. We rolled the rest of the way down the driveway as the garage door clanged upward…
… and Licorice trotted out from behind the house and into the garage, all, “Oh, hey, ‘sup? I was just wondering where you were.”
The boys cheered and whooped and tumbled out of the car and descended upon the dog, and she finally escaped them and jumped into my lap. I was still sitting in the driver’s seat, shaking from that last surge of adrenaline, and could manage only squeezing her tight, dropping my face into her back, and murmuring that she was a very rotten dog and I love her very much.
I called Otto and Teresa to let them know all was well. I’m not sure who of the three of us was most relieved, frankly.
To celebrate, the boys had cookies, and Licorice had a bath. (Never let it be said that I’m not a wee bit vengeful. And hey, if she associates escaping with getting stuffed into the sink for that most hated of rituals, I’M OKAY WITH THAT.)
I still have no idea where she was, and given the time I spent looking and the drive time to school, I know she was out for over an hour plus however long she was gone before I realized. She appears to be no worse for wear.
I, on the other hand, lost ten years off my life, yesterday. Rotten dog.