My heart disappeared

By Mir
November 19, 2011

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.


  1. Katherine

    So glad she found you safely and was nonplussed about the whole thing. And yes, Mario was a great help there.

  2. Ingrid

    I was reading this with a terrible sense of dread. So glad Licorice is safe!!

  3. Sheila

    Stupid dogs. (So worth the trouble.) Glad you are both OK.

  4. Megan

    Mario sounds brilliant! And I have full sympathy as we had a dog with the opposite problem – too much nose which took up all the room his tiny brain should have had for, I dunno, ANYTHING except following his damn nose. Constant state of alertness about that dog escaping – constant.

    So glad your little AWOL is back safely.

  5. jen_alluisi

    Been there, done that – not with my widget who is the exact copycat negative of Licorice, but my older pup. I’ll tell that story on my blog someday. In the meantime, so glad Licorice is safe and that your Monkey has fantastic friends like Mario to help him cope in a difficult situation!

  6. The Other Leanne

    I can totally relate to those feelings. It’s terrible. And then when they come back, it’s almost as terrible for the wave of suppressed emotion that is released. But I’ll tell you what’s worse–one time after the Bad Boy went a-roaming, he came back with a perfect circle of pepper spray right between the eyes: “Oh, crap, what did you DO?!”

  7. Chuck

    My parents’ last dog pulled the disappearing trick a few times himself – he usually ended up going to the park. But we always found him.

  8. Jenn H.

    The first time our dog ran away, I was a hot mess. Tears. TEARS! We toured the neighborhood, posted signs, the whole bit. Ended up calling the local pet shelter to find that someone had turned her in. She has run away approx 70 hundred times since. She’s an escape artist with a six sense for not-quite-shut doors– we call her Houdini. My tears are gone and replaced with a sense of “dumb dog– doesn’t know how good she’s got it.” And when she comes running home (because she always does!), she’s welcomed back. Again. (and again) {I’ve given up thinking she’ll outgrow this ‘phase’– she’s 8!}

    So glad your heart came back :)

  9. Debbi

    I love happy endings.

  10. Lucinda

    I remember the first time my dog ran off. Yes, it was terrible in all the ways you described until he walked up the drive and I wanted to kill him for putting me through all that. Glad Licorice found her way home.

  11. Nelson's Mama

    Our sheltie disappeared for twelve hours one day; I left her outside during a sonic boom (yes, we get them frequently and they come in pairs) and she was terrified of them. I was frantic, Shelley didn’t trust anyone, had never slept outside and I knew that finding her was a matter of life and death.

    I rallied neighbors, posted signs, checked my daughter and a couple of friends out of school, we scoured fields and neighborhoods by foot and by car.

    Finally, about 9:00 PM someone spotted her in the next neighborhood, further than I ever dreamed she would have wandered. We got our sweet girl home and it remains one of the BEST days of my life.

    And, I’m thinking maybe it might have been a good day for the folks that found her too…we took them a case of local product for their kind assistance!

  12. RuthWells

    Loving Mario. Can we borrow him for when our stinker of a dog gets loose?

  13. Jeanie

    Oh, I so feel your pain. I can just imagine the panic, because my thoughts run like yours did. Ever the optimist. Ha! Very glad she’s home and okay. And that you survived, too!

  14. KarenP

    I know how you feel. My brother in law left my basement door open when he left our house. Which I didn’t discover until the next morning when I couldn’t find one of our kittens. I went out and searched and couldn’t find him. Four hours later I went out again up the street in a different direction calling here kitty kitty. He meowed and I found him 20 feet up the neighbors tree. He is an indoor cat and wasn’t used to be outside. He still likes to try and sneak out the door!

  15. Tenessa

    So glad she came back!

    My, then, 16 year old cat took off one night at around 1am when my ever so thoughtful houseguest let him out the front door. I was almost 9 months pregnant and unable to do much looking. All efforts came up empty. After 2 months, and my absolute certainty that he was dead, Sebastian showed back up on our front porch. He was scrawny and dirty, but he acted 10 years younger with no sign of arthritic hips. It was a good thing. :)

  16. Jan

    This is a familiar story. We had a runner for years and years and she always came back when she was tired.

    Until one day, she didn’t. We never found out what happened to her, and I can tell you that now, 8 1/2 years later, the thought of the evening that stretched into night that stretched into the next day, and week, and month … well, that can still bring me to tears. For literally *years*, I scoured yards and roads and the sides of highways for piles of white.

    I don’t wish it on my worst enemy. I’m glad you got your girl back, Mir. I still miss mine.

  17. Kira

    Oh geez. I couldn’t even read this post until I skipped to the end to make sure everything was okay. I’m crying here. Please give that dear dog a very stern look for me. And a hug and a glass of wine for yourself. Love to all.
    (Mario is a gem. God bless Mario.)

  18. Cele

    I have a bassett that can’t find the apple chunk that fell three feet behind him. Some dogs have broken noses, some have broken GPS (those usually belong in my family.)

  19. mamaspeak

    We had an escape artist for 3 years. We were ‘fostering” him till the right family was found. The dog made Sybil look good w/all his anxiety issues. If he got out while you were there to see (bum rushed you at the door,) and you tried to get him back he would let you get exactly 3 houses close to him & then widen the gap again. Seriously. Big freaking game to him. If he got out while you weren’t around to see, he would always either be seen & “herded” back into the open gate & yard or would be waiting on the porch several hours later. First couple times, freaked me out to no end. Then he did it when our oldest was newborn, it was night & I was home alone w/the baby. I couldn’t do anything about it, and when he realized I wasn’t playing the game it wasn’t nearly as much fun. My husband was disappointed bc the damn dog kept coming back! Finally, he got freaked out over something, (we never did figure out what,) and would climb the 8’ high fence and WALK ON TOP OF IT, to get out of the yard. We had to find him a new foster family after that. (We live too close to a major street, I was NOT being the one to find him as roadkill.)

    Think of it this way; you’ll be good and prepped for the first time one of your kids does something like this to you. ;-)

    Also, I think those microchips ought to have the GPS in them like the Apple phones. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time. (You could always attach a phone to his collar.)

  20. addy

    Puppy Poopy Head could not find his way out of a cardboard box with the top open. He is terrified of anything loud – thunder, fireworks, bang-boom scenes in movies. He cannot go out on his own and be expected to make it back. PIA but oh sooooo cute.

  21. Karen

    UUUUGH I do know that feeling. It’s awful, isn’t it? Thank God it all turned out OK.

  22. Heather

    It’s possible that some days I need a Mario ;) Oooh and I like mamaspeak’s idea about GPS :P

  23. Brigitte

    Our neighbor’s dog somehow got 3 towns away once – lucky they were checking EVERY local shelter! Since then, they decided that occasionally zapping their dog with an invisible fence collar was a better fate for him than the alternative. :-o

  24. JennyA

    Oof, I’m glad it all turned out ok. I’ll admit I had to skip to the end to make sure she made it back (or you found her) before I could read the whole story.

  25. Stimey

    Dogs are brutal. Seriously. I’m so glad she’s okay. Our dog is a little bit of an escape artist and then RUNS from us and it is terrible every single time. I spent a lot of time cursing at her at the same time as I’m chanting, “please come back, we love you!”

  26. Heather

    This happened with our dog when we first got him. He was probably living with us just around a month, I ran to town and left him in his fenced in area. When I returned he was gone. I live in the country and could not figure out how he had gotten out of the fence, and trust me it never occurred to me that he could of jumped over the fence. I looked and looked, but then had to go to the school for my son’s graduation from 5th grade. I had to tell him afterwards and I was so upset, he was so positive and saying how he would find him. We pulled into our driveway and I opened the garage door, he was just laying in the middle of the back yard. He acted the same way, like hey where ya been…I have been waiting on you. I know what you mean by the surge of adrenaline though. It is amazing how much you can come to love a pet. Glad she was there when you returned home!!

  27. Jen

    When we first got our dog, on a few instances she disappeared, and then would later reappear, and we couldn’t figure out what was going on. Worst yet, she is a pitbull, and while we know she is harmless, other people won’t necessarily know that, so we were rather freaked out. Our entire property is fenced (as in, there is one long fence that goes around the entire property) and we always lock the front gate when leaving, so no one was letting her out, it was a mystery. Turns out, there was a place in the corner of the backyard where she could squeeze through between the fence and the pole. Behind our backyard is a canyon with lots of squirrels and birds to chase and open space to run – she was escaping and having a good old time in the canyon, then coming back home and squeezing back through into the backyard. My husband finally caught her in the act and closed up the loose space in the fence.

  28. All Adither

    Dumb, sweet, lovable, dumb dog!

  29. Katie in MA

    Bathing the rotten dog was NOT horrible. Now, pulling out every suitcase you own and just leaving them open like you were going to ABANDON her, now THAT would have been horrible. Ta da! Perspective. :)

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