I did a very stupid thing tonight. On the dogs' last trip out for the night I emptied out our kitchen garbage can, and brought the bag with me. My plan was to take it through the garage and back to our collection can in the alley. Usually when I do this, I let Dozer come with me while Polly and Kirby stay in the fenced yard.
Dozer gets to enjoy this privilege because he's the only one of our three dogs that we truly trust not to run away. (If you know Dozer, you know that he's a big old cautious baby. Never more than 2 steps behind someone's heels.) We don't really believe that Polly or Kirby would, but.. they both did stints as strays, so who's to tell? Let's just say that we usually keep a pretty close eye on all three of them.
Tonight, however, as I was wrestling with the garage door, and the garbage bag, and trying to let Dozer follow me through while keeping Kirby at bay (and he can be brutishly stubborn when he wants his way)...
Miss Polly snuck past my heels and into the garage without me noticing.
And worse yet, when I hit the switch to trip the garage door, she went under (still unnoticed) and out into the inky night. My danger detectors knew that something was wrong, because once I'd finished throwing out the garbage, I called for Dozer. I couldn't see him, but I could hear him thrashing around in the mulch of the condos across the alley. He finally slinked back into the light, with his head hanging low.
Dozer has very expressive ears. When anything is off with his posture, he's usually trying to tell you something. The way he was hemming and hawing around, the way he was dragging his feet to come back into the garage (I was getting impatient with him: “C'MAWN!” I finally barked to get him inside.) He was, of course, trying to tell me that his Miss Polly was still outside in the night. In downtown Columbus. All alone. All 20 lbs of her.
When I couldn't find her in the yard, I thought she was messing with me. Somewhere in the bushes, or between the fence and the garage, where she likes to explore. It was so damn dark she could've been standing at my feet and I would've had to look hard twice to tell. So I called for her. And called. Our yard is not that big. Usually I can hear her walking around if nothing else. My stomach started to sink. Polly was NOT IN THE YARD.
Holy shit. Polly was not in the yard.
After a couple more minutes, I was frantic. I started doubting myself. Maybe she was back inside with LeeAnn. Maybe she didn't come out with us after all! That's it, I'm sure she's still inside.. probably looking out the door of the back patio with her shiny little eyes. But, of course, I was wrong. Nothing inside but a startled, pregnant and now suddenly terrified LeeAnn.
I grabbed a flashlight and headed back out into the night. With Kirby and Dozer now locked in the patio, LeeAnn was calling her in the yard and I hit the alley behind. A huge gaping hole opened up in my heart, and I could feel it bleeding down into my shoes.
I really don't want to belabor this story. After grilling 2 neighbors a block down (who had just seen a dog, but -- after some clarification -- had obviously not seen my dog) I headed back down the alley toward our garage, just in time to see a little black silhouette come skittering into the light.. that one white sock lit up like a beacon. My baby was back. She was panting and heaving with excitement (or fear - I've seen the same reaction from her in both circumstances.) But otherwise she was fine. Oh, and I think she found something funky to roll in, cause she still smells a little suspect.
She'd only been on her own for.. 8 minutes, 10 tops. But, unless you've loved a teeny, fearless (but ultimately vulnerable) dog like Polly, it might be hard to understand how hard those 10 minutes hit me and LeeAnn. I felt like I'd let her down. At that point, I still had no idea how she'd got out. (I still don't know for sure, but the 'distracted by dogs and trash' scenario makes a lot of sense. Polly's pulled similar shenanigans before.) I know that someday, we'll lose all of our dogs, but not like this, was all I could think to myself. Dear god, not like this.
I think I would have died tonight had she not returned safely. I know I'd still be out there, walking/driving and roaming the neighborhood. I am so glad she came back to us. So glad.
I just walked upstairs to check on her, and give her a peck on the head. She's safely nestled onto her bed, looking out into the alley behind the house. Site of her great adventure. Only she knows what illicit spoils she found out there. What wonderful delights for a tiny dog and her night on the town.