The Runaway

Sasha Popovic/Flickr
Sasha Popovic/Flickr

In the last days of moving, when my two households, past and future, were disordered and entangled, my dog Toby ran away. Why now, I asked of the skies. If the answer to his motivations or his whereabouts were anywhere, it would come from above, where someone or something might have a bird’s-eye view of all small, sundry things.

I went looking for him, but halfheartedly. He was already a worry, a dog too big and strong for me to handle on a leash. Yet I was moving from a house with large grounds, where he gamboled at will with Oso, my black lab, to a house with almost no grounds. Now, both he and Oso would be getting their exercise at the end of a leash when I took them for walks. I’d be trying to walk them, at least, though I feared Toby, set on getting a run, would be dragging Oso and me behind him, both of us bumping along on the path. I might fall, chip a tooth, break a leg, bash my head. So many worries with regard to Toby! And now he was confirming my worry that I would never be free of worries with regard to him.

Two days later, I got a phone call from a vet—where a kind woman who’d found Toby took him to see if he had an electronic chip. Toby, I learned, had been on the loose for a couple of hours at most before he was taken in. The woman had seen him looking lost and tried to coax him to her. But he was skittish. She returned to her house for a pot of cooked chicken, which, when she offered it, eased Toby’s suspicions and turned him quite friendly. After gorging himself (for the second time that day!), he climbed into the woman’s car and went home with her to join her collection of strays. Because he would eat, she fed him, and for two days apparently his chief exercise was gulping down her offerings. “He’s off his color,” the woman told me when I went to retrieve Toby from her house late on Monday, after work. “Don’t feed him too much,” she cautioned, “because he’s just eaten again.” Toby looked from one to the other of us, then belched.

I recounted the story to my children, neither of whom is living with me at present, and sent them pictures of Toby safely back at home, as if his experience was recorded in his face. They took the opportunity to remind me of my heartless comment during the two and a half days he was missing that the best thing would be for him to be hit by a car and killed.

“Hit by a car?” They had been aghast.

“Not hurt!” I clarified. “Just killed, instantly and painlessly!” Is there a better ending awaiting anyone or anything?

But I hadn’t really meant it, I insisted later, once Toby was safely home again. For Toby, as for all of us, I hope for an endless run.

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Clellan Coe, a writer in Spain, is a contributing editor of the Scholar.


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