I have four dogs. In my defense, one of my dogs is about the size of the head of most average and larger dogs. My rationale has been that two small dogs = one large dog, and since most people have two large dogs, I’m entitled to 4 little ones. Makes sense right? It does to me, so I’m sticking with it.
We work a lot. Both Kevin and I have desk jobs, and our phones ring non-stop. We dash between video conference calls and webinars, group calls and texts from clients late into the evening and often on the weekend. For both of us, we love our businesses, but it can get very wearing sometimes, feeling like we are constantly ‘on call’ if we want to grow our respective businesses. Cumulatively, it adds up sometimes to feeling like we had ‘no life’.
And then came a boat. A cheap and cheerful 7 seater, almost as old as my sister, boat. It has squishy seats at the bow, and four seats in the middle, a peppy little engine and all the ‘this and that’s’ that you need to get on our nearby Lake Texoma and have some fun. We dubbed it the “Reese’s Peace”, and while it was an unplanned purchase, it was probably the best money we had spent on anything in a long time. Suddenly, we had a social life at the lake, the ability to do fun things that passed in a sneaky way as fitness with our kids (not that they’ve noticed or complained yet), and a better boat to go fishing for bigger fish (with room for a cooler full of Diet Pepsi).
The neighborhood around our house, does not have sidewalks. It’s something I miss quite a lot, as I had a morning routine of walking my dogs every day. It’s just not safe with the trucks and cars zipping around to have dogs on extendable leashes on the road, and so, unless we go to a park or a dog-friendly friend’s house, our dogs are relegated to our house, or large fenced in backyard, when we let them out. Since we’ve had the boat, I’ve wanted to train the dogs to come with us, so that they can enjoy the water and the little beaches that we pull up on, and get some of that exercise and more time with us.
Dante has anxiety. Before you think I am a total nut job, two veterinarians have told me so, and offered to put him on medication. Now, coincidentally, I have two types of clinical anxiety, and as any mother would, I blamed myself for perhaps contributing to Dante’s worries, and occasional seizures. Is anxiety something that’s taught? I guess that’s another blog post. Anyhow, the little white and red guy goes into a state of ‘fight or flight’ whenever he sees a fly. Any kind of fly. He was bitten really badly when he was just 12 weeks old by a horsefly and it bled and became swollen. I *think* that’s where it started, but who knows. Flies make him run. An important fact I forgot about, as I piled three dogs (Mia, Dante and Grayson) into our little boat for a late afternoon, apres work cruise.
I kept Mia on her leash, because she likes to run. We know this. We took precautions. But Dante and Grayson are impeccable off leash; where I go, they go, with no exceptions. Until yesterday anyhow, when both of them, after about twenty minutes of hugging my ankles, decided to tear off at break-neck speed into the dense rocky bluffs and forest, behind the beach. With Kevin and I screaming and running full tilt, up the bluff (in flip flops) after them, leaving Mimi tethered in the boat.
I was consumed by adrenaline and crying frantically. All I kept thinking was that my two little timbits had NO HOPE of surviving in the woods, full of poisonous snakes, coyotes, large stray dogs and birds of prey. Possums, raccoons, more snakes… my mind was reeling at a hundred different things that would gladly make a meal out of my dogs, here in sunny Texas. Our dogs are our kids too. And helpfully, my anxiety kicked into full force. Crying, falling, vomiting up the never ending rocky hill, and barreling through two barbed wire fences, thick Texas thorns, dead wood and fallen trees, in flip flops. (Cheap ones at that).
The adrenaline kick was impressive, now in retrospect. It’s been awhile since I was in that state of ‘life or death’ mode. I wasn’t tired, and I didn’t notice my arms, my back, my legs and my chest being cut up by the brush and thorns (and horse flies), I just kept moving up and up, screaming as loud as I could for the dogs. Finally, the woods parted somewhat and I had a brief sarcastic inner moment of “Hansel and Gretel” as I saw a small house in a clearing. No one was home, so I walked down the drive and to the road, hoping I could walk up and down calling the dogs, or maybe flag down some cars to ask them if they had seen our dogs.
Whether you believe in God or not… I swear to you this is what happened. I paused on the road, and gripped my knees, bending over feeling like I was going to throw up. While I was down there I prayed… “God please… it’s my fault, I should have had them leashed. This is all my fault. Please don’t let my dogs get hurt. Please help me find them. I love them so much.”
The dizziness went away and I started calling for the dogs again, walking down the road but crying hard. I was scaring wildlife as I wandered, kind of aware at this point that I had all kinds of bloody scratches and bites everywhere. I took a deep breath and kept calling for them; “Dannnnnnnte…. Graysonnnnn… come on boys…. let’s go!” And then (mock me if you want to), I had a sense that gave me goosebumps everywhere, as my two dogs emerged, scared and very relieved to see me. They ran at break neck speed for me and I scooped them both up in my arms and… bawled.
Because that was helpful.
It was only then that I realized I had flip flops on. And no bag. And no leashes. And no phone. And no damned clue where the fuck I was, since I had traveled about a mile through dense woods and rocks, and a place I had never been before on foot. And there is the whole ‘directional impairment’ thing that no one believes but Diane and Kevin (who have witnessed it in all its glory). Then I had a briefly sarcastic thought… that they’d find ME against a tree, with the dogs eating my feet, or something morbid.
Not a good day.
I stood there tired and pretty bewildered when a truck pulled up with the nicest woman on the planet. “You alright baby girl?” she said, as she rolled down the passenger window, but locked the doors. I didn’t blame her. I was covered in mud and dirt and scratches, holding two tired dogs who were equally dirty.
“Ma’am … I lost my dogs. We parked on Girl Scout beach and they just ran off…”
“You chased them all the way up from the beach? That’s over a mile… no wonder you’re a wreck, bless your heart.”
“I know I must look… I own a business, I’m a business owner ma’am and we have a boat at Grandpappy. I am so sorry to impose but I am so lost and have no phone. Do you think you could drive us to the Marina, or maybe call my husband for me? He will be able to come pick me up. I want him to know I have the dogs. We got separated in the forest. Do you know where Girl Scout Beach is?”
[The lady smiled]
“I’m the Girl Scout leader. It’s our camp, so yes honey, I know where my beach is at. Climb on in, and I’ll call your husband, and get you down to the boat so he can pick you up.”
We always think about the bad people in the world don’t we? We’re so self-sufficient that we forget sometimes, that we need each other. And that sometimes, the kindness of strangers is the most moving gift from God; I believe He works his miracles through the kindness of others. I had that thought in the truck, bouncing down toward her dock. I know that God heard me, and blessed us. Because to me, the Girl Scout Leader felt like a Texas Angel. In a really big, fancy pickup truck.
Kevin choked up a little when we called, and I told him I had the dogs. He had Mia, and would pull the boat around to the dock to pick me up. My Good Samaritan watched me almost fall out of the truck (adrenaline rush over, and I was getting fatigued and leg-shaky clumsy in spite of my effort to pull myself together, and present as less of a disaster to the woman). She carried Dante gently down the dock, while I carried Grayson.
Unfortunately, by the time we got back to the marina, my Jeep had taken the brunt of the 107F heat for the day, and the battery wouldn’t start. Kevin got violently sick a few times on the boat, but we had borrowed a key to our friends dockominium. Another blessing… we were able to clean up a little in the kitchen, and turn on the air conditioning, and sit with the dogs to catch our breath. It took four hours for roadside assistance to dispatch to the lake, and we got home at about 8pm.
This morning as I write this, I feel like I ran a marathon yesterday. Eeeeverything hurts. Hoping that we dodged poison ivy, although that seems unlikely given our trek through the woods practically bare foot. Counts as gym, right? Sigh… what a freaking day we had. But this morning I woke up with both Dante and Grayson’s big eyes staring at me, “You awake?”, and I realized I could have gone to bed last night, short two dogs and half my heart, never knowing what happened to them. The biggest hurt I think a pet owner can face. And that didn’t happen. So I am not angry. I’m embarrassed at inconveniencing others. I’m mad at myself for not taking better precautions. But it could have been far worse and it wasn’t; for that I am beyond happy.
What did happen was our friends at the lake started heading toward the marina, to pitch in with the search. Wow. Many of them we have not known for long, and yet… they didn’t hesitate. Chad, Charlie, Keith and Dustin… we love you. Thank you. I will make it up to you with insanely good lasagna and hugs when I see you.
And to the Girl Scout leader… as soon as I can walk right, you’re getting some banana bread and flowers, and a heart felt card of gratitude.