Absolutely nothing can prepare you for the moment when you discover that your landscapers left your backyard gate open when you let your dog out into the yard unattended. What’s worse is that we didn’t discover it was open until an eternity later. By then, she was gone and nowhere within eyesight from our yard.
I had just ended my team meeting when I heard Craig shout from the back door, “SHOOT! …OH SHOOT! SHOOT!” Literally, that’s what he was exclaiming. Considering the situation, that was the most censored expletive I’ve heard him use despite the many profane words he’s used for the most mundane things, like losing the other half of a pair of socks.
I walked out into the living area. “What’s wrong?”
“Jason’s! They left the gate open. Izzie’s out!”
My heart dropped and I ran for my shoes. I could hear Craig shouting orders from the kitchen, like the good dad he is in any crisis when it comes to the girls… but all I could think of was, “Oh my god. She’s not here. And I don’t know where she is.”
I didn’t even have time to tell my boss what was happening, I just shut down my chat to avoid getting any messages from people assuming I was at my computer and I ran to my car.
We live on what I like to call cul de sac row. It’s a sequence of cul de sacs next to train tracks in old Richardson. Our houses are 70 year old, small, boxy structures, but the lot sizes are plentiful, the smallest being almost a quarter of an acre, the largest just under half an acre. So there’s a lot of open space around our houses for a little dog like her to get lured into.
Izzie wasn’t visible from any vantage point on our street. I searched the alleys of cul de sac row, checked every drive way, the gulley next to the train tracks. Craig was on foot at first, but when we realized she was nowhere near, we knew we had to expand our search so Craig got into his car.
I crossed the main street into the other part of the neighborhood, again looking for any little white fluff floating around. Once or twice, I mistook a plastic shopping bag for her and that just deflated my spirits. The more we looked, the bigger the search area grew in my head and the smaller my hopes became. “How could she be gone?” I kept thinking. She’s never been gone this long or this far. In the past when the gate was left open, she would always do something funny like walk around to the front door and bark there instead, or walk over to the neighbor’s house. But now… now she was gone.
Craig and I crossed each other in an alley. “I’m going to check the neighborhood over there,” he said. I told him I would go south on Bowser. We were at least covering multiple areas at the same time, so that gave me some hope that one of us will see her.
But again, like the previous neighborhood, the next one south of Belt Line only reminded me that this is an area she’s not in, which means there are others she could be in.
And yet, maybe she could be no where, period. As in… what if someone picked her up? Someone who just wants a stray, friendly and complacent dog? For… whatever purpose. That is what terrifies me.
A lifetime later, I pulled into our driveway back home and unsuccessful. The knot in my stomach was growing tighter and tighter and I was already crying. Craig pulled into the driveway next to me. He was barking more orders, “We have to take this online now. You have to get on Nextdoor and start posting and looking in the Lost and Found category… Call Richardson Animal Control and report her… I’m going to call Jason’s and fucking tell them to get their fucking guys down here and look…”
I knew his irrational demand for our lawn guys come and help us look for Izzie meant that he was reaching levels of desperation I’d never seen before. This made me even more emotional and I could feel the weakness entering my legs. I wanted to crumple to the pavement right there. Every passing second put more and more distance between her and us.
But no, he was right. We couldn’t give up already. I followed him inside and I got on my computer. I immediately sent a “Lost Dog” report to our local animal services after finding a recent photo I took of her in the vegetable garden next to her favorite garden snack (the kale patch). And then I logged onto NextDoor, a site that I never visit because its drama is 10x worse than Facebook.
That’s when I saw it, posted 28 minutes ago.
Izzie couldn’t have looked happier or more alive than she did in that photo. I immediately responded, “OMG THAT’S MY IZZIE!” I called Craig, who had already started scouting the train tracks on foot to look for her. “She’s been spotted!” I said, “On Bowser near the Pharmco building, heading towards Belt Line. I’m driving there now.”
I couldn’t get there fast enough. I may have even run the red light at Bowser and Belt Line to get there, but I didn’t care. I needed to get her back to safety.
But by the time I arrived at Pharmco, she was nowhere to be found. I even checked along Frances and headed east. Nothing.
When I looked at NextDoor again, there was another sighting of her. “There is a little white terrier type dog running on Frances Way near Townhouse Lane. No collar. Does he belong to someone here?” That was just one block over from where I was. I hurried over there as fast as I could, but again she wasn’t there. Or maybe she wasn’t visible from the street.
Time stood still in that car as I drove up and down residential streets, looking down alleyways and in driveways. I probably looked like a madwoman, calling her name from my car all the while refreshing my NextDoor app on my phone to see if there’s been any additional sightings or comment.
She had been traveling down Frances Way, I knew that much. I don’t think she turned around and went back home. I can’t imagine she crossed Grove either because that was a busy street. So I kept weaving through the streets near Townhouse Lane and Frances, hoping to catch a glimpse of her somewhere.
Then there was another alert on NextDoor. “I tried to get her on Shirley Ct. but she kept on trotting down the street. She must have turned and gone down Frances Way. This was about 15 minutes ago.”
Shirley Court? I looked that up on Google Maps.
Son of a bitch, she DID cross Grove! That little stinker! So I crossed over to that neighborhood. I was getting closer, I knew it. I could feel it. I drove down Shirley Ct. once, twice but didn’t see her. I stayed on streets near Shirley Ct. and along Frances Way. I wasn’t going to give up.
And then a new message showed up in NextDoor. It was a photo of Izzie. Someone said they were able to get her attention and now had her on Shirley Ct. They posted her photo, a close up of her dopey, dirty, but exhilarated face and left their phone number. Later, I mapped out her path on Google Maps and she’d traveled almost a mile from our house! She crossed 4 particularly busy streets, one of which is a main street running through the heart of our town, and countless residential streets. Where was she even going?! Was she really trying to run away or was she trying to find her way back and getting more lost and lost by the second?!?
My hands shook as I clicked to call the posted number. A man picked up.
“Hi, my name is Kristine! I’ve been looking for my dog Izzie. She’s a white mini schnauzer. I just saw you posted a photo of her on NextDoor.”
“Oh yeah! She’s right here,” he said. “I happened to me out in my yard and she walked right up to me.”
“Oh my goodness! Oh thank you!” I said. “I’ve been driving around trying to find her. Where are you located? I’m on Frances Way and Martha Manor.” He gave me his address.
When I pulled up to the house, the garage door was open and a tall, lanky gentleman with shaggy white hair and glasses came walking out. He held Izzie was in his arms as if they were old pals spending the afternoon together.
“Oh my goodness! Izzie!” I cried. Her little ears perked up as she saw me and she leaped into my arms. I said to him, “Thank you again. Thank you SO much. I’ve been with her for 14 years… I don’t know what I would’ve done.”
“Wow she’s 14? She’s a little athletic for an old girl!” he said. “Yeah I just happened to be out here in my yard when she came up to me.”
“I’m so glad,” I said. “I’m upset that our landscapers left the gate open but I’m glad I was able to find her.”
“Yeah I don’t always put collars on mine when they go out in the yard either, it seems silly you know,” he said. “I have 2 dogs of my own so I’d be devastated too.”
I cuddled Izzie close as she panted, her tiny little body tired from her extensive walk. I thanked him again as I turned to get back into my car and we pulled away from the curb to go home.
I called Craig. “I got her,” was all I said.
There was a pause. Perhaps a sigh of relief. “Good,” he said. “Good, I’ll see you two at home.”
We drove home in silence. I should’ve lectured her, but I was too tired. Later, I would retell her story with an amusing spin to it like it was a tale of Izzie’s Great Escape. All she wanted to do was get away from the annoying cats and the watchful eyes of her mom who was now home 24/7 since the pandemic started.
In reality, Craig and and I were in pieces without her, him even more so because he felt responsible for her being gone in the first place. But not once did I blame him. And although our landscapers did leave the gate open, it was an honest mistake that Craig and I have made before ourselves, so I wasn’t entirely angry at them either.
Izzie crawled into my lap as I drove, as she was prone to do when she didn’t have her harness, and looked out the window. Maybe this is all she needed, I thought. She needed something different from the daily mundane routine we’ve been in the last several weeks. And yeah, I forget that this quarantine hasn’t only affected me, but it’s clearly had an affect on her too. She might be an old dog, but she still wants to see it go by at lightning speed.