The Ties that Bind Us

It took almost 10 years for Izzie to figure out she could run away.

For most of her life, she’s been on a leash and in a fenced apartment complex. I’ve always been diligent about making sure of that each time we go out. Lately, however, Izzie has proven to be rather obedient off leash, never going too far from sight and coming when called.

This morning we were out in the backyard. It was chilly, so I was lounging in a patio chair with a thick blanket wrapped around my shoulders while reading my book. Izzie was nosing around along the fence line. We knew there was a gap in the fence that she could easily slip out of, but she’s always stayed in the yard. We never really considered she would ever know how easily she could slip through the gap and take off running.

But I guess there was just something in the cool, crisp air that was calling her because when I heard the chain link fence jingle, I looked up and saw she was already on the other side of the gate, heading west down the alley toward the train tracks.

My stomach lurched. I ran toward the fence barefoot, calling her name. When I leaned over and looked in the direction she had taken off, she was already near the end of the alley. “Izzie!” I yelled. She stopped and turned around and looked at me. “Come here!”

She regarded me for a few seconds, but then darted south out of my view. I couldn’t tell if she had turned the corner down the other alleyway or if she had darted into a neighbor’s yard. “FUCK!” I muttered.

I ran back into the house. Craig was still in bed asleep, but I figured I could catch her without any incident so I grabbed my shoes and ran out the door.

But by the time I made it into the alley, she was gone. I looked into yards, I called her name. I ran around to the other alleys. No sign.

I ran back to the house deciding I would be faster in a car than on foot. I grabbed my keys and my purse and I floored it, barreling out of the cul de sac into the nearest alley behind our houses. I thought if I could just find where she went and call her, she would come back to me.

So that’s what I did. I drove through the alleys, calling her name, peering into yards hoping I would catch a glimpse of her small, furry white body.

But after weaving in and out of alleys, I couldn’t find her. How could she have disappeared into thin air? I realized my search would be more effective if I had another person looking too.

I went back home and burst into the house. “Craig! Wake up!”

By then I was already crying, tears streaming out of my eyes. “Izzie got out of the yard,” I said, shaking him.

He jolted awake. “Huh? What?!”

“Izzie got out of the fence and now I can’t find her! We need to find her!”

Within seconds he was out of bed and running to gather his things, directing me. “Ok you get in the Camry, I’ll get in my truck. Get your phone. I’ll have mine. We’ll drive around through the alleys until we find her. She couldn’t have gone far.”

So I was back in my car. The house was along a somewhat busy street that cars tended to speed on. My worst fear was that Izzie would try to cross said street and a car would hit her. I tried not to think about that.

As I was driving into an alley, I heard her familiar bark in the distance. My heart nearly leapt out of my chest. She was close enough to hear, but I couldn’t see her. I made a U-turn and turned into another alley, swinging around until I was back in the spot where I heard her bark.

And there she was, all the way at the opposite end of the alley close to the house. “Izzie!” I yelled.

She stopped and turned around. She looked surprised to see me, probably because I was in the car. “Izzie, please! Come here!” I begged.

She came running towards me across the length of the alley. Finally she listened to me. 10 years of feeding her, cuddling her, putting up with her trash-digging bullshit finally paid off. I couldn’t contain my joy. It was like a scene from a movie. I held out my arms and she leapt up to greet me, not realizing how much she had made me worry when all she wanted to do was walk the path she always did when she and Craig went on their “neighborhood patrol.”

“Oh my god. Come here you little bitch,” I said, hugging her tight.

We got into my car and I searched for my phone to call Craig. “Honey, I got her,” I said. “She’s safe.”

“You got her? Where was she?” his voice was raw. I think he had been crying too.

“She was in the alley behind the house,” I said with a laugh of relief.

“Ok I’ll see you back at home,” he said.

I wanted to lecture her. Tell her how awful she was for running away and not coming when called. But I couldn’t. She was looking up at me from the front seat, panting slightly so that she almost looked like she was grinning happily. It’s like she was so proud of herself for extending our territory beyond the yard and she figured I would be pleased too. I was just relieved to have her back safe.

When we got back to the house, I didn’t let her hop out of the car on her own like I usually did. I picked her up and cradled her close as if she was a delicate possession that needed to be handled carefully.

A minute later, Craig pulled into the driveway and climbed out of his truck. He had been in such a hurry to look for Izzie, he didn’t even put his shoes on. He looked just as tired and worn and relieved as I did. “Oh honey,” he said. He pulled me and Izzie into a tight embrace and he kissed the top of my head. “I love my girls. It’s my fault. I should’ve covered up that gap weeks ago. And then yesterday I coached her how to slip through the gate when I went back there to fetch her ball. I’m so sorry.”

“It’s ok,” I said. “She’s safe now. Everyone’s happy.”

“Izzie, you little stinker,” he said, scratching her ears. “You had me and your mom so worried.”

I guess in a way, the ties that bind her to me are stronger than I thought. I can now understand Izzie’s anxiety when I leave. She has no way of knowing I’ll come back or be safe out in the world, just like I don’t know if she’ll come back or be safe if she ever slipped out of the yard again. So I guess I know now that I should be a little more sensitive toward her antics when I leave, and also cover any holes in the fence so she can’t get out again.

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