eight-week old German Shepherd puppy

one up, one down


side from the noise I was making, the yard was hot and utterly quiet. My large dog raised his head in my general direction, but only to be polite. He took a moment to acknowledge the racket I was making with all of my clapping and yelling before resting his chin back down on his paws. His was the reasonable response to a flurry of clearly frantic and completely fruitless activity; our puppy was nowhere to be found.

I should have been nauseated, dropping to sit on whatever might be keep me from falling directly onto the concrete slab patio when I realized she wasn’t where Scott told me he’d left her. I was neither sick nor weak-kneed, however, because this was the second time I had found the yard in a state of appalling stillness after going to look for the puppy there and I simply do not have the luxury of wandering around my neighborhood, fighting back tears and the urge to be sick, looking for my lost dog two or three times a week.

Prowling our house, clapping and calling the puppy’s name, I finally heard it: some squeak or whine that managed to make itself heard over the rattle of the house’s cooling system. I followed the sound to the garage door and there she was, sitting at attention on the other side. The last time, Marcel had found her asleep in an upstairs bathroom, underneath a towel and behind a closed door.

I drove to meet Scott at the Little League field and to ask him one question:

“Do you think you have early onset Alzheimer’s?” I wanted to know. “You’ve been so…clear when you’ve told me where you left the puppy and neither time has she been there. Maybe you have some sort of degenerative brain condition.”

To Scott’s credit, he seemed to receive the question in the spirit I’d intended, considering the possibility that he was, in fact, losing his marbles. Then something else—a request for a snack bar Slushie, a base hit by Roy that turned out to be a foul ball—distracted us entirely. Well, I had been distracted. Scott began to think of nothing else than our furry cipher, a four-legged traveler through walls and doors.

Later that evening, Scott bounded into the bedroom with the boys to peer out of a window with a view of our side yard. He waved a hand at me to forestall any questions.

“I have a theory,” he said.

From our vantage point a floor above her, we watched our single-minded, seven-week-old puppy squeeze through the cat door on the new gate (turns out she wasn’t too big to get through), trot down the length of the house and squeeze through the metal bars on the old gate and into the front yard. By the time Scott and Roy had rushed downstairs to nab her, she had already re-entered the garage by way of another cat door and was on her way back into the house proper.

What kind of a creature runs away for the express purpose of what is essentially returning to the place from which they were escaping?

I have developed a theory of my own, too, and it is this: when any animal—human or otherwise—finds themselves lucky enough to have made a home for themselves, a place warm and constant with love to spare, it is a place well worth breaking your way back into in all furry, floppy-eared earnestness.