Chapter 13 — Runaway

In the first month after Ron’s death, I walked through the empty days without being able to tell at day’s end where I had begun and where ended.  All the busyness of the funeral that helped stave off the reality of death was over.  My daughters had been wonderful, strong and supportive and caring.   But they had gone back to their families, as they should.

There are people who, in the depths of grief, sometimes spend the day in bed because it seems pointless to get up, get dressed, try to get on with the everyday aspects of life.  I got up each morning.  Had to.  There was a red-brown mostly Labrador retriever fanning her tail so hard the entire rear end waved back and forth as she greeted each day.

It snowed one night, and the following morning brought one of those gloriously bright days when the sky is deepest blue above fresh snow.   I put Greta  in the back yard so I could shovel.  A neighbor came over to chat, and neither of us was paying much attention to Greta—or to the gate.  I hadn’t fastened it properly.  A gust of wind blew through, the gate swung partly open  and Greta seized the opportunity.  (In the reenactment,  left, Greta shows how she did it).  By the time the brown streak passed us, it was too late.  Greta turned south at the end of the driveway and galloped up the street.

I don’t believe Greta was running away from home.  I believe she was just running, in the joy of being alive and young and fast on her feet.  Dogs tend not to plan ahead, so she probably didn’t give much thought to how she would get home again after she got tired.

I followed Greta up the street on foot, but a Labrador retriever can run at a mean speed of 11.4 mph.  I can’t.  When her tracks led over fields, I returned home for the car.  I drove along a private road that curves to link two major streets that run at right angles.  Yes, some of the snow shovelers had seen Greta as she charged by, headed southeast.  I turned east on the street at the end of the private road.

A man on the corner had seen a big red dog dash toward Route 97.  Not good news.  The road has a speed limit of 55 mph, and many motorists treat that as a suggestion.   Is she here in a ditch, injured or worse?

There was no trace of her along the roadside.  I crossed Route 97.  And there, the trail ended.  No one along the main road or in the cross streets of the subdivisions had seen a big red dog.  I drove back to the intersection.

Now what?  I did not know.  I did not want to go home, not while Greta was out there somewhere.   Perhaps she had run along Route 97.  Better to drive than to sit in the car with concrete in the pit of my stomach.  I drove.  Up and down the road, and back again to the subdivision on the east side of the intersection.

No trace.  I pulled over and put my head down on the steering wheel.  Please, God, even though I don’t believe you personally interfere in our lives, please.

I pulled out to start for home.  I had crossed the intersection when the cell phone rang.

“I believe I have your dog,” a woman’s voice said.

I had called the Humane Society, http://www.carr.org/humane/  earlier  to report Greta missing, and when her finder contacted the Society, the staff provided my number.

Once again, Greta’s personality had saved her life.  After passing the house at the intersection, she had started across Route 97.  But cars were zipping by in front of  and behind her.  Confused, Greta stopped in the middle of the busy road and stood still.  She would almost surely have been hit, but a dog-loving couple spotted her and pulled over.  When the lane was clear, they called to her.  Greta came.  They opened the door of their truck.  Greta hopped in.

We met at the Dunkin’  Donuts parking lot.  I hugged Greta.  She gave me the I Just Went for a Little Run, Okay? look and climbed into the car.  Greta’s rescuer would not take anything for saving my dog.

“Just make a donation to the Humane Society,” she said.

I did.

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