MY LITTLE RUNAWAY
by John Boucher
We, along with our four dogs, five cats and two doves, just moved from Boston to New Mexico. We called a contractor to build a dog fence. Tomorrow, the contractor said. We walked the dogs on leashes. Tomorrow, the contractor said. We set their beds out in the back yard and sat with them watching the sun set. Tomorrow, the contractor said. After a while we wondered if we needed a fence. The boys were so good about staying. Then one night at bedtime, our greyhound Ernie didn’t come in.
At first we didn’t panic. Ernie was stubborn. They retired him from the race track because he stood at the gate like a statue of a mule and refused to run. He’d come when he felt like it.
When he didn’t come after an hour, we panicked. I tried to tell my wife Carolyn that this was typical Ernie, that he was probably sleeping under a piñon tree just beyond the range of our flashlights. I pretended to be calm.
I was working the next day and Carolyn wasn’t. She called me with updates. Nothing. When I got home we started a major search. Neither of us wanted to say it out loud, but as much as we hoped to find our boy safe, we kept our eyes open for circling vultures. We tried to prepare ourselves for finding a crime scene.
The next five days were educational. What to do if your dog disappears:
1. Call Animal Control.
2. Call all the nearby shelters.
3. Call the police.
4. Call the Highway Patrol.
5. Call the Santa Fe Reporter and The Santa Fe New Mexican and put in a free Missing Animal ad.
6. Put up flyers at local meeting places like the convenience store, post office, library, etc.
7. Put up flyers everywhere else.
I won’t try to paint a picture of the torment we went through for five days. If you have dogs, you can imagine it. We searched every day, looking for a collar, a tag, a footprint, anything. We could accept that our boy was dead, but what tore us in half was the thought that he had died alone, without us to hold his paw and tell him we loved him as he went across.
On the fifth night, the phone rang. A woman and her son had found Ernie standing by the side of the road near the golf course, about three minutes from our house. They had used their cell phone to call the number on his tag, but there was no answer, because it was our old number back East. Then the real miracle happened. A woman driving by saw them with Ernie. She remembered a flyer at our local convenience store about a lost greyhound. She drove there and got the flyer. When she brought it back, they called our number.
We tore over there in the minivan. Sure enough, there was our Ernie, thin, a stunned look on his face, his fur tangled with burrs, a gash in his side. We threw our arms around him and cried and thanked the people and cried.
When we got Ernie in the house and into light, we could see that he was gaunt and dehydrated. We let the other boys welcome him home and gave him as much food and water as he wanted. We cleaned his wound. Then we put him on his bed on the floor in our bedroom and we all got our first proper night’s sleep in what felt like forever.
The next day we added two things to our list of what to do if your dog runs away:
9. We went to Home Depot, bought fencing materials, and put up our own fence.
10. We went to the pet store and made tags with our new number on them.
Then we called the contractor and told them that if we needed their help with anything, we’d call them. Tomorrow.
Our family is back together. When we walk in the desert now, we keep a close watch on him. We wonder what those five nights out in the wild were like. We wonder how he stayed alive. We figure he was just too stubborn to die. We’ve always been affectionate with our boys, constantly embarrassing them with hugs and telling them we love them, and now we’re worse. We know someday we’ll have to say goodbye, but the time we have with them now is the most precious gift in the world.John Boucher and his wife Carolyn recently fled Boston for New Mexico. They live in Cochiti Lake with their five dogs, five cats, a nd two doves, and one dog fence.