It rained all night and this morning, as I looked out, I couldn’t suppress an internal groan. Fall is falling, the November grays arrive. I felt a little gray myself, somewhat lonely. No one’s caring for me, came the gloomy, self-pitying thought.
I purposely decide to walk the dogs on farmland, some of which is still dotted with pumpkins. The days are warm and I appreciate the bright green pastures framed by fog, aware of what will happen when the winter hits and the earth turns gray (and sometimes, happily, white). In the distance, a flock of wild turkeys frolic.
On the way there I’d stopped by our mailbox, and in the 5 seconds it took to put an envelope inside, Henry, scampering across the front seat, pressed the door lock button on the driver’s side, locking up the car (with the ignition on and the windows shut). Luckily, I was wearing my dog treats belt over my green autumn jacket with the car key inside. When the car is on and locked, an electronic key can’t unlock it. But this was the second time he’d done this and I knew what to do: I removed the mechanical key out of the small, black square (which is the electronic key) and used it to unlock the door, overriding the electronics.
Not that that prevented me from venting.
“Don’t do that!” I yelled at poor Henry. I say poor because Henry, wild, demanding Henry, collapsed on his belly shaking and trembling from fright. Instantly I felt terrible. He had no idea what he’d done or why I yelled. I apologized and stroke him, but his mood for the walk visibly changed, becoming nervous and somber.
We walk amidst the farms, dogs unleashed as usual, sniffing, running, and coming back for liver treats, few cars on the country roads. They rush after a squirrel—there are lots of them now doing last-minute prep for winter. Henry comes back, Aussie not. Not unnatural for her, given October’s overwhelming sounds and smells. She likes to rush here and there and always catches up with me, or else finds the car. She’s never gotten lost.
We walk and walk, still no Aussie. “Don’t worry,” I tell Henry, who always gets worried when his friend isn’t around.
We pass a man with a handsome border collie and exchange the usual dog people greetings: What a handsome dog! Is he friendly? A good day for a walk. As I finally pull Henry away I say: “If you see a black and brown dog, just tell her to come home.”
“She’s waiting for you by your car,” he says, “lying right next to it, in fact.”
I thank him. Sure enough, rounding the corner, there she is, sopping wet. She doesn’t hurry forward, always waits to watch me and see if she’s in trouble, but I just shake my head, say “Oh, Aussie!”, and she knows she’ll be fine.
We get into the car and I stop at the intersection because a man is walking two pitbulls. He yells something at me and I roll the window down. “What?” I ask.
“I called the police about you,” he says.
OMG, I think. He saw the dogs off-leash and didn’t like it, or else Aussie may have run in his back yard. Even here, in progressive Western Mass, a few people so insist on the sanctity of private property that they will actually shoot critters, including dogs, if they trespass. I bite my lips and prepare to hear the worst.
“Why?” I ask him through the open window.
“I was worried about you. I’d seen you walking here before and when I went out—I live just there,” pointing to a house diagonally across from us, “and suddenly I noticed your dog was back by the car but you weren’t. I was afraid something happened to you.”
I’m so busy setting up my defensive walls that I still don’t get it, and he repeats himself. “I thought that if you didn’t come back to the car and she did, something may have happened to you, maybe you fell or got hurt or something, so I called the police.”
Finally my thick skin softens and I smile. He meant well, I think. He meant so unbelievably well.
“Did your neighbor with the border collie know this?” I ask.
“Yes, we’re a community here,” he says. “We look out for each other. I asked him if he’d seen you, told him I was worried about you.”
I thank him from the bottom of my heart. I’ve never met him before. “What’s your name?” I ask before pulling away.
“Eve. Thanks a lot for thinking of me, Michael.”
I wave and cross the intersection, and seconds later see a police car hurrying down the road in the opposite direction. It’s probably headed towards Michael because he called them, and he’ll explain, I think to myself. And then I’ll read in the police log of our local paper: Caller from Ferry St. reported a dog lying near a car, woman missing. Caller worried.
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