How We Almost Lost Our Dog. Again.

Dogs. I swear, I think ours is living on borrowed time.

First, I gotta tell you about my dog. His name is Nigel. He’s 4 and half years old. He’s a miniature pincher (min-pin) and he’s had several problems with his legs. We’ve had to have each of his knees fixed (about $1500 each time) and he’s just about deaf. I’m not sure if it’s selective hearing or what, but the only time he’ll jump or respond is if I do a super loud whistle. Also, he’s a pure-bred and we had to drive 3 hours each way to pick him up when he was just a wee dog. Yeah. Pure bred. What a load of horse apples.

Anyway, he’s gotten away from us a couple times already. Twice he’s somehow gotten free from his leash and run away. One time he got as far as our front yard. Another time, he disappeared around 2am and we didn’t find him until an hour and a half later. I blame the leash. The problem? Since he can’t hear, it’s tough to call for him and since we live in the suburbs, it’s not really a good idea to walk through backyards in the dark with flashlights looking for the little creep.

Well, Saturday was a different story.

It’s been unseasonably warm in Minnesota this fall. Truly. It’s like it’s still summer here. So much so that we had our windows open and our patio door open so that air could move through the screen. My son, Travis, has a spot set up near the door where he plays with his cars and his instruments (he’s like a one-man band) and all is good. I went upstairs for one minute on Saturday while Laura (my wife) got the house ready to receive her family for the weekend. When I came back down, Travis was sliding the patio screen door closed.

Immediately, I knew the score.

“Travis,” says I. “What did you just do?”

My son looks at me and says matter-of-factly: “I let the puppy outside.”

Crap. Crapola. Stacks of crap.

Immediately, I went for my shoes and ran outside, whistling like I was waiting for the world’s slowest bus. Loud, high-pitched whistles that were making dogs inside their cozy homes howl. Nothing. No jingle-jangle of his collar, no barking, nothing.

“We gotta put your shoes on, buddy,” I told Travis. “We have to go find our puppy.”

“Puppy is all gone,” Travis said.

“He might be,” I replied.

So, off we went, walking through our neighborhood, whistling and listening over the buzz of lawnmowers and people doing their Saturday thing. Everytime a car passed, I imagined our little dog, not being able to hear so hot, tumbling underneath the tires. We walked all over the place, whistling. I told Travis that he needed to leave the door alone from now on because now our puppy might be lost.

“He’s not lost, Dad,” Travis said. I wasn’t so sure.

After a long, humid walk, we returned to base. I thought maybe the dog was still in the house somewhere and we were looking for a dog that hadn’t even left. Nope.

“He might just come back,” Laura said. “He did that one time he got away.”

I grumbled something about not being at the door if and when he decided to come back. As I said it, she noticed that the light on our phone was blinking.

“Who left us a message?” She dialed up voicemail, listened to it and then passed it to me.

I listened too and my face must’ve shown my confusion. It was a dude just saying: “Call ###-####, thank you.”

I called the number, talked to some guy on the phone and he said, “Yep, I called.”

“I’m guessing you have our dog,” I said and described the little monster.

“I think so,” he said and gave me his address. I told him I’d be right there and hung up. I collected my kid and told him we had to go and get our puppy.

“Our puppy is not lost,” Travis said as I loaded him into the truck. We drove the 5 blocks from our house and pulled into a driveway loaded with beat-up cars. There, standing in the driveway, was the guy. He was holding a saw and a hammer or something. He looked like he had no idea why I was there.

Once I got out, he came to life.

“Yeah, the little fella just ran right into my garage,” he said, pointing to the place where he probably used to park vehicles.

The garage, friends, was LOADED with crap. Big hunks of wood. Boxes that once held products long since discontinued, and just cluttered junk everywhere. In the middle of the floor was a huge wooden something-or-other he was building. He must’ve noticed the look on my face as he described what he was building.

“That’s gonna be a cat-house,” he explained. “The dogs and the cat don’t get along so swell, so I’m building the cat his own place out in the backyard. He’ll live out there year round.”

I nodded and smiled as I removed Travis from his chair. Not sure what I was thinking, actually.

“That’s pretty cool,” I said.

“Yeah, it’s going to have it’s own heater and triple-paned glass so he’ll stay warm out there this winter.”

I looked and saw it was true, the dude was building a condo for his cat. There was a space cut into the floor of the kitty kondo for his litter box. He rapped on the glass in the window to show how secure it would be.

“Well, c’mon on in. Got your dog inside in a kennel.”

I almost said: “Do I have to?” But I didn’t. I was used to going into strange houses in even worse situations whenever I got an ambulance or fire call. This was nothing.


Inside, it was CHAOS. Two gigantic dogs were barking like the friggin’ sky was falling. A woman slid a wooden door leading upstairs shut to keep them from getting loose and mauling Travis and I. The dude led us into an unfinished basement loaded with junk. Beneath a couple of the piles was a small kennel and inside was our hyper, happy-to-see-us dog.

“There’s Nigel,” Travis said as if he were relieved that our dog had lived this long.

“Yep. There he is. Can you thank this guy for finding him for us?”

Before Travis could do what he was told, the guy said, “This is like the 6th dog that’s come here in the last 2 months.”

“Wow,” I said. “Your place is like a magnet for animals.”

That didn’t come out the way I’d planned.

The guy never took offense or seemed to notice. He instead said, “Is this the dog that was on the wanted poster?”

I shook my head. “Uh, no. He just got away like a half hour ago. We didn’t make any posters…”

“Oh, because my wife thought it was the same one.”

I wanted to say Yeah, well your wife is wrong! Instead I just sort of said “Ha ha…well, we should get going, right Travis?”

As we got Nigel out of the kennel, the little bugger ran up the stairs and somehow slipped throught the elaborate wooden-sliding-door-doggie barrier. Seeing the caliber of the dogs up there, I figured our little 12 pound dog would be reduced to Snausages.

“Oh, great,” I mumbled without realizing I’d said it.

“Oh, he’ll be fine. Our dogs won’t hurt ‘im.”

I went upstairs to retrieve my dog and saw these giant dogs galloping around like they were at Canterbury Downs (it’s a racetrack south of the cities). One the floor was a baby with no pants on, crying. There was ‘stuff’ everywhere as though the dogs truly ruled the house. I guess, in a sense, they did.

Hell, the friggin’ cat had to move out into the backyard.

After what seemed like 12 years, I got my dog, my kid and what was left of my sanity as we headed for the truck and sweet, sweet freedom. I thanked the people profusely for snatching up our dog and Travis thanked them, too. He waved and smiled as Nigel did his laps around the inside of truck. As we drove off and headed back to our house, Travis had to remind me of something.

“See Dad? Our puppy’s not lost!”

I nodded to him in the rearview mirror. “We got lucky this time, pal.”

As if that topic was over, he said, “I want some fruit snacks.”