Adventures in doggysitting

For once, it wasn’t my fault. A friend had been recruited to watch another friend’s two dogs (Friend No. 2 also happen to be Friend No. 1’s boss. Follow?) Anyway, I could sympathize with Friend No. 1, seeing as how I had also done dog duty for Friend 2 over the years. It typically involved mauled bags of food, steaming-pile christenings of every room in the house and escape artistry rivaling that of Houdini. Perhaps my most memorable experience was when I arrived home to find one dog had gone mysteriously missing. It was only after careful sleuthing that I pieced together the torn blinds and partially open window. Seems “Spike” (*name changed to protect the innocent) had managed to jump out a second story window, drop to the porch roof and shimmy down a nearby tree (which we later learned from neighbors, who witnessed the daring stunt.) Once on terra firma, the little guy shook off the impact, made quick work of the picket fence and was home free.

He was found, after an exhaustive search of the Southside, romping at a nearby park.

However, from the looks on the fellow park patrons’ faces, they were not enjoying the romp quite as much. In fact, they were downright terrified.

See, Spike – despite his sweet disposition – was a pit bull. And as you may know, they don’t exactly get the best press.

“Don’t worry – he’ll lick you to death before he does anything else,” I reassured the terrified mother guarding her young offspring. I slipped a leash around the slobbering beast’s neck and led him back to home arrest.

Anyway, ever since that incident, Spike picked up a nasty habit of jumping from second story windows with varying amounts of success. Needless to say, his newfound doggy death wish was somehow pinned on me.

“He never used to do this before … ,” Friend 2 would sputter in disbelief. She never really came right out and blamed me, but I could tell she was thinking I had committed horrible, unspeakable acts of neglect and cruelty. Never mind the week of free reign over my down comforter, couch and cookie jar.

Which explains why I hate watching other people’s dogs. Give me a turtle, a goldfish or a spider plant. People never get too upset when they arrive home to find their cactus bit the dust, and goldfish are easily replaceable with no one the wiser. But there’s a lot of pressure with dogs. In Durango it goes beyond treating them like kids, we’re talking exalted rulers of the household. And no matter how many times you walk them or judiciously watch every morsel they put in their mouths, you are repaid in gag-reflex Oxycleanings of the only white carpet in the house.

Which is why, when I turned to check the backseat of the car to find we were one pit bull short, I was secretly relieved I wouldn’t be the one making the 6 a.m. call to BoraBora* to explain how a full-grown dog managed to slip away, undetected, from a moving vehicle.

This newest heir to the Spike throne, whom I’ll call Taz*, since he bears a striking resemblance to cartoon character, had apparently weaseled his way out a half-opened window while his cohort, a noble old girl with pink nails named Flossy*, sat aside and watched.

Even though technically, it wasn’t my fault, I couldn’t help but feel implicated. After all, I was well aware of Taz’s predecessor’s ultimately fatal attraction to open windows – and as such, felt obliged to participate in the recovery mission. See, just between you and me, we had been in the car a solid five minutes before we even realized Taz was missing. He could have jumped out at any given moment along the route from downtown to our current location, near city limits.

The first grisly order of business was to turn around and make sure there were no lifeless lumps or smears in the road. We held our breath as we scanned the roadside and ditches while we re-traced our route. All roads ultimately lead back to Main Avenue, where we figured he went AWOL while we were stopped for the train. Amidst the crowds of Friday night happy hour-ers, there was no telling where Taz could be. For all we knew, he’d been dog-napped by some crazy pit bull freak and was half-way to a trailer somewhere in the middle of nowhere (where another one of their pit bulls once mysteriously “turned up,” after a handsome reward was offered. True story.)

We decided to split up on foot. I took the alley/Dumpster route, while Friend 1 canvassed the main drag. Unfortunately, one must use caution when searching for a missing dog with jaws stronger than a steel trap so as not to incite mass hysteria. Thus, the mission was somewhat thwarted by our inability to describe the dog without using the words “pit” or “bull.”

“Excuse me, ma’am, but have you seen a little brown, stocky, short-haired dog? Well, I’m not sure what kind of dog … some sort of terrier?”

The Main search mission turned up no clues, and with dusk falling, we decided to search via bike. I headed home while Friend 1 conned her way into one of the Rochester’s cruisers, after putting her jewelry up for collateral.

As I hoofed the few blocks to my house, I played over the potential scenarios in my head. Best case, he got tossed in the clink and we’d get him in the morning. Worst case, we’d have to come up with a really good excuse to explain how we could be so stupid. I began formulating an elaborate lie in my head, when I passed my neighbors. I thought I’d take a chance since at this point, there really was nothing to lose.

“You haven’t happened to have seen a little, sweet, brown … uh, very sweet … pit bull running around, have you?” I called over the fence.

There, I said it. I figured since they were my neighbors, they had seen my recycling bin, and knew all my deep dark secrets anyway.

There was an agonizing silence followed by the wide eyes of recognition.

“Why yes. We did see him wander by … but that was a good 45 minutes ago.”

At least a break in the case – and not a break of the four-legged kind. “He seemed to know where he was, so we didn’t think to bother him,” they said.

Alas, I turned the corner to find the escapee, patiently sitting where the whole ordeal began, and what I’d wager was the scene of the crime.

We may never know exactly how Taz staged his stealthy departure, or what he did during his brief taste of freedom, but from the smile on his face, it was good. As for me, it was one doggy mess I was more than happy to walk away from.

– Missy Votel



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