The great escape

by DaniGirl on June 12, 2010 · 12 comments

in Life, the Universe and Everything

It is a few minutes after six on Friday morning. I’ve just finished pouring myself my first cup of coffee of the day, and put said coffee on the side table in preparation for my favourite morning ritual — coffee and the morning paper. I open the front door, breathe deeply of the fresh early-summer air, and am content in our decision to go to the water park later in the morning, deteriorating forecast be damned. I lean out of the screen door to grab the paper, and feel the brush of fur on my side as the dog slips out the door.

It takes me two long beats to realize it is not sweet and agreeable old Katie, but my parents’ visiting dog Beau, that has slipped past me. If it had been Katie, she would have taken three or four sniffs of the morning air, turned contentedly and returned to the house. Beau, to my growing dismay, takes off at a brisk walk down the driveway and onto to sidewalk without a backward glance.

Beau is a gorgeous little dog. He looks like the smaller cousin of my lumbering Katie — he’s got a bit of collie in him, maybe some huskie a few mixes back. My folks adopted him from the pound about four months ago. He’s the sweetest-natured little thing, but he’s terrified of, well, everything. People, noises, kids — they all send him skittering. My folks figure he’d never been inside a house before they brought him home, though he seems housebroken. While he flinches at everything, he also chooses to sit near us rather than in a quieter corner of the house. He shows no signs of meanness whatsoever, but very rarely shows joy either. My parents’ loving attention is slowly bringing him out of his shell, but he’s got a long way to go.

I hustle down the sidewalk after Beau, who trots down the street in a paranoid, head-down, tail-tucked gait that tells me he has no intention of stopping any time in the near future. As I realize that I may be committed to a serious chase, I am grateful that for a change I am actually wearing pants first thing in the morning. They are flannel flowered pajama pants, but they cover more of me than the threadbare t-shirt and underwear I sleep in and often retrieve the morning paper in.

I see the neighbour’s adult son watching me run down the road, and call to him to ring the doorbell and tell Beloved that I’ve taken off after the dog. Nobody knows I have left the house, and I have no shoes, no bra, and most worrisome, no leash with which to retrieve the dog.

As I round the corner of my street onto the minor artery, I begin to realize the enormity of my problem. He doesn’t come when called, is not yet trained, and doesn’t really know me very well. Unless I can physically make contact with him to grab his collar, there is zero chance I will be able to convince him to come to me. He doesn’t trust me and doesn’t know the neighbourhood. Grasping for any straw of hope, I speculate that maybe, just maybe, he senses his way home and is heading for my parents’ house some 2 km away.

He is running down the middle of the road, and I am chasing about ten feet behind him somewhere between a walk and a run. I am barefoot and braless, not fit for human consumption sitting still, let alone flapping down the sidewalk with one arm pinning my breasts against my chest. As I see cars coming, I flail my arms madly and point their attention to the runaway dog, terrified that he will be hit but unable to divert him from the middle of the road.

It begins to occur to me that there is no natural endpoint to this flight. He could just keep going — a right here and a left there and we’ll be jogging down Woodroffe in the morning traffic, headed for town. Suddenly, the theme from The Littlest Hobo is playing gratingly in my head. Beau shows no inclination to stop, let alone pause, and I have no way of reaching him, and no way of getting help. If I speed up to close the gap, he speeds up more to maintain it. Yet if I were to stop or turn around, I would lose him — for the chase and maybe worse. I am relieved when he takes a random right turn and unknowingly begins to circle back to our street. I begin to hope that maybe he will run past the house again and I can at least grab some shoes and a leash. And a very fast gulp of my (whimper) coffee.

He makes another random right turn, and I heave a huge sigh of relief. He’s just turned on to a dead end. At the very worst, I can sit on the curb and know that he’s vaguely cornered. For a minute, I do just that, rubbing gravel and dirt off the bottoms of my poor, scratched feet.

Eventually I get up and make my way into the court. There is a small patch of grass in the centre of the court, and a hockey net and evidence of a game called on account of streetlights. Beau walks in large circles around them. We figure he must have been tied to a stake outside, because when he is very nervous, he paces, and the more stressed he gets, the tighter his little circles get. I swear, there is a special place in hell for whomever did whatever they did to this sweet little dog.

I watch him pace for a while, and eventually try to get close enough to grab him, but he is very agile and easily eludes me. No amount of coaxing or soft words will entice him to me. Eventually, a woman comes out of her house with a bag of doggie treats and offers me one. I tell her thanks but no thanks, as I have breakfast waiting at home and she laughs. We each try for a while to coax Beau closer, but he alternately ignores us and paces more quickly in his endless circles. She leaves the bag of treats with me but gives up eventually.

A few times, Beau wanders closer to the houses and I try to corner him, but each time there are too many escape routes. The morning is warm but humid, and each time I walk across the dewy grass my feet become more tender to the bits of gravel and stones on the road. For a while, I simply sit cross-legged in the middle of the road and watch Beau pace, imagining Beloved driving around the neighbourhood in search of us with with shoes and a leash. The great irony is that Beau has led us to the houses that back onto our yard — I can actually see the back of my own house between the houses on the court, and there is nothing I can do about it.

I begin to wonder how long this Mexican standoff might last. Hours? I have no idea what else to do aside from wait the dog out. Other neighbours come out with dog treats or a kind word, try to coax the dog themselves, and either go back into their houses or get in their cars and go to work.

A few times, Beau lets me come tantalizingly close to him. I crouch down to appear as unintimidating as possible, crabwalking toward the dog with my hand extended and my eyes averted, watching him through my peripheral vision. And each time, when I am finally within lurching distance, he spooks and skitters away. I struggle to bite back my temper, knowing if I lose it and yell the dog will never come to me. It occurs to me that the dog is never going to come to me anyway, and I wonder if at least cursing him out at the top of my lungs might be therapeutic.

A few times, Beau heads toward the access road to the court and I am hysterical in my arm-flailing attempts to chase him back into the dead end. Unproductive as our standoff is, I far prefer having him loosely cornered in the court to wandering out where there is traffic and endless combinations of random escape routes.

Another neighbour ambles out to join me with a bag of dog treats in hand. By now, my feet are raw and I want a pair of shoes more than I’ve ever wanted shoes in my life. After letting him fruitlessly try to coerce Beau any closer than 20 feet, I sheepishly ask him if could possibly borrow a pair of old socks. I simply cannot imagine spending another hour or two pacing around in my bare feet on the gravel-speckled road. He immediately offers me his slippers, bless his soul, but his feet are easily five sizes bigger than mine, and I tell him I need to be able to run if Beau bolts again.

He kindly returns a few moments later with a pair of old white gym socks. It is as I am ever so gratefully putting on the socks, easily the most delightful holey socks that have ever graced my toes, that I realize that Beau has wandered through an open gate into a — hallelujah! — fenced back yard. I ask my new best friend Mike to act as a human barricade, and venture into the back yard to see if I can finally corner Beau. I estimate that it is maybe seven or half-past seven in the morning, and decide that it is more prudent to simply enter the back yard without permission than to risk ringing the bell and awakening an entire household.

I do manage to get Beau cornered, and when he realizes he cannot escape he simply drops into a sit and cringes. I have a momentary and easily suppressed urge to throttle him when I get my hands on him. It is not, after all, his fault that he has been so mistreated that he is afraid of everyone and everything. Another few months with my parents and their endless stream of affection and peanut butter toast will have him socialized and at least moderately trained, I am sure.

For now, I grab his collar firmly and scratch his head a few times to let him know there are no hard feelings, and try to drag him out of the yard. Beau declines my kind offer, and instead chooses to remain seated on the grass, thank you very much. I scoop him up into my arms, grateful that he weighs not much more than my toddler, and carry him back out into the court. Mike gives a little cheer, and heads off to his place to loan me a leash to escort Beau back to his place.

My toes squelch in the dew-soaked socks on the way home, infinitely more comfortable than they’ve been since I left the house. Beau walks easily at my side, as if the whole spectacle were a figment of my imagination. At the very least, I say to myself as I peel off the blackened socks, it makes a good story.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Paula June 12, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Oh my, I can so relate to your very well written story. I’m so very happy that you managed to get Beau and return to the house with arms full of him. We adopted a rescue dog in Dec. 09 (from the Navan Animal Rescue Centre, who took him from a puppy mill that was shut down in Quebec). Maximus was with us only 3 days and was only nine months old when he broke off his lead and bolted from our yard. We went in chase, just as you did but he found an open field about 3 kms. from our house and disappeared into 7 miles of bush and swamp. I was inconsolable and searched day and night for our poor dog. He like Beau, did not know us yet, nor his neighbourhood and was so afraid of everything that I feared the worst. Five days later however he was discovered in a barn near the field and swamp he disappeared in. He has been home with us ever since and it has taken over a year but he now trusts my husband and I completely. He will always be a shy, timid dog but the fear he had when we first adopted him has left him. Love conquers all and we cannot now imagine our home nor our lives without our Maximus. I relived all the emotions you were feeling in the early morning this past Friday, including the relief and delight you felt when he finally had Beau in your arms. He is a lucky dog to have your parents as his new and loving owners now and to have you as is *big sister* 🙂

2 chichimama June 12, 2010 at 9:05 pm

Oh, poor Beau! And I am so glad nothing bad happened!

3 Nat June 12, 2010 at 10:10 pm

Glad you managed to catch him.

When The Boy was a toddler he loved a book called the Great Gracie Chase about a little dog who was good every day of her life but one, when someone left the gate open … and Gracie made a run for it. (“And soon the whole town was running in, the great Gracie chase…”) This story reminds me of this book.

Luckily both have happy endings.

4 angela June 12, 2010 at 11:35 pm

i wish people could see your face when you tell that story;).
the borrowed socks part remains my favourite chapter of this adventure…

5 Fawn June 13, 2010 at 12:30 am

Oh my goodness, so glad everyone is safe!

6 2Hirondelles June 13, 2010 at 8:00 am

You do tell a story so well! Glad you were able to finally nab the little guy and everyone is now safely home.

7 Dani's Mom June 13, 2010 at 10:02 am

There is a special place in heaven for you, my dear

I would very much like to get my hands on this “person” who would stake out a dog and abuse and neglect him so – we believe he came from a breeder/musher who had 100 dogs taken from him – I hope to God some of them were better treated

8 smothermother June 14, 2010 at 11:53 am

what an adventure. yeah for friendly dog lovers who are willing to lend you the socks off their feet. boo to those who harm animals in any way. i hope the rest of your weekend was less eventful (in the beau area).

9 Alexandre Enkerli June 16, 2010 at 2:33 am

Does make for a nice, well-narrated story @danigirl

10 Lynn June 17, 2010 at 6:56 pm

I’m just getting caught up on a backlog of blog entries and had to comment on this one…it’s a great post! Great story, but also so well told. I was totally entranced. I think this is some of your best writing ever.

11 Annika June 19, 2010 at 1:52 pm

I agree with Lynn…I haven’t had time to read in a long time, but stumbled upon this beautiful piece of writing. Great storytelling, Dani. I was gripped from start to finish. Thank goodness Beau is okay!

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