I lost my dog.
I’d taken him with me to my appointment with my oncologist (he waited in the car during the appointment) and when I drove up into my driveway, I opened the door for him to get out of the car and then sat there for a couple of minutes, mindlessly scrolling through my inbox on my phone.
Sometimes I sit in my car while it’s parked in the driveway. I return from some errand and I just sit there. It’s like this pause between movements, where the conductor still has her arms raised, her baton pointed, but the music is sliding away. When I was momming, working, wife-ing and otherwise engaging with my communities fulltime, it was a stolen fermata, a space to breath alone for an indulgently long moment. More often, nowadays, it’s a space for gathering the courage to lean against the inertia of fatigue.
So yesterday, I take my pause and I get out of the car. Immediately I hear it.
There’s no wiggling, winding, grunting labrador trying to tangle himself in my legs. No barking at unseen predators in the woods beyond out property line. No thumping bumping sound of galloping paws on bark mulch.
I am stunned.
That dog never runs off, especially silently. But I hadn’t put his invisible fence collar back on yet.
I call. I yell. I looked over the perimeter of the yard. 15-minutes and there’s no response.
I realize that I can’t really trust I’ll be able to get back up the hill to our cul-de-sac if I wander the neighborhood looking for him And even though I know he’s a sweetie, he’s a big, dark furry presence who gets excited by other people’s fear and he can drum up quite the barking storm. He could definitely scare a neighbor.
What if he gets hit by a car?!
So I send out an email to our neighborhood list. Within minutes I have neighbors responding online that they’ll go out looking for him. While they search I sit there helplessly at the front door.
All sorts of conspiracy theories are building in my imagination. He was stolen! Dog-napped! Someone is getting revenge for his barking!
It’s been a surreal morning. I’m tired enough now that I have to make some real choices about work. But working in this position is really great. If I let go of this job, I’ll probably never get it back.
My feelings are so tightly twisted and tangled. They feel like a huge, hard, growing mass pressing against my stomach and lungs, pushing out against my lower back.
Not knowing what is happening causes me to imagine all kinds of horrible things. So I realized I really need to know the answers, even if I’m afraid to hear them. It was a morning for answers I had already heard, but needed to digest again. I needed my oncologist to tell me again.
Yes. It’s very likely I will die by the end of June. Yes. We are trying very hard change that. Yes, there’s always hope. No, realistically, there’s not a high probability that we’ll get much more out of this body.
I’m relieved. I like having a plan.
And I’m suffocating.
So I make air. I blabber at the doctor about painkillers and politics, not even making sense to myself.
And the dog has been stolen. I call my husband. I’m the distressed wife needing his rescue.
“You have to come home! Fudge is missing!”
Maybe he’s been poisoned.
You can feel it in the silence.
Fudge is gone.
I can’t even remember if his tags were well attached to his collar.
A neighbor walking her dog makes her way up the driveway. She’s one of the people who reached out and offered to help go look for Fudge.
As she passes my minivan parked in the driveway, we hear it, his thumping and bumping. His bark.
Eagerly, patiently, quietly waiting for me to let him out.