The dog has run away again. It’s the third time this month. One of the construction workers accidentally left our backyard gate open, and Bowie wandered out. Or maybe he darted out—I don’t know, since, busy washing dishes and corralling the kids, I didn’t see it happen. When I looked out the kitchen window and saw the gate wide open, I knew he was gone. He’d never let an opportunity like this—for freedom, adventure —go to waste. I dropped the sippy cup I’d been rinsing, yelled at my husband to watch the kids and sprinted out of the house. I was barefoot, but didn’t want to waste another second. As fast as he runs, he could be two towns away.
But at the sidewalk, I stop. Because we like to give him variety on his morning walk, we take him on a different route each day. He could be anywhere. I have to decide which way he loves the best.
I tell myself to think like a dog. Or, more specifically, to think like this dog. Surely he would’ve stopped at the stained mattress our next-door neighbor left at the curb weeks ago, which we’ve all complained about. Bowie likes to pee on it to show his disgust. He seems to feel it’s his civic duty. I choose to head in that direction.
I ring the doorbell of the house three doors down, where his girlfriend, a Toy Poodle named Coco, lives. They haven’t seen him but promise to be on the lookout. What else might have sidetracked him?
I run past someone’s heartbreaking Lost Dog poster. I imagine making one for Bowie, hoping it doesn’t come to that: his Beagle face looking forlorn, his huge light-brown eyes ringed with what looks like Goth-black guyliner, the perpetual puppy pudge even though he’s eight and his tricolor is turning white with age and his black body is speckled with what we tell him is a “distinguished gray.” We haven’t been getting along that well lately; I have less time for him. He resents the fact that my husband and I have introduced two new babies, less than a year apart, into his life and sacred space. I imagine he misses our original pack—my husband, him, me—and the way we used to dote on him, our little Beagle prince, named Beauregard for how good-looking he was, then nicknamed the more accessible Bowie for the playful personality that quickly emerged.
If it was at all possible for a hound’s face to fall any lower, it did the day we brought our first daughter home from the hospital. I don’t know what he’d been expecting us to bring back after those few days away. A Labrador, maybe? It was like we’d given him socks for Christmas. Now that baby has a sister, and both girls love him rough. They squeal in his ears and kiss him a little too hard and pull his tail when trying to keep up with him.
No wonder he’s run away, I think, as I scream his name in every direction. I run a street over, checking to see if he’s loitering around the pachysandra he likes to poop in. But he’s nowhere in sight and the street is eerily quiet.
He had so been enjoying having the construction workers around: new people, new smells. He walked around them with a swagger, like he was their foreman, inspecting their work. He crawled under the house with the nicest one, as if to hand the guy tools as he needed them. He’d sun himself beside them during their lunch breaks, and afterward they’d give him whatever food was left—an orange segment, a bite of empanada. My husband and I joked about fitting him for a tool belt.
A couple of the workers climbed up on our roof right before I ran out, acting as aerial guides and promising me they’d yell if they saw him. Even though he resents the babies, Bowie’s always been tolerant. During the course of a year, he endures the bunny ears, the turkey headdress, the Santa hat. Each time, as he stares at the camera, his eyes say, “You know I descended from wolves, right? You know I could kill you but show great restraint and choose not to, right?” We’re certain that’s how he sees himself: he stalks … a tennis ball. He eviscerates … a stuffed animal.
Maybe he’s run off to be a wolf. Maybe he’s searching for the respect he feels he deserves. More likely, he found a scent and followed it.
I run to the trash bins in the alley two streets from our house, where he once found the remnants of a discarded chicken dinner. He checks in there every so often in hopes of a similar bounty.