It all happened fast. Someone left our front door wide open after unloading groceries—someone who looks like me but shall remain nameless.
My coonhound, Ellie Mae, caught sight of our neighbor’s cat. Before I could grab her, she departed for parts unknown.
She ran away so fast her paws barely touched the ground.
And she was gone.
I searched the woods. I drove side streets with windows rolled down. I knocked on doors. I rattled a tin food bowl and used a high-pitched voice. I whistled. Clapped. Begged. No sign.
When I got home, I sat on my porch. I hoped I’d see a black-and-tan dot, trotting toward me. I waited two hours. Nothing.
The last time a dog escaped my care, things didn’t fare well.
My dog, Joe, dug beneath our fence and bolted for Birmingham. He was gone half the day. I got a phone call. An official voice told me a dog had been found on the side of the highway. Those were the exact words used.
“The side of the highway…”
Someone dropped Joe at a veterinary hospital. The doctor shaved the back of his body and cut him twelve different ways. I borrowed money to pay for surgery.
I visited the clinic. Joe laid in a steel cage. He looked terrified.
“I’m not gonna candy coat this,” said the doc. “His chances are slim. You might wanna say your goodbyes.”
I held Joe. He rested his head on my lap. I told him it was going to be okay. I told him how much I loved him. I hummed—he always liked it when I hummed.
I asked God for a favor. God must’ve been on lunch break that day.
The next afternoon, Joe went limp. I cried so hard I had to take two days off work.
Anyway, I didn’t cry for Ellie. I would not. I held myself together. I sat in my den, looking at old photographs of her. I couldn’t seem to control my mind. I thought up some horrible scenarios involving automobiles and Hollywood-style explosions.
The sun set. No Ellie. I went to bed late. I tossed and turned. I went outside on our porch. I listened to nighttime crickets and frogs. I half-expected her to waltz the sidewalk. No luck.
I made all sorts of promises to Heaven. I swore to attend church more often, to recycle, to never again tell the joke about Mister Buz-ZARD and Mister Rab-BIT.
I fell asleep on a porch chair and developed a stiff neck. I walked inside around three in the morning.
When I woke, it was late. The sun was out. I could hear something in the other room.
I opened the bedroom door to see my wife holding ninety pounds of black-and-tan on a leash.
Ellie was covered in mud and she smelled like a cow pie.
“She was whining at the door when I woke up,” said my wife.
When Ellie Mae ran toward me, I crouched low, held her close, and I tried my absolute best to hold it together.
I really did try.