Runaway Dog

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.

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.

Yes sir.

I really did try.

30 comments

  1. Joan - July 23, 2017 1:50 pm

    Oh boy I was holding my breath. Hoping. Kept reading with more hoping. Thank You, Lord for a happy ending–even though it was smelly!

    Reply
  2. Cathi Russell - July 23, 2017 1:56 pm

    So glad Ellie got home!!!

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  3. Nancy Watson - July 23, 2017 2:03 pm

    My black-and-tan coonhound – Buford- did the same thing. Gone overnight, came back looking and smelling like he’d been to one of Dante’s levels. A friend told me that hounds will return if they can – and when they’re good and ready. So glad Ellie Mae is back!!

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  4. Steve Welch - July 23, 2017 2:16 pm

    My “Ellie Mae” is a 100 pound German Shephard male named Neiman. Raised him from 12 weeks old for Dogs for Autism, but he turned out to have a minor hip joint gap that put him out of the program at 12 months old. Kind of like flat feet keeping one out of the Army. I decided to keep him. He knows about 400 words, so it is like having a permanent 4 year old. On days I am not in court, he goes to work with me. Bilo still lets him shop with me, as does CVS. He knows all my secrets, but has never told nary a one. My wife says I treat him better than I do her. I told her if she would acted as excited as he does to see me and jump up in my lap when I come home like he does, I would treat her better as well.

    They say you can tell a lot about a person by they way they act around kids and dogs. If that is true, Ellie Mae is truly blessed to have your compassionate soul as a life companion. Do not let her down, or fail to meet her expectations.

    Somehow, I know you won’t. Thanks for uplifting my mood once a day. I owe you.

    Reply
  5. Connie - July 23, 2017 2:25 pm

    So glad she made it home. We have a little fella who will run off so fast it will make your head swim. I can’t count the number of times he has streaked past someone out the front door, where there’s no fence. Scares me to death every time. Walking the streets with flashlights, begging and calling, desperate to have him home. So far we’ve been lucky and he’s sleeping soundly on the sofa beside me. He’s all of 18 pounds, rescued from the shelter with buckshot in his side because people are awful. But he’s loved fiercely, like you obviously love yours. Give her an extra treat for coming home.

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  6. Esteban Rudman - July 23, 2017 2:40 pm

    Been there. Done that. Perhaps you heard the proof of the axiom that dogs are man’s best friend. If you lock your wife and your dog in the trunk of your car and release them after an hour, your dog will be happy to see you. Like many jokes, there’s more than a bit of truth in this. It’s a good idea to treat your wife better than your dog as she has a longer memory.

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  7. Lydia Dillard - July 23, 2017 2:46 pm

    I think Heaven will understand if you happen to keep tellin that joke. I heard that joke when I was in 8th grade. Can’t remember all the details of it but I know Mr. Rab bitt caused me to get a spankin I when I tried to tell it in my Southern Baptist home. B.T.W. I am 55 years old now. Old joke.

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  8. Dottie - July 23, 2017 3:20 pm

    Thank you for writing what anyone who loves a pet experiences when we lose them, even for a few hours. So glad you found your furry family member.

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  9. Denise Mills - July 23, 2017 3:25 pm

    I too have so many stories of searching for dogs that got away for a while. In my case, all had happy safe returns, even if not immediate. These days, I hear that you can get a GPS tracking collar for your dog. I have a friend who adopted a foxhound from a local rescue organization. When that dog escapes, he has covered miles before you even blink an eye. The GPS collar has been, quite literally, a lifesaver. Something to consider, for anyone who has a frequent or far-ranging escape artist.

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  10. Jeannie - July 23, 2017 3:29 pm

    OMG, you scared me to death. If you had not found Ellie Mae my heart would simply break for you and your wife. I would cry and cry and definitely bring you a cassarole. Maybe, God got back from his break earlier than expected and hope that you are in Church as I am writing this. At least by a recycle bin!

    Reply
  11. Kelly - July 23, 2017 4:08 pm

    You had me going for a few words with this one. My heart was all ready to break for you and your wife. Thank God he was listening this time and decided you need Ellie Mae more right now than he does. Darn dogs, anyway.

    Reply
  12. Lucretia Jones - July 23, 2017 4:26 pm

    Yes, we do get the blessings. . .

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  13. ArdisK - July 23, 2017 4:42 pm

    Been there. Done that. Both ways, in one way or another. It is never easy. So thankful that your Ellie May came home safe.

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  14. Elaine Hobson Miller - July 23, 2017 5:00 pm

    Now, don’t forget those promises you made to Heaven! 🙂

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  15. Bobbie - July 23, 2017 5:29 pm

    So happy and so thankful Ellie Mae is home!

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  16. Gail Stewart - July 23, 2017 5:33 pm

    Yes sir been there done that too many times to count! Praying begging God to bring my fur babies home from the woods after chasing a rabbit off! 🐇🐕🐾

    Reply
  17. Marisa Franca @ All Our Way - July 23, 2017 5:44 pm

    I’m sorry! I had to read the end before I could continue. I’m terrible that way — I have to know the ending of the book (story), especially the story that involves a pet.

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  18. Sharon Dodd - July 23, 2017 7:23 pm

    I am so glad Ellie Mae made it back home. I was almost blubbering by the time I got to the end.

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  19. L.Meadow - July 23, 2017 8:03 pm

    Ahh man! Sweet, but I do believe every single post you write makes me tear up!
    …and that is ok. Great post!

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  20. Susan in Georgia - July 23, 2017 9:52 pm

    I raced through the words, having to discipline myself to NOT read the end of your Ellie Mae tale. Sooo glad she came home. Have fun recyling!

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  21. Kathy - July 23, 2017 11:17 pm

    So happy this ended well for you all!

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  22. Patricia Gibson - July 24, 2017 1:13 am

    I know exactly how you felt! I use to tell the buzZARD and RabBIT joke too. One of few I could remember.

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  23. Buck Godwin - July 24, 2017 2:19 am

    I too have told the Mister Buzz-ARD and Mister Rab-BIT joke far too many times to count and it’s one of my favorite jokes of all time. I’m not sure I would made a promise to stop telling that one, but a deal’s a deal and ya gotta stop telling it!
    I’m very glad you got your coon hound back and the story about it sure was a good un!

    Reply
  24. Michael Hawke - July 24, 2017 2:22 am

    My wife and I know that feeling.

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  25. Jack Quanstrum - July 24, 2017 3:23 am

    Man and dog! Wonderful story Sean. Touching. Keep sharing your heart.

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  26. Kathi Harper Hill - July 24, 2017 4:00 pm

    Whew! and praise the Lord!

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  27. Sandy - July 24, 2017 8:23 pm

    I was holding my breath. We have a dog whose ‘mother’, Pat, has lung cancer; she wanted to get someone to care for Holly before she would begin any treatments. Now, she loves my husband so much she won’t even do much more than say hello to Pat when they see her.
    Anyway, Pat says Holly gets ‘the red mist’ when she goes off after a squirrel, cat what have you. Only thing is, she has a good sense of smell, but not good sense of direction. So, when she comes back to ‘normal’, then she is lost. She even gets lost in the house if she hasn’t seen him go upstairs. She has to smell everywhere else before she will believe me he has gone up there. Then smells the stair and says ‘Oh there you are! Upstairs!’ (Thank God for the reassurance of a microchip.)
    Anyway, this wasn’t going to be about her. But about being glad Ellie Mae knew where you were when the red mist died down.
    Love to read your stories.

    Reply
  28. Wendy - July 24, 2017 10:55 pm

    I’m late to be commenting on this one, but the very same thing happened to us following our move from B’ham to Spanish Fort. Our precious cockapoo Darby became disoriented & we suppose he was trying to get back to Birmingham. A new neighbor happened to know that he was ours. She also said she’d seen him “on the side of the road”…about 3 miles from our home. We rushed to get him, not knowing his condition but prayed all the way. Darby was okay but very quiet as in a stupor. He seemed as if he was just waiting for our rescue.

    Reply
  29. R. - July 25, 2017 7:54 pm

    I think it has been at least 30, maybe 40 or more years since I heard that joke. Still one of my favorites; maybe because it is the only one I can remember. Love your writings. Love my dogs also!!!!

    Reply
  30. Gail - July 26, 2017 1:17 am

    Soooo glad she came home!! I had to jump to the end – otherwise tears would flow big time.

    Reply

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