Lost Dogs

He escaped on New Year's Eve. My wife called me to deliver the news. The first thing she said was, “You're gonna wanna sit down, honey.”

“Have you seen a golden Lab?” she asked, standing on my front doorstep. “He’s about this high, orange collar, I chased him through the woods yesterday, his name’s Cuckoo…”

There was no mistaking that look she wore. Dog owners recognize it from a mile off. Worry mixed with rage.

She left me a with flyer featuring the picture of a yellow Labrador and telephone number. The thing hung on our refrigerator for almost a week. It sat directly between the photo of my nephew, and my wife’s note which read:

“Don’t drink from THE ORANGE JUICE CONTAINER or I will cut your heart out with a melon-baller!!!! XOXO, Your Wife.”

Thus, each time I’d swing open the fridge, I’d see Cuckoo smiling at me, urging me to reconsider grabbing the OJ.

As it happens, I know what it’s like to have a dog go missing. Your mind starts playing tricks on you. You wonder how an animal could be so decidedly stupid to bolt off. Then you wonder how YOU could be so stupid for letting it happen. Then you just feel sick.

We lost a dog once. He slept in our bathtub. I don’t know why, but

he slept there every night. He was a strange one. He hated thunder, lawn-sprinklers, caterpillars, and anyone who knocked on doors.

His turn-ons were: dead things, snot rags, and fresh excrement from most medium-sized mammals.

He escaped on New Year’s Eve. My wife called me to deliver the news. The first thing she said was, “You’re gonna wanna sit down, honey.” I don’t remember any other words after that, except: “…they found Joe on the side of the road.”

On New Year’s Day, we visited Joe at the veterinary hospital. His entire backside, ruined. He just looked at me with tired eyes, which seemed to talk to me. I think he was apologizing.

So was I.

Watching him go felt like a swift kick to the temple.

Sometimes, while half asleep, I stumble into the bathroom, glance at our empty bathtub, and my chest gets sore. You just don’t get over losing your friend.

Anyway, a few months ago, I noticed something had been frequenting our porch late at night, stealing cat food. A coon maybe, or a possum. Whatever it was, it made messes, and left heartfelt mementos in our front yard.

Well, I’m not sure how it happened, but one evening, I managed to catch this wild varmint.

It wasn’t half as hard as it sounds.

He answered to the name, Cuckoo.

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