Adventures with dogs

Because Steve and I raise service dogs, our experience with them has always been my main focus in writing this blog. But once in a while our participation in the one doggy world leads us, unexpectedly, to other communities. That happened this past weekend.

091217 Nico1
What’s he DOING here?!

The adventure started late Saturday afternoon, when heart-rending yowls began to reverberate up and down our block. To me they didn’t sound urgent enough to be coming from an injured animal; rather they seemed to signal emotional distress. At some point, they stopped and I would have quickly forgotten them. But Sunday when I woke up around 6:30 am, the anguished screams had started up again.

They bothered me enough that I went outside to try and figure out where they were coming from. The source seemed to be a small house across and down the street, one belonging to an absentee owner who has rented it out for many years. But from the sidewalk, I could see little.

A few minutes later, Steve and I departed with Beverly on our routine Sunday-morning walk, but as we were returning, we ran into two other neighbors, both of whom were out walking their dogs. Both expressed distress over the continuing canine racket.

“I wonder if we should call Animal Welfare,” one said. That seemed like an overreaction to me, but I volunteered to try and contact the neighbor who manages the rental house.  I dialed her mobile phone a few minutes later, but only got a recording. All I could do was leave a message.

The shrieking continued, with more shrieks piercing the quiet morning every few minutes. I started to fret. What if this dog was badly dehydrated? What if its owner (whom I didn’t know) had passed out, prompting it, Lassie-like, to cry out for help?

“We have to check further,” I said to Steve. “Come with me!”

This time we walked up to the front door, which we could see was open. Only a heavy metal screen door barred the entrance. Standing behind it, looking anxious, a little white poodle-esque creature looked up at us and wagged its tail. By this time, my next-door neighbor (Jodie, a great dog lover) had emerged from her house and joined us. Inside Mr. Poodle’s house, what we could glimpse looked immaculate, and we could hear the sound of a distant television. But where was the tenant?

I explained that I had tried to contact the neighbors who manage the property. “Oh, they’re off in Italy,” announced MJ, from the sidewalk, where she had her dog on a leash. MJ lives on the next block over, but she works part-time at a popular coffee house and knows a lot about what’s going on.

“That explains why they didn’t respond to the yowling!” I said, happy that at least one mystery was solved.

Christianne, who lives directly across the street from Joanie, had also emerged from her house by this point. She pointed out that Joanie had been recovering from a long illness, and she wondered if there was any chance the young woman had suffered a relapse. With the screen door was locked, however, we couldn’t just walk in to check.

Jodie, emboldened by concern, decided to try the side gate. A minute later, she emerged with the little dog snuggled up in her arms. His collar indicated that he was “Nicolo.”

Eventually, Jodie and Steve went back into the house and determined it was indeed empty. More discussion ensued, with Steve and I finally agreeing to take Nicolo to our house for a while. In the meantime, Jodie wrote a note and attached it to the door, explaining what had happened to the pet. When we walked in the front door holding the now-silent little creature, Beverly and Tucker sprang to their feet, astonished. Clearly, this was the most interesting thing that had happened on any Sunday morning in memory. They wanted to sniff and romp with whatever it was.

Nico only trembled. I carried him into our backyard and down to the lower level that serves as the dogs’ toileting area. I set him down, and Beverly instantly bore down on him. Fearing for his life, Nico zoomed up the stairs and ran straight into the swimming pool. The fact that it was filled with water clearly surprised him. But he managed to swim, and Steve fished him out with little effort. We dried him off, then placed him in one of our kennels. There he never emitted a peep.

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Accompanied by Jodie, his owner finally showed up after an hour or two. She explained that she had rescued the little dog from a shelter some months ago and had hardly ever left him alone. But her schedule was changing, and she would have to do so increasingly in the coming weeks and months. She seemed chagrinned at the news of his vocal impact on the neighborhood. I felt relieved that she also seemed to understand the concern that drove us all to rescue him.

Jodie and we both offered to care for him on future occasions, but I’m not sure how that’s like to play out. This afternoon he was yowling again. I think I’m starting to get used to it.

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