This seems an appropriate day to tell Dinah’s 4th of July story. Dinah has always been a very brave animal–warning away all the dangerous deer and bunnies in our yard, doing battle with a hand-held orbital floor sander (while we were taking a break from forcing it to work on our floor, she slipped into the living room, grabbed it in her teeth, and repeatedly smashed it against the floor until she subdued it), protecting us from postal carriers and UPS and FedEx delivery folks, barking anytime she noticed there was excess oxygen. She was fearless–afraid of nothing.

Two years ago on July 4 we decided we’d slip out for a quick dinner at our favorite shrimp place. First Child was at a fireworks-watching party, Second Child was at sleep-away camp for the week, and we were all alone for the night. It was a beautiful evening and we knew we’d be back soon, so we left Dinah in the yard, of which roughly an acre is enclosed by invisible fencing. This is her paradise–a huge, grassy expanse with a covered porch, both sunny and shady places, squirrels and chipmunks to bully, and an elevated deck from which she loves to survey her kingdom.

The fencing is also her protection–though we have a very large back yard, the house is 200+ years old, and as is often the case with old houses, it sits very close to the road (the road being considerably wider than it was in 1790), and the road is a heavily traveled state highway, especially busy in the summer as it leads to a popular state beach about 3 miles south of here.

As it happened, though, it was such a lovely evening that we decided to leave the car downtown (downtown, you understand, is all of 2 blocks long where I live) and walk down to the beach to see a bit of the fireworks display that the town sponsors–they shoot the rockets from an offshore barge and we (and scores of other people) know just which beach to visit for the best viewing. We got home at about 10, relaxed, full of shrimp and with sandy feet.

Our surprise at not being met at the end of the path (the edge of her invisibly fenced territory) by Dinah when we got home quickly turned to concern, then to fear, then to horror. Dinah was gone. Not on or under the porch, not snoozing by the cedar tree, not surveying her kingdom from the deck. Not responding to our calls, nor to the rattle of the biscuit box.

Gone.

The pack leader got in the car and drove all over the neighborhood, looking and calling. First Child, when he returned from his own fireworks viewing, joined in the hunt. So did the local police, who cruised through our part of town looking for her, too. At 2 a.m., sick with dread, we went to bed, but not to sleep. I kept wondering how we’d tell Second Child that her dog had run away and been hit by a car.

At 6:30 we were up and making Lost Dog signs on the computer. We figured we could start calling neighbors at around 8 a.m., and made a list of folks to call. We called the pound, but no one was there yet. I was heartsick. How could she be gone? She had never challenged the invisible fence–had someone taken her? And she was completely clueless about roads, and ours was so busy.

At 7:40, the phone rang. “I hate to call so early,” a woman said, “But I think I have your dog. She’s with me and she’s fine.” Dinah was okay (fine, even)! And found. The Pack Leader had his car keys out before I was even off the phone. No more than 10 minutes later Dinah bounded into the house. I was just limp with relief, and I think she was, too. I sat down in the kitchen floor (still in my bathrobe) and Dinah threw herself down, put her head in my lap, and simply howled. And I burst into tears and said furiously to my husband, “Someday she’ll REALLY be gone or she’ll die and break my heart because I love this dog and IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT.”

“Yup,” he said, and smiled. My dog person gene had suddenly activated.

Our heroine had refused David’s offer of a cash reward for her kindness, but later in the afternoon I made a loaf of homemade bread and took it up to the house where Dinah had been found. The house was about a mile up the road from us, but on the same street and–mercifully–the same side of the road. Slowly we began to piece together what we had suspected the night before. People in the neighborhood had also been putting on their own fireworks shows. And Dinah got scared, and, panicking, ran across her fence line, then, not wanting to get zapped again by running back through it, ran away from the yard through the woods. As the crow flies (or the terrified airedale scampers), she could have reached her rescuer’s house without ever going near the road. The woman who found her said she’d gone out early to put her trash cans out for collection, and found Dinah sitting in her garage. Dinah was tired and dirty and scared, but she let the woman pet her and check her collar tags, including the one with our name and phone number on it. When the Pack Leader pulled up in their driveway, she was sitting on the porch enjoying being petted by the woman’s two small kids, but when she saw the PL she bolted for his car and hopped in over him as soon as he opened the door to get out. “Home, Dad,” she said.

Ever since that night, though, she’s been terrified of fireworks, and of thunder. So tonight while the kids are roasting marshmallows, we’ll slip her one with a Benadryl tablet inside (vet’s suggestion), and as the bombs are bursting in air, Dinah will be under the Pack Leader’s desk, her head tucked between his knees, waiting for the ruckus to subside. And I’ll be up the street babysitting Tris, the dog of friends of ours who will be away this evening, protecting her from the scary fireworks and keeping her from pulling the baseboard heaters off their walls, her personal fear response. In the next town over, my friend Sandi will be calming her noise-phobic dog Jordie, who has been known to eat through the drywall when it storms.

It’s a tough job. But a dog person’s gotta do it.

Advertisements