The wonders of Walkabout… No fear

photo credit: me, that’s KT on the right

The dogs are still out! Jumping up from the sofa I dash for the back door. I lay down just for a minute when I got home from work and must have fallen asleep.

No dogs out back. Groan. I run for the front door and there is Kirin, waiting patiently. On the front porch. Outside the gate. Oh…where is KT?

When I brought the dogs back from being groomed yesterday I forgot to put the tags on the new collars. Groan again. It’s dark. He’s out. He isn’t tagged.

I started combing the neighborhood, which is no small feat with all the trees and other woodland camouflage a small black terrier can hide in. Passing our street corner for the third time I noticed a small white card, taped to the light pole.

“Found, small black dog. Took him to emergency vet.”

This wasn’t the first time, so I phoned the emergency vet down on University avenue and asked about KT. “Oh, yes, someone brought a Scottish terrier in earlier this evening. He looked to be in good shape so the gentleman took him home.” Someone took him. Breathe. At least he’s okay.

“Do you have a phone number for that person?” They did. It was close to midnight by now so the phone rang a few times before anyone answered.

“Do you have my dog?” I demanded, as calmly as I could.

“Do you know what time it is?” the man grumbled.

“Yes, and I need to know if you collected my Scottie from the road, took him to the vet on University and took off with him!”

“Well, yes. He was wandering aimlessly on Grizzly Peak. What kind of owner lets their dog be lost like that?”

“Wandering… he was right outside his house! He was freshly groomed with a brand new collar! How could you think he was lost? Do you have a dog?” I was panicking now. The dognapper had my little guy. “Where are you? I’m coming to get him. Give me your address.”

“Well maybe tomorrow…” he began sleepily. He wanted to keep my little guy. No way that was happening.

“No. I’m coming now.” I only needed my shoes, car key in hand.

“Now?” the man mumbled plaintively. He gave me the address. It was in Oakland, twenty minutes away. When I arrived and knocked on the door, he greeted me in his bathrobe.

“I bought him a can of dogfood (Canned food! You didn’t!) and he’s had his dinner. Do you want the rest of it?” The man was grumpy and obviously upset. I didn’t want to antagonize him. My mission was to collect KT and get home as quickly as possible. At this point, KT trotted out of a room at the back of the house and sat at my feet. I grabbed him in a hug, not sure whether I should kiss or shake him. He got in a car with a stranger! There wasn’t even food involved as far I could tell.

As politely as I could, I answered the man “No, thank you. I don’t give him that stuff.” I turned to go, with KT wandering after. I picked him up at the door, making sure the dognapper wouldn’t try anything.

In the car, I began to weep. From anger or relief, I wasn’t sure.

It wasn’t the first time. It wasn’t the second time. I needed help so I phoned my friend Sharon Callahan, a professional inter-species communicator. She laughingly refers to herself as the “Scottie Godmother” as she’s spoken with so many Scotties belonging to me and my friends. Sharon is a true angel, of infinite kindness. She is usually booked out several weeks but this time she made time for me. She said my tone of voice decided it. “You never sound like that” she told me.

The first time I talked with Sharon about KT he thought she was “someone I called to complain about his behaviour”. He thought he was really in for it and didn’t want to have the conversation. This time, though reticent as usual, he started right in. He could tell I was upset and he never liked that. This time he didn’t apologize, he tried to make me understand.

“…It’s the best! There’s really nothing like it. Out on your own, having an adventure”… I could smell the smells he was remembering, hear the sounds, and feel the air on his face. Oh sweetie…I love that too…

“But KT what if something happened to you?”

“I know you’re afraid I’ll be eaten or squished but there are angels around me all the time. They won’t let anything bad happen.” Sharon was smiling as she translated. That last gave me a smile as well. Angels surrounding him. I’m glad he knows that. I’m not so sure it’s enough in his case…he must have a veritable gaggle of guardians…

“I‘m glad the angels are with you KT and I understand how you feel… if you disappeared it would break my heart.” That seemed to give him pause. “Would it heal again?” he asked hopefully.

“That’s hardly the point!” My frustration was obvious. Small Scottie grins ensued.

“I’ll try to remember.” He’ll try. Brilliant.

“You’ll try to remember what exactly” Sharon told me he didn’t want to talk anymore. I could almost hear him whistling.

The next time it happened, he was gone overnight. It hadn’t happened before and I didn’t sleep a wink. Kirin and I walked the neighborhood trying to find him as I plastered light poles, street signs and trees with the flyers I now kept permanently on my computer desktop. LOST DOG. Photo. Address. Phone number. Reward. I didn’t have a mobile so we kept checking back home to see if anyone called. No luck.

We walked up the road again and, at one point, near the Altavista cul-de-sac, I could have sworn I heard his voice. I called his name and he barked back, twice. That had to be KT. Kirin and I walked the cul-de-sac, calling for him. Nothing. I thought I heard him again one more time, but we couldn’t find him. No one had their porch lights on so we didn’t want to knock on doors.

Next morning, 5AM, when the shift changes at the Berkeley Humane Society, I called it in. Again. I had already called the emergency vet. No Scotties last night. They had my number. The Humane Society answered in the affirmative, however.

“We had a dropoff just now” the clerk told me. The HS has several two-way drop boxes at their front gate. Someone on the outside can put an animal in one of the boxes, locking it from the front. It shows up somehow on the inside so that the animal can be taken in without risk of escape. KT thinks it is a terrible system. No loopholes.

I arrived at the Humane Society office at 6AM. The agent was happy I had come in. “Sometimes we have them for a day or two and sometimes no one ever comes” he said, as we made our way to the kennels. “When that happens we try to home them or they go to the pound.” The pound! Oh you little… honestly! And to think, you dug under the gate to get out!

When we got to the kennels, there he was, alone and dead center in a pen for large dogs. He couldn’t have looked more disgusted. Skirt fluffed around him like a pond of feathers, he had his head on his front paws, pouting.

“KT! How did you get here? Come home now.” He looked the other way, wearing his ‘so not amused’ look. It’s a classic. Finally he stood and stretched, still looking righteously aggrieved. As he followed me out to the front office, one of the attendants asked “Oh, is the little Scottie being adopted?” “Owner showed up,” the agent answered. “You should be more careful with him!” the attendant called after me.

Heavy sigh. Careful with the little rogue-muffin. Angels or no, you’re in for it this time! KT put on his terminally cute look. “You love me, you know you do”.

“Yes, I do.” I couldn’t help smiling. Groan. What am I going to do with you?

“That will be twenty-six dollars,” said the agent.

“For keeping him for a few hours?” I knew the vet would charge, but the Humane Society?

“No, we don’t charge for boarding. He doesn’t have a license. At least he’s neutered, or it would have cost fifty.” Muttering under my breath, I handed over the cash and clipped the lead to KT’s collar. “Okay let’s get you home. I have to get to work.” The agent asked if this had happened before. When I told him it had, he recommended several obvious strategies involving doors and gates and not letting a dog out on its own until I wanted to scream. Then he told me that I could file a profile with their office. Just in case. Two forms and another fifteen minutes later we were off home.

Saturday afternoon I had both dogs out at the parking pad. I was pruning and weeding and they wanted to supervise. I had them tethered because it makes sense and because there’s a bus stop at the bottom of the driveway.

KT likes to challenge the bus by stopping dead in the road in front of it and bouncing up and down, barking. The driver always tries the horn. That makes him bounce harder. I never understood why they make those stuffed windup toys bounce like that until I met KT. It’s a real thing.

I wasn’t up for rescuing buses from KT today so I tethered both Scotties. Kirin never does things like that. He is a bit shy of strangers, understands that big things with wheels are dangerous and doesn’t like it when I’m upset. KT will challenge anything. He has no fear.

About halfway through the pruning project, a light blue sedan pulled up next to us. KT began jumping up and down exuding terminal cuteness.

“Oh, it’s my little boyfriend” the nice lady cooed.

“You know him?” I asked, removing my muddy gloves to shake her hand.

“Oh yes, he visits me for cookies” she answered, smiling widely. “Isn’t he adorable?”

“Well I think so, and so does he apparently” I agreed.

“I was so worried about him!” she continued. “He came by a week or so ago after dark. I didn’t think he should be out alone at night so I kept him inside with me. He barked a few times at the door but then he curled right up on the sofa after a few cookies. So cute!”

“You don’t live on Altavista do you?” I asked.

“Why yes, just down the road, on the left side of the cul-de-sac. I knew my little friend must live close by. He’s so adorable.” She was still smiling beatifically at KT, blowing him kisses.

“Thank you so much for taking him in” I smiled again. “If he’s a nuisance, you can bring him home or phone me, now that you know where he lives.”

“Oh I will,” she waved as she drove off.

Rounding on him, I had to laugh. “You little rascal! You spent the night with your girlfriend and ended up in jail!”

KT never ran off again.

Of course that could be because we finished a stronger, dug-into-the-ground fence and gate that week. Bolted and sturdy. “KT-proof”.

He never lost his fear. He still ran at anything that moved, including ocean waves and moving vehicles. I learned to let him run on the end of a long flexi-lead. I wasn’t taking any more chances, angels or no.

KT’s job was to keep everyone laughing. He knew it and took it seriously. And he never lost his love of adventure. He never hesitated to try something new or take a risk, taking me with him sometimes.

Some of my best teachers have had four legs.

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