We lost our dog. And I never, ever thought that could happen.
It was a normal night. Though I suppose it always starts like that. It would be odd for a story to begin with “It was an abnormal night; one that was itching for a horrible event,” but I digress.
We, my boyfriend Austin and I, were concluding our night – turning off the TV, putting away our laptops, getting ready for bed. And any dog owner knows that the “getting ready for bed” process truly starts with walking the dog. Our dog, also known as the best dog in the whole world, is named Brody. He’s a black pug mix who weighs about 15 lbs. And he’s friggin adorable.
Austin typically walks Brody at night because, true to Philadelphia living, there are cockroaches all over the streets and I prefer not to fraternize with that sort of creature. So he takes one for the team and braves the bugs each night. I typically head upstairs to play with our fat cat, Alley – she’s in need of a bit more activity – and this night was no different than the rest.
About six or seven minutes after the door closes, I heard a horrible scream from outside. Even the cat got wide-eyed. Thirty seconds later, Austin comes careening through the door in a panic. “Babe! I need help! He ran off! He’s gone!!” To be honest, I thought he, or someone nearby, had been stabbed; that was the level of terror in his voice.
It’s moments like these that no one really thinks about – because who would want to – and therefore, you never really know how you’ll act. If you had asked me a week prior, I probably would have described myself as the panicker in a situation such as this. Austin’s always been much more even keeled than me. But when the moment happens, all previous notions or suppositions are lost. Austin panicked. I, for some reason, remained eerily calm and pragmatic.
I first grabbed Austin, tried to calm him down and looked him in the eyes to focus his mind.
Austin described the situation: they were walking the normal route, nothing out of the ordinary, moving ridiculously slow and smelling every leaf that floated by. Then Brody got spooked. To this day, Austin still racks his mind for what could have possibly spooked him, but he lost his sh** and bolted. He ran straight through a four-way intersection. Austin still relives this moment with agita – the taste of bile and utter numbness that sets in when you’re about to watch your dog die.
But for some blessed reason, Brody was able to run across those streets unscathed as he darted toward our off-street.
By the time Austin got back to the house, he couldn’t see Brody anywhere. He ran inside to get me, and we both set out to find him. Austin hopped on his bike while I ran up and down the surrounding streets calling Brody’s name with the friendliest, un-pained voice I could manage in hopes of coaxing him home to me. It’s funny how another living thing (pet, child, etc) takes complete precedence. I completely neglected shoes, and ran out the door in my nightgown – no bra. Lucky for me, these bee stings pretty much stay put.
After about ten minutes, I ran into Austin two streets over – nothing. I carried both our phones in my pockets, hoping someone would be able to come close enough to grab Brody and read the phone numbers on his tag, though both Austin and I knew that was unlikely – he’s not the type of dog to willingly approach others.
We split up again, Austin on his bike, me on my still-nude feet. My mind had no concept of the ragged blisters forming on my soles; adrenaline had taken care of that.
An hour later, we were still at a loss and my hard, organized shell was cracking. The only thing keeping me fastened together was knowing that I had become Austin’s rock – a position he’s played numerous times for me – so I could not break down yet. For him.
I decided to go back to our street and focus on the nooks and crannies around there while Austin scoured the parks nearby. It makes me sick to even think this, but I was resigned at this point. It seemed like such an impossible battle to fight – I’ve never felt so helpless.
While walking past our door once more, I saw a small black cat crossing the street a half block down. I knew it was a long shot; I didn’t even run. I moseyed down the street just so I could say I did. I turned the corner and my eyes locked with my frightened ball of fur. What I thought was a cat was in fact my Bro Bro.
Relief poured down my face. I bent down, ensuring not to spook him, and called him over. He stood there, statuesque, covered in mud with a look of disbelief on his face. As soon as my arms wrapped around him I ran the half block to my house. Austin was rounding the corner just as I pulled out my phone and his face came to life.
I held my focus as I approached our door. But once inside, I crumbled. All composure lost. For ten minutes we all just sat there. Partially in shock. Partially in prayer. Trying to make sense of a situation that we’ll never figure out.
We don’t know where he went. How he got that dirty. Why he ran in the first place. But that’s not really for us to know. What we do know is every moment with him is precious and if we didn’t know it before, we certainly know it now.