Millie ran away. Well, okay, she was outside, on her lead. She barked; I came out. Somehow my presence signaled, “Chase!” So wild was her running and jumping and diving and twisting, that the force of her movements opened her collar. (This is a collar safety feature that I was unaware of until today. This seems like an important piece of information that should be included with your purchase, similar to the little warning that they post about airbags on car visors: will open in the event of a crash.)
I could hardly blame her. How good that must feel. To run. To really see what those legs of hers can do. I get it. The best piece of advice I got at puppy school was “Sometimes you gotta let a dog be a dog.” But still. There I was, baby on one hip, barely dressed, busted collar at my feet, puppy with a wild look about her, zigzagging out of sight. I honestly thought, “That’s it. That’s the last of Millie.” (Can you tell I’m a new dog owner?) I went into the middle of the street to stop traffic (well, okay, the one car that ended up parking, two doors down), “If a wild brown puppy comes up to you, will you hold onto her for me?”
“You talking about that dog that just ran in front of my car? She headed south and she had some look in her eye; I don’t know that she’ll be coming back.” Huh. Not encouraging.
The superhero of the house, my five-year old, chose that moment to barge out the door, barreling down the steps, a squeaky toy in each hand, “Millie! Come home!” I shook myself out of my resigned stupor to join the chase, “Millie! Millie!” –Squeak! Squeak!–
Our little parade got as far as the corner, when we spotted our pup trotting through the neighbor’s backyard, “Millie?” –Squeak! Squeak!– It was a strange, frozen moment. I saw the three of us on one side of the street. Me: disheveled and desperate. The babe: hair sticking up in every direction, blueberry smoothie mustache, terribly excited by this wild new game. The five-year old: hot pink from head to toe, mud splattered, achingly earnest, a one girl squeaky toy punk band.
Millie lifted her head. I saw her hesitate. Consider the lure of compost, yet to be discovered. Dreams of wild bands of squirrels, conquered. Oh, the places she could run! But when she cocked her head to one side, that sweet little gesture that I’ve come to know, I knew we had her. A shift happened. So far we had been the ones doing the choosing, but now she would choose us. Crossing the street, tail wagging, as if to tell us about everything she’d seen and smelled. That was it. It was a good day to be a dog, and now she’d come home.