The two of us were walking early one Sunday morning, on our long walk far from home and back, when out of the woods bounded the one person we did not want to join us: somebody else’s dog.
Dogs love to go for walks. But especially they love being part of a pack going for a walk. Two people – four legs – suffice to comprise a pack. They think it’s even more fun when they know should be tied, confined, or otherwise restrained, but, by some miracle, they’re not.
So we were, yet again, accompanied by an unleashed dog who trotted happily ahead of us, occasionally glancing back to make sure the pack was still moving in the same direction, then falling behind to sniff stuff and sprinting to catch up.
Our general approach was to (1) avoid speaking to Dog, thereby not encouraging its presence, which failed because Dog had already decided we were pack-mates; (2) hide, which also failed because Dog already knew the scent of its new buddies; and, when all else failed (3) look for a police officer whose job might be to help people and lost dogs and who might not have anything more exciting to do on a Sunday morning.
Fact: You can’t control what happens to a strange dog whose name you don’t even know, or the naughty things the dog might do. But other fact: You feel responsible just the same. You would feel responsible if Dog, bounding joyfully in new-found freedom, got hit by a car. You feel responsible when Dog chases a (very annoyed) runner. You feel responsible for the disapproving looks from motorists. You wish you had worn the T-shirts that say, in very large letters, “NOT OUR DOG.”
The picture in my dictionary suggests that this dog was a chow – a medium size “heavy-coated blocky dog with a broad head and muzzle, a very full ruff of long hair, and a distinctive blue-black tongue and black-lined mouth.” I can verify the blocky shape and the full ruff. I did not personally venture to examine the tongue and lining of the mouth.
While we were on the back roads, Dog was well behaved, sniffing and trotting. But on a busier road, he had a couple of close calls with cars and we received some of those disapproving annoyed-motorist looks. Not Our Dog!
As we tried to decide whether to phone the police, a young woman walked toward us on the other side of the road. Dog danced carelessly across the street to say hello. She hollered, “Your dog is going to get hit!” Not Our Dog! Not Our Dog!
We crossed the street to explain.
We were standing in front of a house. The couple on the porch overheard our conversation and joined us. Now there were five of us, talking about Dog, talking to Dog, checking Dog’s dog tags, while Dog sat happily among us, delighted to have five new friends instead of only two.
The kind dog-lovers at the house agreed to take responsibility for reuniting Dog with its owners. We were grateful and continued on our walk. When I glanced back, Dog was looking longingly after us, as if he were trying to figure out why the pack was breaking up so soon.
Later, I learned that, thanks to the kind couple and the police, Dog, by then a guest of the dog officer, was reunited with Owners.
This is one lost-dog story that has a happy ending. If it were up to me, they would all end happily. But, as I said, Not Our Dog.