It was a strawberry Fruit Loop. So innocently offered was this unassuming lure; all chunky and lopsided with sugar crystals disproportionately spread around the pale red morsel. I looked it over and glanced at the owner of the extended hand that held the treat. Two sad blue eyes behind tousled locks, and her eyebrows knitted in a frown from her frustrated chase. “I can’t catch her. Can you help us?” The girl and her sister had been chasing the little stray dog that had been roaming the park when we arrived. They had no success despite their tireless attempts, so Kendra volunteered my services in helping them capture the pup. The girls were very concerned that the dog would run into some type of harm or another, so they eagerly sought my support. Harmless enough, I thought. Use the cereal to attract the dog, or at least give it an honest effort and then get back to watching the boys climb on the park equipment. I reached out and grabbed the Fruit Loop… and little did I realize, I had sprung the trap.
All I really wanted to do was go on a little bike ride. I figured we would take the boys to the park and let them play awhile. January evenings in Phoenix can be quite accommodating, so several families were out enjoying the end of another 80 degree day. With all the children and activity, I hardly noticed the little scamp of a canine running around the park…but Ethan did. He and I had seen a couple stray dogs a few days earlier when we were at another neighborhood park. We tried to corral them and locate any identification or contact information for them, but they evaded us. They looked like they had been on the run for a while. Ethan wasn’t too impressed by those dogs… they were fairly large and somewhat aggressive, though not towards him. We talked a little about the kind of dog we should get “one day” and we decided it wouldn’t be a yappy dog or a “jump on you” dog, but outside of those criterion, we didn’t really nail down a description. But, as I was pushing Ethan on the swings and looking around to see what Jaden and Dillon were up to, Ethan made a comment that I dismissed. “That’s the kind of dog we want daddy” he told me as he watched the little black dog run across the park. “I will pet it. That is a good dog.” I watched the dog scamper away from the children pursuing it and told him something about maybe trying to pet the dog once he was done swinging. He was fine with that and did not mention it again.
I took a look at the dog as Ethan and I walked over to the slides. It was scraggly and small. This was not the kind of dog I was interested in having. I’ve imagined our family dog on several occasions, and in no scenario did the dog resemble this one. I shook my head. Poor dog. Running around looking haggard and hungry. Many of the children attempted to play with it, but it wouldn’t let anyone close. I don’t know what made Ethan think that was the kind of dog he would want to pet, let alone have to keep… I let it go. We played a while longer…the little stray dog blended into the background and out of my mind. And then came the Fruit Loop.
I walked in the direction of the scruffy little pup and tried to formulate my capture plan. I figured I would get down low and offer the treat and then grab the collar to check for some contact information. Then I noticed the collar… it was brown leather with white rhinestones in the shape of doggy bones… seriously? This was certainly not the kind of dog we were going to get. I ran back through my arguments for getting a pit bull… or at least a lab. There had to be a way to sell Kendra on the idea.
The little sparkly collar dog was not the least bit interested in my cereal bait. I tried a couple more times and was ready to give up. The dog started running off to the other end of the park. Then the little girl upped the pressure. She started walking after the bedazzled mongrel and her little sister followed suit. They both looked back at me as they pressed on. “I think her name is ‘Mercedes’. I saw her collar earlier and I think that was her name.” I began to walk slowly with them as I tried to let the dog build a head start. “Mercedes”? Please.
I kept the dog in my vision but allowed it to gain ground ahead of us. I didn’t want to play chase all night, but I also didn’t want the dog to get hurt. Traffic around the park was picking up, and the little import was getting close to the streets. “I hope she don’t get hit by a ca-ah”. The little sister played the guilt card. I picked up my pace a little. Little sister broke out the “ca-ah” line again, but this time she choked a little bit and leaned into her big sister. I knew I wasn’t leaving that park without knowing that dog was safe somewhere. I have never felt more relieved that I did not have little girls than I did at that moment. I would be a mess.
The dog stopped at the edge of the sidewalk and we were able to catch up to her. I tried the Fruit Loop again. This time, she darted into the street. Great. Now cars were stopping in either direction as this little black dog with the sparkly boned collar played Frogger and weaved between and beneath the cars. I gave chase and directed traffic under the close supervision of the worried sisters. Finally, the chase ended as an unsuspecting motorist stopped her car to make sure she didn’t hit the dog. As she stepped out of her vehicle to see where the pup went, the dog jumped into the car and under the feet of the woman’s son who was riding in the passenger seat. Another driver stopped to help us as we tried to coax the dog out of the car, but it was of no use. We were able to locate a phone number on the dog collar, but when I placed a call, it went straight to voicemail.
One of the ladies remarked that she had seen this dog running the streets in the area for at least a week. I left a message on the voicemail and we stood around waiting for one of us to volunteer to take the dog home while we waited to hear from the owners. I was not in a hurry to volunteer to take the dog home. Kendra is allergic to most dogs, and tiny dogs named Mercedes wearing jewel encrusted collars were not really my style…but we had to do something. I figured maybe I would keep her in the backyard until we straightened things out with her owners. Poor thing. At least it would be safe.
So, the lady followed me and Jaden home (we rode our bikes; she drove slowly behind), and we got the dog into the backyard. Jaden made a friend with the little boy while his mom and I got the dog situated in the backyard. We left Logan in charge of the dog. I placed another phone call and left another message, then we drove back to pick up Kendra and the other boys. It was getting dark.
The sisters walked by with their mom as we loaded up the bikes. I let them know we had the dog safely in our backyard. Fruit Loop looked up at me. “I saw another dog running around on the other side of the park”. I averted my eyes. I could not be sucked in again. “I think I caught my limit today”. I ducked my head and hurried to the driver side door. I glanced around but didn’t see any other dogs. Whew.
The plan was to let the dog stay in the backyard as we hunted down her owners. I placed calls. I left messages. We looked on websites. We drove through neighborhoods looking for postings. Nothing. I left a final message begging the people to call me back. I let them know I couldn’t keep the dog and that I would have no choice but to take her to a shelter the next day. That was the plan. But it was getting cold…and the dog had been through so much…and she really was a good dog. She loved the boys. She warmed up to them right away. She didn’t yap. She didn’t jump on Ethan. She was a great dog.
We put out a blanket and let her come inside. We borrowed some dog food, some shampoo, and a brush from some friends. She needed to eat, and she needed a bath. We couldn’t put her back outside after a bath. She would freeze. I figured she would sleep in the laundry room, but she was so good that it would probably be okay if she just slept downstairs on her blanket. We had to address the dog in some way…but I could not bring myself to call her Mercedes. Kendra had the perfect compromise – Sadie. It sounded close enough so the dog might find it familiar. We tried it. It worked. Sadie it is.
We warned the kids before bed…if the owners call or we get a hold of them, we would have to give her back. They said they understood. They tried to keep their distance emotionally. But as they headed to bed, Dillon looked at me and said, “I do think she’s happy here though”. She did seem happy. She is a good dog.
I realized around 1am that I could not find the dog. Kendra joined me as I searched. We poked through Logan’s room (his was the only other bedroom door that was open). He looked up at us to inquire as to our activities. We told him we were looking for the dog. “You already lost the dog you just found?” Go back to sleep. I went back downstairs. Kendra went back into our room. “A-ha!” Kendra found her. She had curled up under our bed.
In the morning, Sadie would not come out from under the bed. I coaxed and called. Nothing. Then, when the boys came in they knelt beside the bed and called her. Out she came. Please don’t call…please don’t call.
We took Sadie to get checked out and ended up making some appointments for shots and grooming. The lady says she is some type of Terrier mix (I called that one) and that she is the kind of dog that has ‘hair’ instead of ‘fur’… the kind of dog that Kendra is not allergic to. Please don’t call…please don’t call!
The phone never rang. The boys have all but assumed total ownership of Sadie now. Jaden and Dillon tried to fight back smiles as they went to bed tonight knowing they would wake up tomorrow and see Sadie’s little black tail wagging in delight. They are in love with this dog… and I don’t think she’s too bad either.
We did get her a new collar…and a leash… and a food dish and a place mat and a frisbee…just in case she stays a while. I never saw it coming. But sometimes the places life takes us unexpectedly are far superior to the places we plan to go.
Thanks for coming along for the ride…