Thursday, September 24, 2009

Love Thursday: Love Searches

Saturday afternoon, my husband bought an outdoor fireplace. We had one up until early summer, when the legs gave way because they were rusted/burned through. I guess you could say we killed it. But it died from our love. We used that thing a lot. In fact, my son James, requested a wiener roast nearly every year for his birthday for about 6 years running. And, since his birthday is in late October--prime time for the roasting of wieners and other foods on a stick--we always obliged. We used it year round. Okay, not in February, when all we want to do is hibernate under the covers. My point is, it got a lot of use and when it died, we wanted another to replace it. So after several months without one and the occasional crisp night already making an appearance, replace it we did.

After threatening my three younger children all day with loss of fireplace privileges if they didn't get their rooms clean, evening finally came and with it clean rooms and bright happy faces at the thought of sitting out around the fire. I was excited too. I had a nice glass of Pinot Noir in my hand and had donned a cozy sweatshirt. I was ready to r-e-l-a-x. Alas, it was not to be.

The rest of the family had already pulled up chairs and were enjoying the heat from the fireplace as I was trying to tidy up and make my way out the door. Tilly had been prancing anxiously back and forth in front of the back door because she didn't want to be left out of the festivities. There was absolutely no meat involved in this particular evening around the fire, but Tilly did not care. She wanted out. As people came in and out the back door, they were all very careful, reminding each other to watch out for the dog. So guess who thought she was being careful?

Did you guess me? You did?! You win the million dollar grand prize. Er, minus the million dollars...

Tilly was out the door before I could grab her collar. I went after her, but not quickly, thinking that she'd stop when she came to one of the children. Wrong. It was dark and she just vanished. And not gradually either. It was like she melted into the night. That's a pretty nifty trick for a tan/yellow dog. But that's what happened.

We got the whistle. We got the dog treats. We got the squeaky ball. We got nuthin'. We walked around the cul-de-sac calling and whistling and squeaking. Pat took off hoping to find her down the street. I sent the children into the cul-de-sac behind our house and then I went into the back yard and called and whistled.

After about 5 minutes, Pat came home and got in his car to look around the neighborhood. The kids and I called and whistled and squeaked some more with exactly the same results. No dog. I didn't want to leave the fire unattended, but I also didn't want to stand around in my backyard, hollering for a dog that obviously was not around to hear us.

Finally after listening to my children grow more and more panicked, I called Patrick and asked him if he thought it would be safe for me to leave the fireplace unattended and take the kids in the van to look for the dog too. He welcomed the help, so the kids and I piled in the van armed with flashlights. I rolled the windows down and slowly drove through the neighborhood calling Tilly's name out the window.

The kids took turns calling the dog. I kept reassuring them that we'd find her. "She's micro chipped," I explained. "Her name and our phone number are on her collar. If someone finds her before we do, they'll call us. Worst case, she'll be picked up without a collar and whoever finds her will have her checked for a chip. It'll be okay."

James called and tried to reassure Sean that everything would be okay. Sean alternated between calling the dog and breaking down in tears. Mary called the dog and offered her things. "Tilly!! Come home! We have your squeaky ball! Come home! We have a cozy bed! We have treats!"

I didn't want to mention the absolute worst case--that a driver wouldn't see her in the dark and that we wouldn't get her back. It was too awful to think about, so I just kept whispering prayers and shouting for the dumb dog.

Patrick and I headed home at the same time; him to get a flashlight and scramble through the trees to check the bajillionaire neighborhood and me to check the answering machine. Nothing.

I climbed back into the van. Now I was worried that we wouldn't find the dog, but I was also worried that I'd be getting a phone call from my husband asking me to come explain to the police just exactly why he was prowling back yards in a gated community with a flashlight. I might have mentioned before that we are Riffraff. Yeah. We totally are.

He called me several minutes later asking me to pick him up outside the gates. I found him by the side of the road and he got in to drive. We decided to cruise the next neighborhood where we'd found Tills before and then we'd head back to our house again to check the phone.

We found nothing, yet again, so we headed back to our house. Neither of us was willing to talk about how long we'd keep the search up, but it was getting late and the kids were needing to head to bed.

As we were heading down our street, we saw some of our neighbors around their own fire pit in their back yard and decided to stop and asked if Tilly had made an appearance. Knowing how she is drawn to people, (Attention Ho) we thought there was a small possibility that they might have seen her. The boys scrambled out of the van to go ask. Patrick and I waited impatiently in the van. Mary sang a song about Tilly. As the boys climbed back in they reported that no one there had seen the dog.

Unsure of exactly what to do next, Patrick pulled away from the curb and drove about two houses down. And then, James yelled "There she is!"

And sure enough, there she was, sniffing the tree in our neighbor's yard, oblivious to anything but the delicious scents wafting up her little doggy nostrils. Pat and the boys clambered out and Tilly wagged and cowered. Oh yeah. She totally knew that she was in trouble. Except that she wasn't. We were much too happy to have found her to scold her. She was hugged and kissed and hugged some more, all the while being bathed in Puppy Talk.

We headed home, gave her a much-needed bowl of water and then tried to proceed with our interrupted evening around the fire. We talked about our scariest moments and thoughts during our search. We talked about how happy we were to have her back and how different life would be without our Silly Tilly around. We talked about how great it was to pull together as a family. I told the kids that as much as I loved Tilly, I loved them even more and if it were one of them that was lost, I would be beside myself and I would never, ever stop looking for them.

We realized later where Tilly must have gone. Our neighbors across the cul-de-sac have two Beagles and no fence. We think that Tilly was probably sniffing around to her heart's content in their yard, showing her facility with selective listening and partial attention, never realizing that she was lost.

As I thought about Tilly later in the week, I thought about how similar I am to my dog. I have often wandered through my life, oblivious to my lostness, paying no attention to Who might be calling for me. I have often demonstrated my own facility with selective listening and partial attention, paying no heed when my Master calls. And just like my dog, I put myself in peril each time I do it--living for the pleasure of my whims. But, I am also like my dog, in that I have Someone who loves me and never stops calling, never stops searching, and welcomes me with open arms when I am finally found.

The things you can learn from your dog, huh? Happy Love Thursday everyone! May you listen for the sound of your Master's voice and feel His welcoming love.

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