February 27, 2012

In Which Tess Knocks At Least A Year Off Her Mother's Life

"I took Tess' leash off in the parking lot and she ran right down to the dog park and waited for me!"
Half asleep on the couch, I roused myself for long enough to muster what I hoped was a proud look before shuffling off to bed. Had my brain been truly functional Saturday night upon hearing this information, I might have had a more significant reaction. I might have thought to say to my husband "Don't you think that's a little risky?" or "Maybe the middle of the night isn't the best time to test this?" or "Are you crazy?! This is the dog that doesn't know 'come' and you're just letting her run free??" But Saturday night, I let it go. I curled up in bed while my night owl hubby made a snack and all was forgotten.
Fast forward to last night, when during a lull in the Oscar action I convinced Dan that we should both stand outside in the freezing cold wind while Tess wandered around, sniffed, chased shadows, and possibly (hopefully) used the bathroom. You know, there's nothing like bonding when you can't feel your face or toes. But sure enough, as we crossed the parking lot to the dog park (less than 50 yards away at that point), Dan unclipped Tess' leash and instructed her to "wait for us at the gate!" I could have sworn I heard the dog mutter something akin to "suckers" as she trotted off and disappeared down the hill. I fought the urge to chase her as Dan assured me that she had done so well the night before. When we got to the top of that same hill less than 15 seconds later, though, all we saw was a black blur traveling fast around the fence of the park... on the outside. Headed not towards the gate, but away from it and into the woods.
Both Dan and I started to yell her name, clap our hands, and generally make as many convincing noises as we could, struggling to keep an eye on her as she got further and further away. The one drawback to our lovely dog park, besides the fact that it turns into something like a mud wrestling pit when it rains, is that there is very little lighting in the area, so it is super dark by that time of night. Trying to track a black dog goes something like this...
Eventually we caught sight of her about 100 yards away and down a huge hill, running around in the parking lot of one of the other apartment blocks. We both jogged down the hill, but by the time we got down there she was, of course, gone. Dan headed in one direction and I walked in another, just in time to glimpse her headed down another steep hill and toward the road that leads out of our neighborhood. A road that is lined with trees and eventually leads another very dark, very forest-lined road where cars have a tendency to whip around corners and regularly hit 20 mph over the speed limit. I yelled for Dan and took off.
Of course by the time I got halfway to the spot I had last seen her, she was gone again. Luckily there are streetlights in that area, but even in the light she was nowhere to be found. As Dan headed down the hill on foot, I started back towards home to get in the car, visions of a night spent driving in circles, yelling Tess' name into the dark flashing through my head. I knew that the poor girl had not called our home "home" for long enough to find her way back from very far away, and I was terrified that she was gone forever. I could imagine the phone calls we would have to make: "no, she didn't slip her collar or jump the fence... no no, we let her go...." Worst dog parents in the world right here, ladies and gentlemen.
When I reached the top of the road, though, I happened to look up and across to our neighborhood's office (closed for the night), and who do I see loping towards me from the mail kiosk, just as happy as can be?
That's right, the dog who will remain on a leash any time she even thinks about the outdoors for the remainder of her life. 
I don't know about you, but I always prefer to end my weekends with a freezing cold, terrifying, late-night chase through the neighborhood.



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