Disappearing Dogs

 

I like dogs.

If you’re compiling a list, you can put me down in the Dog Lover column.

Dogs are great companions, they’re always happy to see you, (unless you give them a reason not to be) and they don’t give you attitude. Besides, when’s the last time you saw a seeing-eye cat?

Full disclosure: I don’t own a dog.

On the surface, that may seem a bit contradictory. What kind of a hipster doofus claims to be a dog lover, but doesn’t have a dog?

There is a logical reason why my couch is not upholstered in doggy hair.

  1. I tend to become emotionally attached to dogs.
  2. Dogs don’t live forever. They either grow old and sick and invariably wander off to the Happy Doggie Hunting Ground, or they tend to meander in the road, and you know what that involves. The end result is the same— an extended vacation in the aforementioned hunting ground.

 

When I was very young, I had a collie named Tarzan (his previous owner had bestowed that moniker upon him, not I). One day when I was at school or out hunting pheasants or slaying ye olde dragons, my little furry buddy just disappeared. I came home one afternoon and discovered he was nowhere on the premises. Tarzan had slipped out the back, Jack.

Tarzan was on the lam.

I expected one day I would spot my furry canine buddy trotting up the driveway, wagging his tail, whistling a merry tune, and sporting a “By the by, terribly sorry I was away so long, old chum” look in his eyes, leaving me to fill in the blanks on his recent whereabouts.

But Tarzan didn’t come home. No card. No phone call. No telegram.

Doggone.

I once had a dog who I warned against playing in the road. When I explained that those big metal boxes on wheels that go fast would not stop while he trotted carefree back and forth across the road, he wasn’t convinced. He looked at me with his little head cocked at an angle, made a scoffing sound, shook his head, and turned away. Not long after that, I was outside one day when I saw a car stopped in the road. A man got out, looked down, and waved to get my attention. As I stood gawking in a feeble attempt to decipher his arm signals, he repeatedly pointed to something on the ground. Finally, he slid back inside his car and drove away.

My heart plummeted when I saw the familiar brownish lump lying prone and lifeless in the road.

I now live in a residential area with a road that curves just past my house. Sometimes drivers take that curve at a good clip. Making a left turn into my driveway is a daily crapshoot. One night several years back, a reddish pickup truck took out most of my mailbox before vamoosing down the road. I know it was red because he conveniently left part of the front bumper behind. I’m surprised he didn’t land the truck upside down in my yard.

I’ve spotted groups of dogs congregating around that area. I don’t know why some dogs have no fear of moving cars. I’ve seen a few reclining in the road as if they were sunning on the deck of a five-star hotel in Maui, never blinking once at the two-ton Buick Riviera swerving off the road to avoid hitting them.

I can’t explain it. It’s just how some dogs are wired. Scientists call them intrepidus caninicus. Roughly translated, it means “Fearless Fidos.”

A few years ago, a relative gave us a black Lab named Elvis. (For some reason, people like giving me dogs with interesting names.) I became fond of Elvis, and he didn’t recline in the road like he was at the country club pool. But Elvis had a habit of disappearing. He’d be gone for a few days, then a week. It got to the point where he was away for months at a time. I remember once we had guests over for a cookout or something. I’m having a conversation with someone and suddenly a black Lab walks up to me, his coat covered in dirt.

“Elvis!” I said, not hiding my excitement. I sounded like I was 10 years old.

But Elvis was a rambler and a rover. He was a drifter, a gadabout. Elvis wasn’t about to give up his vagabond ways and by the next morning, he had caught a train to Dogpatch or wherever his ilk liked to gather.

I never saw him again.

Elvis, old pal, those were good times. Wherever you are, I hope you’re doing well. I hope there are lots of big, juicy steaks for you.

And if you happen to see Tarzan, give him a message from me:

“What? No postcard?” 78

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