I used to say I wasn't an animal person. It was a family trait. When my brother Sam (the one with the decorating advice) was in a elementary music class, an effervescent teacher asked him to name his favorite animal.
"I don't like animals," he said blankly.
I didn't like animals too much either. I had an imaginary horse (because I was once a tween girl) that I would exercise around the yard, and I had a barn cat I called Boots; but in general none of us were animal people.
When I fell for an animal enthusiast named Matthew, I pretended to like animals.
Then this happened:
|"Are they all yours?"|
Be careful what you say when you're in the purely hormonal stage of love. You might find yourself bottle feeding a lamb at 2 am or putting Neosporin on duck feet with a cotton swab.
Last night after work, I got a phone call from my Dad. I was having a nice chat with him and my mom, but I had to run into Trader Joe's, so I asked if I could call him back. We were in desperate need of groceries. It was to the point where Matt would say, "Do we have..." and I'd just say "No" without looking up because we had nothing. We had some mustard, pickles and three gallons of apple cider. That is about it.
Loaded up at Trader Joe's, I texted Matt that I was heading home to make potato soup.
I was driving along, thinking about stuffing figs with goat cheese and getting ready to call my dad back, when I saw a little beagle walking down the side of the road.
Now, two weeks ago, my neighbor Kris called to tell me that someone was going door to door looking for their lost beagle. I had seen a beagle the day before she called. I immediately felt guilty for not having worked harder to coax that beagle into my car. The owners were looking for him, and he was probably gone forever.
That thought is the only explanation for what happened next.
I pulled over next to the beagle. He spun around, and began to head in the opposite direction. I pulled a three-point turn and pulled in front of him again. He changed directions again. I changed directions again.
This time I got lucky. He ran into a bush and hunched down. I jumped out of the car, and surveyed my groceries. I passed over the figs and goat cheese and pulled out some Genoa salami. Crouching down in front of the beagle, I waved the salami in the air and tried to ignore the cars flying past my car which was now parked facing the wrong direction.
Recalling my brief stint at Petsmart dog training with Henry, I cooed "Come here, boy. Come get some salami."
I tore off a piece and ate it in front of him.
It must have worked, because he wiggled out and ate the remaining salami. As he licked his lips, I scooped him up and put him in my car.
I was now a hero. Forgotten was the negligence of not picking up the beagle last time. I would return him to his anxious family.
I called Kris to tell her the good news.
"I usually write down the name and number, but I didn't this time," she said. "I don't remember who it was."
Well, that put a little hitch in my giddy-up, but if the owners were going door to door down the street, then surely someone else would know who he belonged to. Kris thought that the people two houses down from us had a beagle and agreed to meet me there. As I was pulling in, Matt called.
"I just got home. Where are you?"
"Well, I found this beagle, and I'm taking him to the yellow house next door to return him. Do you want to meet me here?"
"Uh, ok?" he said.
I went up to the front door and knocked. A woman about my age came to the door, but didn't open the screen. She did have a beagle. Literally. She had her beagle, and it hadn't ever gone missing. I was telling her my story, when Matt pulled in behind me.
"Who's that?" She asked wide-eyed.
"Oh that's just my husband." I waved my hand dismissively. "Do you know anyone else with beagles?"
Kris's silver SUV pulled in behind Matt. She stuck her head out and yelled, "Is it hers?"
"Who is that?" Beagle neighbor asked, her eyes even wider.
"That's Kris. She lives between us." She should have known that, I think.
She assured me she didn't know any other beagle owners and disappeared back into her house.
Kris said she was going home to eat dinner, and then she'd help me canvas.
I walked over to Matt's car where he was giving me his signature "how do you get me into these situations" look.
"Meet me at home," he said. "And you and I will canvas now."
It wasn't until I moved the beagle into Matt's car, that I noticed the dog was missing a leg. I was starting to get the uneasy feeling that this wasn't the same beagle that was originally missing two weeks ago.
There are only three houses on about forty acres between us and the road where I found the beagle. It was about time we met them all anyway.
At the first house I met J. She is widowed and lives with her widowed sister. Her sister gardens and J manages the hummingbird feeders. She didn't know who the beagle belonged to.
At the second house, E answered the door and said "Come in," before I had a chance to say anything. Inside her cool living room, she gestured to the couch and said "Sit down." She had a Bible in her hand. I decided I had either accidentally wandered into a Bible study or she thought I was a Jehovah's Witness. She didn't seem at all surprised when I told her why I was there.
She thought she did know who the beagle belonged to. I'm sure there was nothing wrong with her directions, but I'm terrible with following directions, and the descriptors of "past the cows" and "not the one off the road but the one near the road" where really throwing me.
Setting down her Bible, she said "I'd better just go with you."
She walked out with me to the car.
"Do you need to tell your husband where you're going?" I asked.
"Oh he won't miss me," she laughed.
I tried to laugh too while imagining explaining this to a policeman.
Matt's face was a mask of politeness as this frail woman got into the front seat.
There was no one home at the house E took us too. One the way back, we swung by the third house on the street.
I knocked on the door and heard "There's someone in the yard...mumble mumble mumble." I hoped that the mumbling wasn't "Quick get the gun." After a while, I thought maybe it had been "Hurry and hide." But based on the appearance of the man who came to the door it was "Pull on some clothes." He didn't know who the beagle belonged to either.
Matt and I took E home and looked at each other.
"I don't think this is the same beagle," I admitted. "Maybe we should take him back."
Matt agreed with me, and he headed down the road. "Just let me know when we get to where you found him."
Three miles later I told him to pull over.
"Elizabeth," he said. "You found a dog three miles from home and assumed that he was the same one that was lost? You do realize that you might have even taken him off the property he belongs on."
That had occurred to me by now, yes.
I pulled the beagle out and put him back exactly where I'd found him. We drove off.
Matt summed it up: "Here I am, pulling in the driveway, imagining that you are inside making potato soup. You aren't home. I call you and you tell me 'I'm at a strangers house with a three-legged beagle.'" He sighed. "Life with you is never boring."
It's what he gets for trying to make me an animal person.
(And, Dad, I'm sorry I never called you back. Things took a little longer than I thought).