We didn't know it until it was time to call them in. Thea and Violet (good girls) came right away, and it's not all that unusual for Lucy to lag a bit behind, lingering over some doggie-pleasing smell in the back yard. But when I called once, then twice and not a rustle. I knew something was wrong.
It was 10:20 p.m.
Of the three dogs, it's Lucy's escape I fear the most. The other two? When they've escaped, they waddle their way back to the front door. Not Lucy. Nose to the ground, on-the-scent beagle, she heeds nothing when she's past the confines of the gate. And she bolts too. The few times she's slid past the perimeter of our yard, she's bolted as fast as she could, nose and body low to the ground, running flat out. It's happened a couple of times. Enough so that we learned the trick of luring her back. Sweet-talking words, "Come on baby girl," and me of all people, low to the ground like I can't wait to see her. She always comes to me.
Standing in the dark, feeling the temperature dropping, it was hard to imagine that this was anything but impossible. I hadn't started to panic exactly, but I just didn't see how, in the dark late night with a bolting dog, we could ever get her home.
Callum was undone. We traipsed around the back yards. Neel and Callum walked the block with a flashlight. We called out as loud as we dared given the late hour. A neighbor came by walking her dog, and she promised to keep an eye out. Then Neel decided to get in the car and drive. Somehow we both knew I should stay home, in case she scented her way back, so when he got Thea into the car, Callum and I stayed behind. Callum, restless, couldn't stay outside. I, restless, couldn't go in.
So I stood there waiting, breathing in the night air. It's funny. I'm rarely out that late, unless it's running from the car to the house. Getting inside, out from the cold. It was a beautiful night. Star-filled and crisply clear. Listening to every rustle, every distant bark, I tried not to worry, but really? How could this end well? When I stepped inside for a minute, Callum went out to spell me. We all knew that someone needed to be outside at all times, waiting for her to come home.
I came out to find Tyler talking with Callum. Our avowed dog non-loving neighbor took our boy out looking, diving through back-yard underbrush to search for our pup. I knew it was as much to keep Callum's mind occuppied as anything else, and I was so grateful for that. I was not doing such a good job at that myself.
So there I stood, alone in the yard. Listening to every rustle and every distant bark. Trying not to worry. I'm still not sure how it happened, but my mind alerted to more barking and movment along the street. Bolting toward me, flat-out fast. Could it be our beagle?
I called out her name, "Come here, Lucy-girl!" But she was so low to the ground, I almost wondered if it was our height-challenged Corgi. Had Neel let her out of the car to come home? No! It was a beagle, certain of it. Lucy, making her mad-cap way as fast as she could back to her home.
She tumbled up to the yard, just short of me and stopped flat. She's been known to dart away before, but she didn't this time. She wouldn't look at me, but stared instead at the house as I dove towards her and wrapped my fingers around her collar. That's when my heart started beating madly and my breath came fast. I called Neel right away. "She's home!" I told him. "She just ran back to me."
He was back in a heartbeat, and the three dogs were reunited in the warmth of the house. We tried to call Tyler, and before the phone stopped ringing, I looked up to see him and Callum walking down the block towards the house. Hugs all around. Relief-filled hugs and tears too. And everyone bundled back into the warmth, away from the cold night.
She'd been gone an hour. It was now nearing midnight. No one was ready for sleep at that point. Thea and Violet were restless, demanding biscuits as if they were the ones who'd been on the great adventure. (Although I guess Thea does have a point when she claims that she "herded" Lucy home.) Lucy watched them pace about the place a bit before curling up on the Christmas bed and falling gratefully asleep. Lucy, we've always joked, has never been the brightest of our dogs. And we pictured her blithely wandering along before suddenly realizing that she was far from home and the world was a big, big (scary) place. "Mama? Papa? Callum? Where am I?"
It was a scary, long hour for all of us. We all fell gratefully into bed after that particular nightmare. Neel was up before me Sunday morning, and when I came downstairs, he was already laughing. "I had to carry Lucy outside this morning," he told me. "She was curled up in her crate and shaking, and she wouldn't go."
Then he told me, "When I set her outside, she just stood there on the porch. Still shivering and obviously scared to go into the yard. Thea took one look at her, barked right in her face and pushed her down the steps.
"She's fine now."