Last Modified: Monday, July 30, 2012 9:09 PM
First hint that something was up came early on a Friday. I’d walk about the house, come back to find my cell phone and see phone numbers I did not recognize. Lots of ’em.
Wrong numbers, I thought. But so many.
The cellular onslaught continued, still a mystery to me, until finally I caught the phone ringing in my office, where I’d placed it on my desk. A kind soul inquired, “Are you the man advertising the dog?”
Oh. I was.
In fact, I’d forgotten I’d taken out such an ad in our classified section. Colleague Laura Heller had insisted I advertise in the classifieds the small pup that had wandered into my Moss Bluff neighborhood, taking up residence on my front step two weeks before. Don’t take him to the pound, she said, which is exactly what I had said I was going to do. Folks always respond to dog ads, she said.
So she typed up an ad for me with the lead-in line: Save me from the pound! “I am a Chihuahua mix with a tan coat. I am small, playful and have a good personality. I need a good home fast.”
My little canine visitor was miniature but muscular; I’d dubbed him Thor two weeks before, then scanned the want ads, day after day, hopeful that an owner might be searching for him. No such luck. Neighbors suggested otherwise; they said the dog had likely been dumped in the subdivision by someone who did not want him. That’s where we found him, a couple of doors down at an empty house on a hot morning in early July.
Thor and I quickly bonded in the early mornings, when I’d emerge from the house in running togs and set out for a 4-miler. Thor, the only creature in the subdivision with shorter legs than mine, would follow ... then lead ... then run into the street or into a neighbor’s garage.
“He’s not mine,” I’d insist at every raised eyebrow that greeted us. “Just a stray.”
Unable to keep him — we have no fence, which the subdivision requires for pet owners — we kept him around, feeding him and, in the mornings, taking him on the run. Early on he’d shown some tenderness in a back leg. Perhaps he’d been kicked, or hit by a car. Nonetheless, he’d run alongside — or at least in the vicinity — of me, morning after morning. At night, he’d greet me at the front walk. His occasional limp reminded me that not every dog’s life is a happy one, but I would marvel at Thor’s optimism. If I opened the door in my robe, intent on getting the paper, he’d bound ahead halfway down the block, certain our jog was just beginning. Not so fast, I’d have to tell him. If I looked out the door, he’d rise on his back legs, certain I’d come to see him.
I marveled, too, at the number of callers who took an interest in Thor that Friday and in the days after. I handled dozens of calls. Maybe it was Laura’s ad, maybe it was the fact that people have a soft spot for imperiled puppies. But I promised an early caller I’d wait for her at the house at 6:30 that Friday night, and advised her to bring a carrying case for Thor.
As I waited for her, I had misgivings about giving up my running buddy. I fed him and, seated on a bench, scratched his head. Then a car turned the corner and a nice lady whose own dog had died recently was on my lawn, holding a biscuit toward Thor. “He’s so sweet,” she said, and she was right.
He looked warily at her, and I petted his head and lifted him into the carrying case. He seemed uncertain about his fate as I waved at him in the back seat and said, “You be good, Thor.” I knew he would be.
Then the car grew smaller, and disappeared. And I turned for the house, sure that Saturday’s run would seem long. And lonely.
Ken Stickney is editor of the American Press.