At 22 years old and fresh out of college I decided I didn’t want to live alone and wanted company. So I bought a dog. An 8 week old beagle puppy I named Shadow. Shadow was all energy and honestly quite a handful in my tiny apartment. But he was lovable. And it’s thanks to him I started talking with my next door neighbor who eventually turned into my husband.
Shadow came with us to Atlanta and California, enduring a 2 week cross country road trip. Until two years ago, he never lived in a house with a yard, he’s always been in apartments and had to be walked several times a day. Until we moved to the house, he was used to being led by a leash. We had a few times where he escaped, but he never went far, and always found his way home quite quickly.
Shadow was a “senior citizen” already when the children came along. He was long past his puppy days, but gently withstood the torments of children, and they became fast friends. This last December Shadow turned 16 years old. His eyes are going, his hearing is going, his hips are starting to have issues, and he’s on a regular dose of pain and allergy medication. However, the vet constantly says that he is remarkably healthy for his age. As of late, he’s having trouble going up and down the two steps to the backyard, and we have been watching our old dog with fondness, knowing he’s in the sunset of his life and enjoying each day with him.
However, this old dog has learned from us, and seems to still have our adventurous spirit. After a contractor came to the house for work inspection, the side gate was accidentally left open all night. My husband and I were sleeping, and my son, trying to be responsible, decided to feed the Shadow and let him out in the backyard while he went to watch his TV shows. He quickly got sucked in and never noticed that Shadow never barked to be let back in…
Shadow’s nose is going, but it’s not gone yet. And he loves to follow it. He followed it out the gate. He followed it to the front lawn. He followed it up the hill out of the private street where we lived. And he followed it right out of the private neighborhood up to a busy street where cars fly by at 40 – 50 mph. As he explored, a young woman walked out, ready to head to work. She happened to work in a vet hospital several miles away. She saw the old dog limping along and realized he was lost. But she was late for work. So being the great person she was, she coaxed him over, got him in his car and took him to work with him! Shadow will follow anyone with food, and curled up, loving the car ride and the adventure.
Meanwhile, back in our house, my husband and I got up late enjoying a lazy Saturday. I got my daughter dressed for dance, ate breakfast, walked up to get the mail, went to pull in the garbage cans and …noticed the gate was open. It was at that moment I realized I never saw Shadow in the morning. I ran back in the house yelling for Shadow. My husband thought I was nuts. I mentioned the open gate. My son suddenly realized Shadow never came back in. After a few moments it was clear he wasn’t in the house asleep somewhere. A search of the neighbor’s yards turned up nothing. At this point it had been about two hours since he was let out. I knew he was lost and I started to panic.
We elicited the neighbors help, immediately posted it on NextDoor and some lost pets groups on Facebook, and went on a foot and car search of the neighborhood. As I’m driving around looking in yards, I get a phone call. “Hello, I think I have your dog, Shadow?” I burst into tears. I was shaking. I had to pull over. I had never in that moment been so relieved. It turned out while we were on a searching house to house, he was curled up warm and safe, being fed and pampered, at a vet 20+ miles away!
My husband and son went to fetch the dog, and to give a small token of our appreciation for his rescuer. They arrived and he came over, wagging his tail, none the wiser that he had created quite the fuss. He was pampered and spoiled with love and attention, driven home, and given all his comfy beds to make sure he could nap after his adventure. In the evening I noticed he had a spring in his step and more energy than I’ve seen in a long long time. I may think he’s in the twilight of his life, but Shadow made sure to let us know he still has spunk and spirit left in him. He wants adventure too.
*Starred photos taken by Atma Photography