Late yesterday afternoon I turn off the highway onto our road. In the ditch I see two dogs: a black lab and a St. Bernard… a BIG St. Bernard. These dogs don’t live on our road. I have no idea whose they are.
I pull over and open my window. “Hey, guys, what’s going on?” They raise their heads and begin ambling toward me, relief written all over their faces. Maybe this lady can help us get home.
As I climb out of the car, a van pulls up. A woman had passed the dogs on the highway, gone up to the turnaround, and returned, concerned they were about to wander onto the highway. The dogs mill around our legs as we talk, so we grab their collars. No ID tags.
“I wonder if they’ve been dumped,” I say. It happens a lot. People who take their dogs and cats into the country and push them out of the car to fend for themselves should be strapped in a parachute, flown to Antarctica, and pushed out the plane.
But I digress. “We can’t just leave them here,” the woman says.
I offer to take them, but not very enthusiastically. The woman says “I’ll take them.” She lives 1 1/2 hours to the south, and she’s heading north to a conference or something. “I can shift some of the luggage around.” Turns out she has a car filled with kids, luggage, and a pregnant sister. And still she’s willing to make room for about 200 pounds of dog. This is an animal-lover.
We discuss the animal shelter in Red Wing, 25 miles away. The pregnant sister wants to take them there.
I sigh. I’m tired. My irregular heartbeat is bugging me. I’m hungry. But I’ve lived in the country long enough to know that these dogs are my responsibility. It’s a rural thing. Lost dog, sick neighbor, whatever, there’s no dodging the responsibility.You just step up and help, no matter how tired you are.
“I’ll take them. I live around here. We’ll make some calls.”
The woman is skeptical, but I insist. We open the back of our Saturn Vue and the St. Bernard climbs in. There is no room left for the black lab, so I put her in the back seat. She doesn’t seem to know that she’s supposed to step in, as if she’s never been in a car before, so I must lift her in. I give the woman my website in case she wants to email to learn how the story ends.
As I’m driving home, part of me is thinking we will take them to the shelter and be done with them. Another part wonders that if no one claims them, will they be destroyed? Can we make room in our lives for an enormous St. Bernard? We’ve recently gone from three dogs down to one, but we’d resolved to not add more for at least a year.
Melissa loves the dogs. The black lab is so happy she whimpers with joy when we pet her.
Time for the phone calls. The dogs don’t belong south of the highway, so if they’re from the area, they’re from the north side of the highway.
Melissa calls the first person. The woman can’t think of anyone who might own those dogs, but she suggests Melissa call a second person. The second person isn’t home, so the phone is answered by a kid, maybe eight or ten years old. The kid doesn’t know anything, but takes down the information. Before they hang up, Melissa reminds him once again: “If your parents know anyone with a “Beethoven” dog, have them call me.”
Beethoven dog! Brilliant. The kid shouts, “Hey, I know who has one of those!” St. Bernard meant nothing to him, but the dog in the movie? Melissa says she doesn’t know much about kids, but she speaks their language like a pro.
Melissa looks up the phone number of the name the kid gave her. The woman who answers nearly falls apart with gratitude. They’ve been searching for two days, calling the sheriff, the shelters, driving in circles around their home. The dogs only live, as the crow flies, about 1 1/2 miles away. They’d wandered too far from home and couldn’t find their way back.
Ten minutes later she’s in our driveway and hugging the stuffing out of the dogs, Lucy and Rosie. We stuff Rosie into the backseat. The toddler strapped into the carseat is nearly buried in St. Bernard tail, but his grin reaches from ear to ear. “He’s been so worried,” says the mom.
The whole episode only took one hour, which is a pretty small investment for reuniting a family with their beloved dogs.
And what’s the woman going to do first thing this morning? Order ID tags. And me? I’ll be cleaning the dog slobber off the back of the seat.