The Ballad of the Runaway Hamsterdog
March 03, 2016
If you follow me on any of the other InstaTwitBook things, you already know most of this, so forgive me for being obvious and repetitive here but I got exactly two hours of (awful, miserable) sleep last night and am crashing pretty hard.
Ceiba ran away yesterday.
"Ran away" probably isn't correct. More like a "meandering wander." A "let's go pee on some different grass" expedition gone horribly wrong.
I can't even recreate a timeline or explain exactly what happened. Jason and I both have different memories and guesstimates about When She Was Here and then When Suddenly We Realized She Wasn't.
I remember seeing her napping on a throw pillow on the floor of our bedroom right before I started making dinner. Jason disputes this, saying that he came home from work early and has zero memories of seeing her at all. I remember letting her outside via the basement doors and then letting her back in upstairs, but not specifically when. Or maybe I didn't actually let her back in, but just spotted her sunning herself out on the back deck, then assumed one of the boys would open the door for her later.
All I know is that by the time we realized she was missing she was capital M-I-S-S-I-N-G.
Our first morbid thought (when it was clear she wasn't coming when called) was that she'd crawled somewhere hard to find to die, so we grabbed flashlights and started looking under beds and in the backs of closets. Her recent health and behavior issues turned out to be mostly be mental -- a touch of dementia/senility, nothing interfering too badly with her quality of life, but perhaps we'd misjudged her state and comfort level.
While Jason searched the house I went outside and confirmed that both of the gates were closed. She couldn't have gotten out. She's around here somewhere.
She wasn't. We took the flashlights outside, and I realized that the big gusts of wind whipping through were rattling the one gate fairly substantially, creating just enough space that Ceiba possibly could squeeze through. Even though that's entirely unlike her. She's wandered outside the gate when it's been accidentally left open, taken a quick tour of the neighbor's backyard and then been immediately like, NAH I'M GOOD and come running back.
But by this point trying to figure it out didn't really matter. What mattered is that she was gone, we had no idea how long she'd been gone, how far she could have wandered, and it was now dark and cold and real and scary.
I asked Jason if he'd checked his phone, because his number is the one printed on her collar tag.
And that's when it dawned on me. She wasn't wearing her collar. She was lost and out there and she wasn't wearing her fucking collar.
Her collar was attached to her lead, so she would always have it on for walks and rides in the car, but at home I've (JUST RECENTLY LIKE IN THE PAST SIX WEEKS) been letting her go without it. The collapsing trachea, see. The coughing, is all. The collar seemed like it was maybe bothering her and making all that worse? She didn't cough as much when it was off, so no big deal, maybe one of these days I'll get online and research collars and tracheal collapse and see if it's all in my imagination or if there's some special sort of collar I should buy.
I sank onto the couch and started to cry. And no, we never got her microchipped because I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHY WE NEVER GOT HER MICROCHIPPED, we just never thought this would happen plus she always wore a collar and never wandered very far and always came right back oh my God I can't breath or feel most of my face.
Jason got in the car and started driving around while I got online and started posting frantic pleas for help. NextDoor, Craigslist, Facebook, whatever I could think of. I posted my phone number publicly and did not give a single fuck, I just wanted someone to tell me they saw her, they had her, they at least had an idea of where we could find her.
(Here is where I full admit I fibbed and said she "slipped out of her collar" on my initial FB/Instagram postings, which was a lie a lie a lie but I was forehead deep in guilt and self-blame and not really thinking all that clearly.)
Around 1 a.m. we realized it was time to give up. We'd have to wait until the morning and start making phone calls to vets and shelters, put up some flyers, maybe go door to door. She's so friendly and people-focused it seemed likely that someone could at least get her off the streets, but in her current confused/slightly senile state I realized she might panic and run instead. And then there's a wildlife factor! The scenarios were endless and they were all getting worse and worse in my head.
I continued to post to Facebook lost pet groups and pages in between sobbing fits; Jason decided this was as good a time as ever to cave and embrace the nostalgic corniness and watch a couple episodes of Fuller House. We both kept hearing phantom barks and scratches at the door.
I didn't sleep well, or much at all. When I woke up I enjoyed maybe 15 blissful seconds before I remembered what happened and the pain and fear and guilt all came pounding down on my chest.
It felt particularly terrible to think about her age -- she's almost 12 -- and that THIS might be how it ends. Just never knowing, never seeing her again, making it all the way to almost-12 and then to completely fail in our stewardship of her life and safety. This was not the ending I wanted for her. Or me. Or the kids.
This morning, the boys were blissfully ignorant and didn't even notice Ceiba's absence, and I decided to act like everything was fine and to hold off on making calls and flyers until they were off to school. (Max, on the other hand, was SPOOKED AS HELL and followed me around yowling at the top of his lungs.) I'd gotten zero actual leads from any of my overnight posting, no calls, no texts, no sightings, nada.
But right after I dropped Ike off at school, my phone rang. It was our county's Animal Control. They'd seen my Facebook postings. A MinPin had been brought in the day before who matched my photos, red fur, white face, clearly terrified and a bit confused but so, so sweet and cuddly and loving. You have 10 days to come claim her or else she becomes county property and also
"I'M ON MY WAY RIGHT NOW," I shrieked into the phone. "LITERALLY IN THE CAR MAKING A U-TURN IN YOUR GENERAL DIRECTION."
(Well, no, turns out I had to stop at the house first to grab Ceiba's rabies and spay certificates, and while I was there I figured, what the hell, let's put on a bra.)
It took all of five minutes to drive to Animal Control, and they immediately took me in the back to identify her. I suppose I could have managed to work in a mini-anxiety attack about it being the wrong MinPin, but that would have been a bit much, even for me. It was obviously our girl. Despite being very loved on and spoiled (she had a big fluffy bed with soft toys and extra blankets and when she wouldn't eat the kibble they hand fed her slices of cheese instead), she jumped and cried for joy when she saw me, clearly more than ready to get back home and rethink some of her choices.
I paid our fees and fine ($50 for off-leash off-property yeah yeah we clearly did all this to be law-breaking rebels) and asked them to microchip her, yes please, let us do that IMMEDIATELY. I don't care how much time this dog has left, she's not going to spend a single unnecessary minute of it away from home again.
Welcome home, Hamsterdog.