The Game Changer That Wasn't

The Ballad of the Runaway Hamsterdog

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


(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. 



You mean, you both "cried for joy," right? Now I'm crying too dammit.


THANK GOD. I'm SO SO GLAD for you!!!!!


When I saw your post, my heart was breaking for you...I shared it immediately. Having two fur babies myself (one with a semi-frosty face turning 9 in a few weeks), I know the love.


So happy for you all! Love her face. It's like "guaranteed royal treatment like forevah!"

Cheryl S.

Ceiba's great adventure! Seriously, though, that's scary as hell. Glad you found her.


I was SOOOOOOO happy when you posted that she'd been found. Hopefully she had a grand adventure, got it out of her system, and is ready to keep her tiny rear end at home where it belongs from now on!

Sue W.

So glad she is home safe and sound and hopefully none the worse for wear.


Sorry you had to go though that. So happy you have her back. This is my worst nightmare, even though I have a kid as well as a dog. And he is micro-chipped (the dog, not the kid)

Donna P

Pleased as punch, she is. Ceiba had an adventure.

Lorrian Ippoliti

So glad that Hamsterdog is home! Hope you get some well deserved rest today. Sorry you had to go thru the experience, but I'll bet at least one reader will microchip because of what you had to go through.


I am blubbering at work. So glad she's home safe!!


I would be running around like a total lunatic, balling my eyes out if my dog ran away. My baby! So glad you got her back safe and sound!


I got a little teary-eyed reading this, imaging how terrified you were. And then I tried to hug my own dogs (one of whom is like, yay affections and the other who is more, f-off, crazy lady). So glad you found her and she's safe and happy and back where she belongs.


And I just bawled my eyes out! The interwebs love us some hampsterdog and we're so happy she is home safe!


I saw all of this this morning and am SO glad she's home. My beloved kitty who HAS a microchip, but whose subscription I let lapse is sitting right next to me. I just went to the website to pay up so she's registered again.


I will admit I've become the Dog Mom who never puts collars on my 2 German Shepherds at home. Mainly because when I let them out into my completely fenced yard with gates that have clips in them that their little paws can't figure, they like to play pretty rough. Lots of "Hey, lemme grab you by the throat and throw you to the ground and hold you there". I've seen too many horror stories on these here Internets of dogs getting caught up in collars and it not ending well. They are supervised 90% of the time (5% of the yard I can't see and 5% when I need to use the bathroom myself). They are both micro-chipped, which reminds me, I need to renew those soon. With dogs, there is always something to worry about. Glad Ceiba is home. More cheese please!

Amy X

After I moved away from home, one of my childhood mini schnauzers did this. The best we can piece together is that he slipped out the door while my mom unloaded the groceries. It was an hour or so before my mom realized he was missing. But here's where our stories diverge - we never found our pup. It was two days before Thanksgiving when he disappeared, so we spent the entire holiday week posting flyers and notices, both physically and on social media. My mom made weekly trips to the numerous pounds and shelters in the area for months. No one ever called. We have no idea what happened to him. My hope is that some family saw him and realized how precious and sweet he was and decided to give him a new home. But that's just a hope. I'm so so so so SO glad that Ceiba is home safe and sound. No one should ever have to deal with the guilt and questions that not finding them leave.


Oh thank Dog! I saw your post last night before I went to bed and had a damn DREAM about my own dog going missing! So, so happy your min pin baby is home safe & sound.

Audrey Tesoriero

So So SO happy there was a happy ending!!!!


Also crying. So glad you found her.


SO GLAD THIS HAD A HAPPY ENDING!!!! The suspense was killing me!

I know how heart breaking losing a pet can be and the all consuming guilt that comes with it. I'm so glad you and your family don't have to experience that forever.

Did you ever tell the boys?


THANK GOD! I had tears at the end! My dog is 15 so I know how you feel. We have the same collar issue but she is microchipped...

LD's Mom

Yay for happy ending.

Oh, and "while I was there I figured, what the hell, let's put on a bra." too funny!


Oh THANK DOG GODS! I saw your post on Instagram, and have been no-joke worrying all day about it, despite the fact that you neither know me nor do I know you. But I know that horrible feeling in your gut, and poor Ceiba is so tiny and loving and AHH GAAH I AM SO GLAD SHE IS HOOMMMME. <3



(I know that's not the takeaway, it's just that I've read so many of your Ceiba-writings in the past, but somehow, in my head, Ceiba was a boy-dog and this is blowing my mind.)

(Also, tears of happiness and relief for you guys. May the rest of her long life be spent being spoiled by her family.)


See, my mind is similarly blown that Ceiba isn't a chihuahua. She's a MinPin?!?




Poor baby! So glad she's found. I had a similar furbaby panic last week when my cat got hurt and then disappeared the next morning when I was woken up by my other cat at 5am... Only since I'm pregnant there was a lot of sobbing involved- convinced he had gone off to die somewhere- until my husband woke up and found him in the laundry basket. Vet trip revealed he had fractured the ball of his hip so he had to have surgery but now he's doing so much better.


Hand-fed him cheese? This is like a walking advertisement for the amenities of Howard County right here.

I'm so glad Ceiba is home.

A childhood cat of mine returned after a month long absence and went on to have many more years with us...what a day it was when he returned.


SOSOSO glad she's home!!! Yay!!!!!


I'm so happy she's home. I retweeted you this morning and my husband was all, "why are you doing that?? We're in Texas!!" I said, well, maybe the two people I know in Virginia on Twitter will RT and help. Anyways, so happy the Hamsterdog is home and can get a stern talking-to, plus lots of hugs.

Janice C.

Best news ever this morning! I went to bed last night worrying about her! Love a happy ending!!!


I cried when I read this! So glad that you found her.


So, so happy she's home safe and sound.


This is my worst fear for my dogs. I am so so so happy Ceiba is home!

Julia Willhite

Thank God. I was so worried when I saw your IG post last night. Ceiba is my favorite hamsterdog of all time.


thank goodness she's home!! Also, totally thrown that she's a minpin. I was solidly in the chihuahua camp. As for the collar/collapsing trachea thing, we had a Yorkie who developed collapsing trachea late in life. Collar isn't the best, but it's more of an issue when on walks (pulling, etc). Harnesses are better for walks- pulling doesn't put pressure directly on the neck. Puppia makes a breathable neoprene one- shouldn't make her too irate to wear it regularly, but old dogs are crankpots.


God bless you. I used to have an escape artist dog, I had to mentally give her up so many times, but she got to where she would eventually return and bark at the front door. Lost years off my life, losing her on long road trips when she occasionally slipped out of her harness and ran across busy roads. Always got her back, I think God watches over little hamster dogs.


So happy for you. I can exactly imagine the sheer joy you felt getting her back and the complete and utter misery preceding it. Xoxox


Whenever I see a dog aimlessly roaming around, I always stop and check for a nearby owner, a collar, something. And it's for selfish reasons. My dog is a runner. If she squeezes past us at the door, she's gone. She'd be in the next county before pausing to take a look around. We've somehow always managed to catch her, but one of these days we may not. I figure it's good karma- if I can save even one person's lost dog, maybe someone will do that for me. I'm so so so happy Ceiba is back home. You've got some good dog karma.

Rachel A.

I'm so glad she's home. One of our elderly cats wandered away this fall (we guess. to this day we have no idea how he got out, and the only way we are sure he's not in the back of a closet is because we have searched ridiculously thoroughly...and nothing smells.)but we didn't get they happy ending. And you're right. The worst part is that I don't know what happened. No collar and not microchipped because he was an inside cat. The best I can hope for is that somebody took him in, but there are coyotes, panthers, and alligators, not to mention traffic around here. Anyway, Ceiba's homecoming brings joy to my heart.


Oh, Amy. I'm so sorry for your panic, and so happy that the waffle-eater is home.


i can barely see through my tears of joy and relief for all y'all to type this...which is just fine by me!

whew. this will take a sec to recover from.


I'm so glad for you! I had a similar experience once with my little guy and remember well the relief of finding him. Also, I'm glad to learn the pronunciation of Ceiba. I have no idea why but I've always said chee-ba in my head.


A lost dog would absolutely break my heart. I cried for Ceiba and you. So glad your story had a happy ending.


Thank God! Seriously, I had no idea about your nightmare until I just read this (9 pm PST) and I was in TEARS, reading...and waiting...and omg she's home!
I will never forget when you were pregnant with Ezra and Ceiba disappeared. I was also pregnant, and I was sobbing reading your post.
And it happened again! Please give Ceiba a stern talking-to, and then lots of waffles. Love that dog. (Oh and in the interest of comedic relief, since this post wrecked so many of us, please post a bunch of Ceiba pictures with Ceiba dialogue. Maybe Ceiba would like to write her own post tomorrow? Hint, hint) Sooo happy for you, Amy. xo


Thank God! Seriously, I had no idea about your nightmare until I just read this (9 pm PST) and I was in TEARS, reading...and waiting...and omg she's home!
I will never forget when you were pregnant with Ezra and Ceiba disappeared. I was also pregnant, and I was sobbing reading your post.
And it happened again! Please give Ceiba a stern talking-to, and then lots of waffles. Love that dog. (Oh and in the interest of comedic relief, since this post wrecked so many of us, please post a bunch of Ceiba pictures with Ceiba dialogue. Maybe Ceiba would like to write her own post tomorrow? Hint, hint) Sooo happy for you, Amy. xo


Welcome home, Ceiba!

I was heartbroken for you. I'm so glad you found her.


I AM SO GLAD you found her and got her home safe!!!

I literally just picked up and returned a fat little old beagle yesterday who did the same exact thing - slipped out the door and decided to take a nice little stroll down the street. Poor little old dogs haha


I am so glad she was found! It is such a horrible feeling when you realize your baby pup is missing.


I got so nervous I had to skip to the end to make sure it was going to turn out ok. Whew! So happy for you. I also just saw your facebook post and found out I've been mispronouncing "Ceiba" every single time in my head. I think it was only maybe a year ago I realized I also pronounce "Amalah" wrong in my head. Apparently I suck at pronunciations!

Welcome home, Ceiba!


By the time I got to Ceiba's picture I was boohooing! It has been a weepy day - I cried at a Josh Groban song in the car and then I heard Kelly Clarkson's new song TWICE!

So glad you got your baby back!


So glad you found her. This is my worst nightmare. We are having a high fence installed next week for our two dogs and I'm already stressing about gates not being shut or digging or high-jumping......the one dog would just take off and he has no fear of roads or cars. So glad that a kind hearted person did the right thing and brought Ceiba to animal control! I always stop for wandering dogs. Really, really happy for you and your family and Ceiba.


Great story. Too bad she wasn't equipped with a gopro so you know where she went! I really liked reading that she was treated so well at animal control!


So glad she's home!

Danyelle Hutton

I'm so glad you found her! I'd seen on instagram she was missing and wondered about her throughout the day.

If you think her collar is bothering her, you might consider a harness for her to wear. I walk a lot of dogs and you're right, collars just bother some dogs. Our dog doesn't wear a collar most the time because he's a cranky old bassett hound with a lot of neck skin and the collar irritates it. A harness would be damned near impossible for her to slip out of and shouldn't bother her neck throat and you could write her contact info on it.


I'm *beyond* grateful that you found her. MY personal lessons from this whole thing were finding out (1) that Ceiba isn't a chihuahua but rather a miniature Pinscher and (2) that her name is not pronounced "SEE-buh" but instead "SAY-bah." (I love her!)


OMG. I am also of the Tribe Of People Who Worry Over And Generally Are The Servants Of Elderly Min Pins. This post absolutely terrified me. I'm so so so glad that she is safe.

Now I'm going to gulp a large glass of wine in all your honors and pet the stuffing out of my Min Pin girl.


Amy - I haven't really shared this with anyone but I know exactly how you feel. Just over a year ago, my beloved 14yr old "indoor-only" cat somehow slipped out of the house. I also have 3 little boys, the garage door was left open and no one realized he was out and then we all went to work/school and didn't realize until we got home that night he was gone. (DURING A SNOWSTORM - why would he choose then to leave??) Posters, fliers, posts on PetFinders, driving around the neighborhood etc. etc. No collar because he "never goes outside." He was microchipped, but when we moved into our current house I misplaced the microchip info in a box somewhere and never updated our info. Which has given me incredible guilt ever since because.....I'M A VETERINARIAN. I didn't take my own advice that I literally give people daily, to not only microchip their pets but keep their information current, because like most people I truly never thought it would be an issue. I can't even tell you how much guilt I have over this.
Unfortunately Jan. 31 last year was the last time I saw my cat :-( We never did find him, and I still think about him every day - where is he? Did someone take him in? Was he taken to the shelter and adopted to another family? Is he....dead? (We also have wildlife issues). It's just an awful feeling, especially with his age - 14 years together including vet school, interstate moves, kids, and this is how he leaves us? I'm so glad you found Ceiba!


Also, yes the collapsing trachea can be exacerbated by pulling on the collar (like during a walk) but it shouldn't be an issue for her just wearing one. For walks, car rides, etc. I would invest in a decent harness so there's no pressure on her neck.


Ugh. Heart in my mouth reading this all the way thru. Yay, happy ending! Yay Ceiba !


Oh, all the feels. So relieved. Rascal.



And that photo of her at the end reminded me of this:


(Not that Ceiba is "simple" but the part at the end about being wild and free.)

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