As we were finishing up our illegal fireworks display in the street in the front of Stacey and Dave's house about 9:30, we observed a white animal bolting from down the street in quite a hurry -- and making a bee-line for the group of us standing on the porch. This dog was booking.
Obviously, the dog (let's call him Thomas Jefferson) had declared independence himself on this date, much like the founding pops did in 1776. TJ looked like a house dog and had a tag on with a phone number and a name. He was extremely friendly, and wanted to go into our house, despite our yapping schnauzer. I think he wanted to join our little union.
My son, being pragmatic, wanted to release him back to the street, but even TJ wasn't voting for that. He wanted to stay with us. The delegates from New Jersey (Rita and I) and the patriotic Virginian Stacey voted to reunite TJ with his original owners, who were -- no doubt -- distraught at the loss of this fine (if not over-fed animal). It seemed more noble, but in truth I guess the three of us were "loyalist tories" while Dave choose the harder path for independence.
Dave secured TJ in their fenced-in backyard and we dialed the phone number. I was imagining a joyful and tearful reunion, and a warm feeling from having done the right thing. But no one answered. Undaunted, and using the modern reverse lookup phone feature, we located an address that was within a few blocks.
In the car the three of us -- Dave, TJ, and I -- drove off to deliver TJ to his home. Again, filled with the spirit, I imagined the family scouring the neighborhood looking for TJ and thus unable to answer the phone.
Instead, the house was dark. No one was home except another dog inside barking his head off inside the house. I wondered if we had the wrong house? If one dog is kept inside the house, why not TJ? As if to assure us though, acted familiar with the surroundings and was undisturbed by the barking animal inside the house. I took this as a sign that this was the place.
When we went around to the backyard to see if there was a doghouse, TJ slammed his breaks on. Wanted no part of the backyard. Hmm. He definitely recognized this place. Dragging him through the gate, we discovered a dog dish and some biscuit crumbs on small deck. This did reassure us that we had the right place.
We couldn't be sure though. Bright idea -- find a neighbor and ask if he recognized the dog as belonging there. In New Jersey, we would never do this. Neighbors are usually not that neighborly, but this was Virgina, land of the Southern Hospitality and all that.
The neighbor's house across the street was lit so we knocked on the door. A man in his pajamas opened the door and seemed friendly enough. And he was pretty sure that he had seen the dog before. Good enough for us. And oh lucky day he had the cell phone number of he the TJ's owner from across the street.
Obligingly, our new friend -- Greg -- called the cell phone and with no answer left a message that his dog was found. Greg informed us that the man who lives there has a boat on the river and often spends weekends there with his young daughter. Probably where they at now.
So, Greg, Dave and I went back to the house. dragging TJ with us into the backyard. Assuming the dog had escaped, we looked for holes in the fencing and patched up a couple of obvious spots with some small sand bags that were around the house.
Ah, good deed done. Now for the happy. Dave and I drove off in his SUV, turning around at the dead-end block causing us to pass in front of the TJ's house. Wait. The headlights illuminated something little, white and moving quickly right toward us. It was TJ again -- escaping from the backyard in a New York minute -- and heading right back to us.
We stopped, opened the back car door and TJ jumped right in. We are family!
Again, we try the patience of the neighbor by calling on him again, and again he very agreeably helps us put TJ back and patch the fence in yet more places where the Houdini Hound might wiggle through. As an additional barrier, I put TJ on the small deck where his water and bisquits are. I barricade the entrance with deck furniture, and a few ubiqitous sandbags.
We drive off again. This time we do not drive back past the house for fear we see the white terrier loose and on the move again. And although you might think this is the end of a happy story, it is not.
The next morning, we finally hear from TJ's owner. Stacey took the call from the owner. Yes, the dog did not escape again and he was there this morning. And by the way, he's spent 4500 dollars on vet bills for TJ and would we want to permanently keep him? Even though his little daughter loves TJ, he does not and would be willing to get the pooch to us. Stacey politely turns him down.
Were we surprised by this call? No, it seemed to me that TJ knew what he was doing and was willing to run away to take his chance with strangers. It is sad but a reality that many animals -- and indeed children -- can sense where they are not wanted. In TJ's case, he clearly communicated this to us.