Lost Dog, part 1 of 2
“Where do you think he could’ve gone, mom?” Priscilla said, frowning with worry.
“I don’t know, baby. That’s why we have to keep looking. I’m sure he’s just lost,” Lauren said.
Lauren stapled a flier to the wooden utility pole at the end of the street in their neighborhood. The heading said, “Lost Dog.
” Beneath it was a picture of a German Shepherd and the name “Max” printed in block letters.
Priscilla sniffled and said, “He’s not lost, someone took him. He told me this was going to happen, but I didn’t listen. Now he’s gone.”
Lauren shook her head and thought, “Is it normal for a 10-year-old to believe her dog talks to her?”
The sun was starting to set when they arrived home. As they walked up the driveway, Lauren saw her next-door neighbor, Petunia watering her garden.
Petunia turned around at the sound of their footsteps. When she saw them, her wrinkled face lit up with joy.
She speed-walked over and said, “Well, hello there, neighbors! How are my darlings doing today?”
Lauren sighed, then fake-smiled as she said, “We’re fine, Petunia. How are you?”
Priscilla pouted and said, “No, mom, we’re not fine.”
“My heavens, why not?” Petunia said.
“Because our dog, Max ran away.”
“Oh my, that’s dreadful! Is there anything I can do to help?”
Lauren said, “Well, we made these fliers and we’ve been putting them up everywhere. If you wouldn’t mind taking a few and giving them to people you know, that would be great.”
Lauren took some fliers out of the stack she was carrying and held them out. Petunia grabbed them and then held one up to look at it.
“You poor dears. It must be very hard, not knowing where your dog is.”
Priscilla started to cry. Petunia kneeled down, put her hands on her shoulders and said, “You don’t need to be sad at all, young miss.
If there’s one thing I know about dogs, it’s that they always come back.”
Petunia dug her fingernails into the girl’s shoulders and shook her as she stared into her eyes with intensity.
“Do you hear me? They always come back!”
“Ow, you’re hurting me!”
“Ok, Petunia, she understands. You can let go of her now.”
Petunia continued to hold onto Priscilla for several moments, staring at her as if in a trance. Then she stood up and said in a cheery voice, “I’ll let you know if I see him!”
Pale moonlight spilled in through the living room window and illuminated everything with an ethereal glow.
Lauren sat on her couch and held the chewed-up tennis ball which had been Max’s favorite toy. She covered her mouth with her hand to stifle the sound of her crying.
She thought, “Oh Max, where are you? It has been a week since you disappeared. A few people called from the fliers, but none of them had any useful information.
One person even tried to sell me a new dog, what a jerk!”
She glanced over at the pile of Max’s other toys and saw a frisbee, a stuffed moose, and a fire hydrant chew toy. They were all covered in bite marks. She furrowed her brow as she looked closer.
“That’s weird,” she thought. “Where’s his dog bone?”
A peculiar noise caught her attention. It sounded like someone was whisper-shouting outside, but she couldn’t make out the words.
She looked out the window and saw the outline of a person standing in Petunia’s backyard. They were wearing a hooded robe and had their arms stretched above their head.
Lauren watched as the person continued chanting and making bizarre gestures.
Then they reached into one of the folds in their robe and took something out of it, and then held the object above their head. Lauren recognized it as Max’s dog bone.
She considered rushing outside to confront them, but as she started to get up the bone disappeared with a “pop.” Sparks flew everywhere.
Then a bald, naked person crawled out of the dirt in front of the robed figure as if they were climbing out of a pool of water.
Lauren saw that there was no hole in the ground from where they’d emerged.
Lauren stared in shocked disbelief. Then the person turned their head and looked straight at her. Their face had a passive, blank expression with smooth features with no eyebrows.
Lauren ducked down beneath the window, out of sight.
The morning sun bathed the neighborhood in golden light as Lauren knocked on Petunia’s front door. “I have no idea what to say,” she thought. “But I have to know what’s going on.”
As Lauren lifted her hand to knock again, a voice behind her said, “Are you looking for Petunia?”
She turned around and saw an unfamiliar older woman standing at the end of the driveway.
“Yes, I am. Do you know where she is?”
The woman raised her eyebrows, then looked Lauren up and down as if sizing her up.
“I… I’m her next-door neighbor, Lauren Mills. Our dog went missing last week, and Petunia said she’d help look for him. I was here to ask if she’d heard anything about that.”
The woman gave her a disbelieving look and scoffed, then said, “Well, I don’t suppose it would hurt to tell you. Petunia died earlier this morning.
My husband found her laying in her front yard during his morning jog. It looked like she’d been weeding her garden when she collapsed.
He called the ambulance, but she was already gone by the time they got here.”
“That’s horrible. Does she have any family?”
“Well, you’re her next-door neighbor. You’d know better than I would, wouldn’t you?”
Lauren’s cheeks turned red with embarrassment.
“We… we didn’t talk much. I suppose I didn’t know her that well. I’m sorry, ma’am, but what’s your name?”
The woman looked her up and down once more and said, “Patty Clark.”
“Were you friends with Petunia?”
Patty said, “Better friends than you were with her, apparently,” then turned and walked away.
Lauren walked into her house at around 6:30 in the evening, exhausted from work. “Hey Pris, I’m home! I hope you’re done with your math homework!”
Priscilla came running down the hallway with a huge, beaming smile on her face.
“Mom, guess what? Max came back! He’s home!”
“What? Where is he?”
“He’s in my room. Come see.”
Lauren followed her daughter down the hallway and into her room. There she found Max sitting in the middle of the floor.
He turned his head to look up at her and held eye contact as Priscilla flung her arms around him.
Lauren felt overjoyed at first and took a step towards him, but then stopped mid-stride. She thought about how whenever she came home in the past, Max would be unable to contain his excitement.
He’d be jumping around, wagging his tail, and begging for attention. Now, he was so calm and docile that he didn’t even seem like the same dog.
“Uh, when did he get here?”
“I don’t know. He was here when I got home from school.”
“What do you mean? He was sitting on the porch?”
“No, he was right here in my room.”
A suspicious look crossed Lauren’s face.
“Someone let him inside our house while we were both gone?”
“I guess so.”
“But the doors are all locked, or they’re supposed to be. Pris, did you leave the front door unlocked this morning and forget?”
“No, mom. I swear.”
“Are you sure?”
“I promise. I remember because the key almost got stuck in the door after I locked it. I had to pull really hard to yank it out. I almost missed the bus because of it.”
Lauren sat on Priscilla’s bed and said, “Then how could he have gotten inside?”
“I don’t know, mom, but the important thing is that Max is home again, right?”
Priscilla said, “How did you get inside Max?”
The dog continued to stare at Lauren. After a few moments, Priscilla said, “That’s weird, he didn’t say anything. He has never ignored me before.”
Lauren sipped iced tea in her living room as she watched television. Priscilla sat on the floor nearby, drawing a picture of a Disney princess. Max lay next to her, still and silent.
“Pris, did you and Max go outside and play today?”
“No, mom. I tried to get him to play fetch with me, but he didn’t want to. When I asked him what was wrong, he didn’t say anything. He hasn’t talked to me at all since he got back.”
They both looked at Max with concern.
“Maybe he’s sick,” Priscilla said.
“That could be. I’ll make an appointment to take him to the vet tomorrow.”
Someone knocked on the front door. Max jolted up and ran over to it. Lauren opened the door to find a delivery woman standing on her porch, holding an Amazon box.
“Hi, I have a delivery for Lauren Mills?”
“Yes, that’s me.”
“Great, sign here.”
Lauren took the box and put it on the floor. As she did, Max let out a low, aggressive growl.
The woman gave him a wary look and said, “Uh, he’s not dangerous, is he?”
“No, he’s a big puppy dog.”
Max growled once more and then pounced on the delivery person, knocking her over. He barked in her face as she tried to get out from under him.
“Ahh! Get him off me!”
“No, Max! No!”
Lauren grabbed Max by the scruff of his neck and yanked him off. He turned his head around and almost bit Lauren’s face, his jaws snapping shut mere inches from her nose.
The woman got up and sprinted to her delivery truck.
“No, I don’t think it’s rabies,” the veterinarian said through the phone. “Otherwise there would be other symptoms present as well.”
“Well, then what else could be the problem?” Lauren said as she stood in her kitchen.
“It’s impossible for me to say without an examination. Can you bring him to my office sometime tomorrow?”
“I don’t how he’ll react to me trying to put him in the car to take him to the vet. I’m afraid he’ll flip out again and attack me or my daughter. I’m… scared of him.”
“Alright, well in extreme cases like this, we can have a local dogcatcher come by and pick him up. I hate to have to do that, but it sounds like we have no other choice.
If he becomes unruly, they’ll use a dart gun to tranquilize him.”
“Well, whatever you think is best, doctor.”
“Don’t worry, Ms. Mills. We’ll find out what’s going on with your dog and do whatever we can to help him.”