Sunday, July 03, 2005

It's Always Darkest Before the Dawn . . . Thank God!

I'm an early riser, up before the dawn. My routine is to start the coffee, let the dogs out to do their thing, and toddle out in my blue bathrobe to pick up the paper at the end of the driveway. One early fall weekend I was also charged with dog-sitting Lucy, our daughter's chocolate lab, while wife and daughter were out-of-town planning for our daughter's upcoming nuptials.

This one particular morning, everything was happening on schedule. The dogs had found their favorite places, the paper was at the end of the driveway, and as I headed back towards the house, my canine entourage blended back into a small but energetic pack to escort me back to the house.

Then Lucy decides to go AWOL.

Splitting from the pack, she makes a left turn and heads down the street. Loudly whispered calls of "Lucy, COME! LUCY COME!" fall on deaf ears. She makes a right at the end of the street. Now I know I have a problem. It's still dark, I'm trying to find a dark dog, and there are 3 blocks of houses and yards for exploring. And in I'm a blue terry cloth bathrobe, no shoes on, and my hair, what little I have, is going in a ka-jillion different directions. Get it? It's the latest in pervert fashion.

Luckily, I see the silhouette of Lucy dart between two houses. I'm in luck, I think. Both houses have a fenced yard. I have her cornered. Sure enough, Lucy is sniffing around one of the back yards. Now if I can just grab her by her hunter orange buckle collar without waking this family or having the cops called.

Lucy sees me and starts loping towards me. Soft whispers of "Here, Lucy! Here, girl" seem to be working. It is then I realize the back door of this house is standing wide open. I mean wide open. Lucy realizes this too and just before I can grab her, she makes a quick dart to the right out of my reach and disappears into the house.

What I whispered to myself at that moment cannot be repeated in this blog, but in the cartoon world I believe it goes something like this -"#!*&$%!#*&%!"

Within seconds, there is an eruption of dog barking and someone saying "What the hell?" I'm hoping this homeowner doesn't have a gun. The barking intensifies and sounds of multiple dogs annoyed from being awoke from the depths of their deep doggie dreams gets louder. I hear footsteps and now I'm thinking what the police will tell Kathy, "We're sorry, but your husband died from multiple dog bites and gunshot wounds. First fatality case we've ever had like that."

A woman appears at the back door.

"I'm sorry, ma'am" I tell her in my most apologetic voice. I know I am at her mercy.

"My dog got away from me and she's gone into your house. I am so sorry to awaken you and your family."

"Oh, no problem, " she says, sweet as pie. "I needed to get up anyway." I now know I will live.

About that time, a whole cadre of dogs exit the back door in a rush, a lab among them. In a flash, I grab the collar. Gotcha! Now for the graceful exit.

"Once again, ma'am, I am so sorry to have disturbed you."

She's chuckling now. "Well, that's what I get for leaving my back door wide open." This woman deserves sainthood.

I start to leave and Lucy refuses to budge. "Lucy, c'mon!" But Lucy now has somehow managed to lock herself into position. I pull again. Nothing. The whole time this woman's dogs are barking and running in and out of the house. Criminy, if I can't get away, this incesstant barking is gonna wake up the whole dang neighborhood. And it's dark outside still.

It's now or never. I gotta get out this place. With all my might I start pulling and Lucy still won't budge. More "LUCY! C'MON! LET'S GO!" I pull harder and now I am dragging a locked-leg dog. Meanwhile, the woman is telling her dogs to pipe down.

Then I see another lab exit the house. It's Lucy. My Lucy.

I look down at the dog I've got a death grip on. Lab? Check. Buckle collar? Check. No wait, it's a dark buckle collar, not hunter orange. Wrong dog!

My Lucy had stopped next to me and within a nano-second, I have my Lucy firmly in my grasp. I make one last apology and easily escort Lucy home. As I'm leaving the woman cheerfully tells me to "have a nice day!"

After work, I stop by the local pet store and buy a bag of doggie treats to take over to the around-the-corner neighbor whose morning I had so rudely interrupted. We live in a neighborhood where folks tend to know and try to know each other. It's very social. I need to make amends.

I knock, and a little girl of about 9 or 10 years of age answers. I ask if her mommy is home. I hear her mommy holler from inside the house "Ask who it is, baby." I holler back, "It's the man who's dog visited you this morning, I brought you a gift."

"Oh come in, come in!" God, I love the South and its genteel hospitality.

We make introductions, including her kids and I see the pack of dogs - 6 in all, mulling about. Among them is a black lab the same size of Lucy, wearing a brown buckle collar. That explains everything in the wee hours of darkness. A classic case of mistaken identity!

I present my doggie treats and the woman tells me how her husband slept through the whole thing.

"He never heard anything," she tells me. "But I will tell you this. I emailed my sister in Los Angeles about this morning and she forwarded it to all her co-workers and it was the buzz of her office all day."

Somehow I felt a bit thrilled that I made a bunch of folks half a continent away have a good laugh and gave them a story they can regal over cocktails. Maybe it would make Leno that night.

As I'm making my way out the door, I inquire about the black lab.

"So, what's the name of your lab?"

"Her?" the lady starts chuckling again. "Her name is Lucy."


Blogger Wayne's Mom said...

L - This was HILARIOUS! And you're a great writer!

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