Roundabout and messy ride home

September 04, 2005|By KATE COLEMAN

He stares at me from the refrigerator door, and I melt every time I look at him. With a rakishly tilted spot over his right eye, ears up, he looks smart, eager and hopeful.

I clipped his photo from a Lifestyle page several weeks ago. Headline: "Puppy needs a home."

Skid, an 8-week-old foundling, was available for adoption at the Humane Society of Washington County.

Oh, how close I came to dialing that phone number.

Thankfully, good sense, practicality and my totally antisocial cat, Annie, prevailed.

I've known and loved many dogs - owned more than a dozen during the nearly 20 years I lived on a farm in Keedysville.

Don't get me wrong: I love my cat, and though it's sometimes hard to tell, she loves me.

But I really can't have a dog right now. I have too many places to go, and I can't bear the looks of betrayal on returning.


So I feed my dog hunger vicariously. I know the names of many who walk daily past my house. I shake an occasional paw, pat an occasional head.

I almost had a dog a couple of years ago. Or you might say the dog almost had me.

Driving home late from a friend's place one winter Sunday, I saw a big yellow Labrador retriever headed from my neighborhood to a busier main thoroughfare.

"Oh no," I worried.

I thought I recognized him as a neighbor's pet. Even though it was after 10 p.m., I pulled into the driveway of the home where I thought I'd seen him, got out of the car and rang the doorbell. Nobody answered.

Undeterred, I got out my cell phone, got their number from directory assistance and called, telling the woman (whom I'd met years before when I stopped my car and helped her to catch her teeny-tiny Yorkshire terrier who had escaped) that I thought I had just seen her Lab.

"No, she's sleeping right here."


"Sorry to bother you," I apologized.

I looped around the block and saw the dog again, back in the relative safety of the development.

I pulled over and got out of the car - thinking I'd check to see if he had ID tags.

A friendly sort, he came right over to me. A really friendly sort, he leaped through the still open car door and sat in the passenger seat as if it were his usual spot.

Without thinking, I got back in the car and started driving.

My new companion seemed happy, barking excitedly (and loudly) as I drove.

He scooped a CD case from the console, quickly snapping it with large white teeth.

Then he bounded into the back seat, and it was mere seconds later that I heard the snap of the handle of my one and only Longaberger basket. I really liked that sturdy basket to carry cakes and casseroles to potlucks and parties.

We got to my house.

Now what?

Remember the "without thinking" part of this tale?

I called the woman I had disturbed just a few minutes earlier. I apologized again and asked if she knew anyone who had a dog that looked like the one who was, at that moment, happily exploring my backyard.

She offered a suggestion, and so I called my new traveling pal, he jumped back in the car and we set off again - he barking excitedly (and loudly) as we headed back the way we'd come.

I saw a guy standing in his yard, out with his own dog out for a little night air. I pulled in his driveway and identified myself.

"Do you know whose dog this is," I asked.

"That's MY dog," he replied indignantly, thinking I was referring to the spaniel at his side.

Then he recognized the canine in my car. He told me the dog lived directly across the street. His home was 50 feet from the spot where I had picked him up.

I opened the car door, the big dog got out and trotted home without so much as a parting glance for me.

I've often wondered just who took whom for a ride.

Kate Coleman's column appears in the Lifestyle section on the first Sunday of each month.

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