My wife, Susan, rushes over to me, her face twisted in horror like the prey in a John Carpenter movie.
The rapture from being on vacation for the first time with our Lilly, the Boston terrier, drains from my face.
“What do you mean?!”
“I mean she was right next to me a minute ago and then, she wasn’t.” Susan holds up Lilly’s leash, its dangling and broken clasp swinging back and forth in the cool Vancouver air.
The chatter of passersby melts into an incomprehensible din.
My wife and I dump our shopper’s bounty of clothes and groceries on the nearest bench. We cannot effectively search for our girl leaden with all this stuff. Screw it if someone makes off with it. Consider it our cosmic gift in exchange for getting our girl back.
I grab my wife’s hand and we dash to the last place she remembers Lilly tethered to her: a street vendor selling tea and crumpets. Winded, we describe Lilly to the barista. She motions around the nearest corner.
We bolt around the southeast corner of Davie and Thurlow streets. Cowering behind a cement planter, a Boston Terrier looks forlornly at us. Her markings are almost - but not quite - Lilly’s. Collectively, we hang our heads; she is not the girl we were hoping for and we are not the parents she hoped were coming back for her.
Several more Bostons round the planter and clamor toward us, each a slight variation of Lilly, but none with her trademark “crown,” a black oval island around which two white rivulets flow.
I drop to my knees and sob. Would our family ever be whole again?
I spin in bed, whip the sheets off me and grope for the bedside clock as if it were a life-preserver.
8:47 A.M.: my weightless anchor in time.
Lilly paws insistently on the carpet.
I gotta go, Daddy!
Shaking off the sands of sleep, I slip out of my night shorts and into sweatpants. I snap Lilly’s collar in place and secure her harness, brushing my fingers over her shoulder implanted with her microchip - a digital “ID card” naming us as her one and only set of parents. My comfort withers; this is not a GPS and will function only by the will of a Good Samaritan taking her to a facility with a scanner.
My wife and I got lucky with Lilly. Twice. The first time, she escaped from a neighbor’s yard and was swept up by a blessed soul who called my wife’s cell number emblazoned on Lilly’s tag. The second time, our cunning girl wiggled away from her dog sitter and followed familiar streets nearly a half-mild back to our condo complex. A concerned neighbor just happened to greet Lilly on her way to the parking garage.
But what about you pet parents who are not so lucky despite doing everything right by your fur-children? You who rallies a posse on social media, slap flyers on power poles and duck desperately behind every shrub and gas meter within a three-mile radius of your home? You whose hearts burn with the agony of not knowing when and how your baby disappeared and if they’d ever come home. You for whom we all pray for sweet reunion, but who may need to reconcile your loss to random, uncontrollable events?
Life will never be the same for you, but not for want of love. Your baby was loved and he or she knows that. You allowed yourselves to be loved by them and to carry that love forward into everything you do. You’ve been touched by life’s supreme game-changer and will always choose love because you’ve learned there’s no other way.
Lilly sniffs her favorite patch of morning grass, makes a fairly well-formed poop and gleefully kicks up divots of earth behind her. Looks like the probiotics are working.
Never had I been happier than to wake up this morning.