Monty, our older dog, is a chocolate lab. He’s up there in age and has had his share of close calls. Two bouts of cancer that he’s beaten, a large tumor removed from his mid section last year, arthritis, and breathing difficulties are parts of the challenges he’s either overcome or deals with on a daily basis. He doesn’t get around well and when he moves he does so very slowly. Unless of course you’re offering food, then suddenly he’s Lance Armstrong. We’ve lived with the fact that his health will progressively worsen as he ages.
He recently developed a virus. Already he had been unable to hold his bladder and bowel movements and this virus didn’t make his condition any better. So last week he awoke during the early morning hours, paced about for a few seconds, and did his business all over the bedroom floor. I was cleaning up some very wet poo at 3am. The following morning at about the same time he wakes up pacing the floor again. I put on my slippers and, groggy eyed, head downstairs with him to let him out. He goes through the back door and does his business in the yard.
When I get back to bed I can’t sleep. This is the kind of sleeper I am. Once awake, regardless of the time, I struggle falling back into sleep. I’m tired and groggy but awake now and so I walk back downstairs, again with Monty in tow, turn on Netflix, and watch some Star Trek.
It’s a good thing I’m awake because Monty’s stomach is active again. He begins his pacing, this time by the door, and looks at me with that funny head tilt he gives when he wants to go out.
We don’t have a closed off backyard and I often tether the dogs near the door but I’m afraid he’s going to do his thing over the carpet again and so I rush him out. Monty has great recall and is very responsive with me. He’s the only one of the dogs whom I can walk without a leash because he’ll stay by my side and won’t run off to smell the ass of the nearest dog, so I’m not worried.
I was on my second episode of Star Trek and was getting heavy-eyed and drowsy. It’s possible that I had drifted in and out of sleep. Spock and Kirk weren’t holding my attention so I reached for my iphone and glanced through Facebook. After a few minutes my head slumps to the side as I struggle to stay awake. I was feeling hungry but couldn’t remember if I had eaten a banana earlier. My mind is playing tricks on me. By this time I figure it’s time to try to tackle sleep again and I start to walk back upstairs. Half way up I remember Monty.
In my fatigue I had forgotten if I had let him back in the house or not. Quickly I go back down and call his name. No Monty. A panic starts to slowly come over me as I rapidly head out the back. Frantically looking around I don’t see him anywhere. I call out for him again but still no Monty. There are coyotes, foxes, and some other kinds of freaky dogs out there. I hear them every night. Howling and barking. Monty is an old boy with a wobbly walk; he wouldn’t stand a chance against an attack. In the past he had gotten away from Michelle and taken a tour of the neighborhood trash cans, but that was during the daytime and a very long time ago, surely he wouldn’t be so dumb to do so now in his weak condition. On the other hand, that dog has done dumber things.
Grabbing my keys, I get into the car, and drive through the neighborhood. I’m wearing a t-shirt, pajama bottoms, and slippers, and it’s freezing outside. I roll down the window to call out for him and a rush of cold air comes at me.
I drive around the development twice but can make out no sign of Monty. When he was strong enough to go on walks I would take him through the cemetery at the other side of our neighborhood, so I head in that direction just to see. Once there I begin calling out for him. Cemeteries at 3:30 in the morning are not fun and I can’t imagine the local residents appreciating hearing voices from that direction at that time of the night.
At this point I figured I’d better head back to the house and wake up Michelle. She can help with the search and maybe I should tell her I lost the dog in the middle of the night. I figured she might want to know. When I enter the house I hear the indistinguishably gruff and raspy breathing that I’ve become so familiar with. I follow the sound into the small bedroom off of the kitchen and there, splayed out on the futon, is Monty. He looks up at me and tilts his head, perhaps wondering where I’ve been. I did let him back into the house after all. I just couldn’t remember.