So far, I’ve written about Ellie, my dog of a lifetime. However, no story about her can be complete without a few words about her interesting daughter, Emma. Ellie and Emma were a team, and nothing happened to one without impact on the other. So, here are a few words about little Emma!
Life in a Box
Emma, Ellie and I moved into our apartment near The Quarry in San Antonio. I went to work for the San Antonio Express-News as their Direct Marketing Manager, and life was set, at least “on paper”.
Apartment living with two dogs was a challenge, with pressure on them not to really be dogs, and on me not to let them. To minimize the impact of bathroom incidents, I confined them to the kitchen, where there was a tile floor. They were both house trained, but I knew better than to expect that nothing would ever happen if I gave them the run of the place.
To accommodate their potty needs, I went home every day for lunch to take them on walks, and I went straight home after work to take them again. On one of those walks, they must’ve eaten something while I wasn’t watching…I recall the day when I arrived home after work and discovered that they’d come down with some kind of terrible dysentery at the same time. It was a scene from sick bay hell…fortunately, they were in the kitchen, and a tile floor. As I launched into a protracted and unpleasant cleanup, I don’t know if I felt worse for them or for me…it was pretty bad!
Don’t Fence Me In!
Apartment living also taught me that Emma hated confinement, which was made clear by the hole she dug in the sheetrock by the back door. That was another end-of-workday discovery that made nearly every day an adventure. She also dug a hole in the sheetrock at my brother’s house one day while I was visiting, and we had limited the dogs’ access only to a long hallway. I didn’t get the bill for that repair job, but I’ve never been allowed to forget it, either…of course, in only the most humorous family way!
After the dogs and I had enough of living in a small space, we moved into a house, and I had a doggy door installed. The doggy door and a fenced back yard equaled dog ownership nirvana for them and for me. We could all relax; they could go outside at their leisure and the house was safe from the consequences of illness and anxiety-related wall-digging. However, for Emma there was no escaping the panicked fallout from loud noises such as thunder and fireworks. While Ellie wasn’t fond of such clamor, it didn’t bother her nearly to the extent it did her neurotic daughter.
My house was located near Fort Sam Houston Army base and cemetery, and the San Antonio Country Club. At both locations, every year at Fiesta, the 4th of July, New Year’s, and other holidays requiring the exploding of fireworks, as well as military burials with 21-gun salutes and thunder storms, Emma had major meltdowns. While lightning doesn’t make noise, it is a sure harbinger that thunder was soon to follow…Emma figured that out quickly.
She reacted to big noises and lightning by falling into a shivering, panting mania, and attempting to dig a hole in me, and/or climb on my head. This was especially vexing in the middle of the night, when even the mere hint of a noise sent her into a frenzy. I finally figured out that administering Benadryl or melatonin would induce relative calm, so checking the weather forecast and anticipating loud noises – to include awareness of upcoming military burials – helped keep things on an even keel.
One Monday, an unexpected thunderstorm rolled into San Antonio. I was at work; upon arriving home in the evening, I discovered that Emma was nowhere to be found. I put Ellie on a leash and walked every street in the neighborhood, to no avail. Ellie and I got into the car and drove streets farther away, hoping to spy my little crazy runaway. Nothing.
With dark descending, I had to call off my search for Emma. Returning home, I fell into an abyss of despair, a sense that might be at least somewhat akin to feeling that one of my children was missing. Not knowing if she was alive, injured, safe, scared, or what, was horrible. I had bathed Emma the day before, and failed to put her collar, with ID tags, back on her. The guilt I felt about this was sickening.
Knowing that one antidote to worry is action, I found a photo of her and made signs to post on trees and power poles, carefully putting each into a plastic bag so the image and wording would remain legible. That night, with a flashlight, tacks and a hammer, I went pole to pole, tree to tree, plastering signs with her cute face and my phone number all over the area. It was all I could do for the night. I went home and Ellie and I tried to sleep; it wasn’t easy.
I hoped that the next day, someone would see one of my signs, realize they’d spied my dog or maybe even had her, and call me. One of the longest days of my life came and went…and no calls. I returned home, again to only one dog. Since my signs hadn’t yet worked, and calls to local vets and shelters had turned up nothing, I thought I’d go back to the future and put a lost dog ad in the newspaper.
Emma’s most endearing physical characteristics were her long and luxurious eyelashes. Those got everyone’s attention and gave her cuteness even more pop! So, that was the feature I keyed in on as I composed and placed my ad. It was my last hope to find a puppy that in spite of, or maybe because of, her unique and complex personality, had found an abiding place in my heart. I just couldn’t lose her.
That evening, a call came from a man I didn’t know. He said he was calling from Floresville and had picked up a little grey dog during the storm on Monday. He was working on construction at a house that was five blocks away from my house, and saw a little dog walking down the street, chest-deep in running rainwater. He picked her up and took her home, and was taking care of her and checking the newspaper ads. When he saw one for a little grey dog with eyelashes, he knew that was the dog he’d found.
My ad had promised a reward. Wary that this could possibly be a scam, I arranged to meet this guy at a public location at 6:00 the next morning, armed with my .38 Smith & Wesson. I asked the man to produce the dog before getting out of my car. He did. To my great joy and immense relief, it was Emma! I took my dog from him, and gave him $100 cash, and thanked him for taking care of her.
I can only surmise that when the storm arrived and thunder began to boom, Emma panicked, ran out the doggy door and somehow escaped the fenced yard. I never did understand why that fear caused her to want to leave the safety of the house and flee to the dangers of the streets; however, so as to never repeat this event, I put barriers at every possible location where she could’ve squeezed out. It never happened again.
NEXT: Saying goodbye.