Thursday, March 11, 2010

Not Just any Lost Dog

“Kelly, could you roll the hose back into the hose box next time you water? I’m tired of cutting the hose off to re-attach the nozzle!”

Richard wasn’t happy about our yard problems that were a result of our dog. Madeline’s psychological behaviors were carrying over into our yard, especially with our hose. She had some sort of dog version of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and would attack the hose like it was a snake and kill it—literally. It’s impossible to water anything out back when Maddy--as we nick named her--is on the loose. She attacks the water coming out of the hose while drinking it at high pressure. She doesn’t stop for any reason…..wait, except to purge, and then she’ll start another binge with the hose water just long enough to purge again. She does this over and over again. It reminds me of a certain type of eating disorder I remember from a Psychology and Behavioral Nutrition class I took during my college days as a Dietetics major.

When Richard would go out to use the hose the next time, the holes she tore into it would burst out like a geyser, right at his face, legs and feet; by the time the water got to the end of the hose, there was no pressure to water anything. By then he would already be soaked. Our hose gets shorter by the week. Every time Maddy attacks the hose, Richard cuts it so that all the tear holes from the attack are cut off. Then he re attaches the nozzle to the hose—just like new; only temporarily until she attacks it again. There’s one thing about Maddy that is predictable; the consistency of her psychotic rituals.

She’s a Jack Russell Terrier and she was our first dog as a married couple. We had returned home from Provo, Utah after graduating from Brigham Young University. My parents were buying a new larger home and were selling my childhood home, so we bought my childhood home from them. At about the same time, my Uncle Wayne had a really great Jack Russell Terrier named Louie who was in demand as a stud dog. They lived in Temecula and had horses; the Jack Russell was a great breed for them because Jack Russell’s have an affinity for horses. They actually ride on top of the horses and run them for the owners. When Louie was successfully studded out, my uncle would get the pick of the litter or a $750 stud fee, his choice. He chose the pick of the litter with this particular mating because he was so fond of the mother dog and fell in love with Maddy immediately.

His decision to keep Maddy was not one based on intelligence but more on his swelling heart. They already had 3 large dogs; a German Shepard, a black lab, and a very large Yellow Lab that got fat from eating avocados that fell from the 80 trees on their ranch. They also had several other Jack Russell Terriers. All these dogs were not excited about Maddy joining their family and it became too difficult to manage so many animals. Since Maddy was the last one in, she had to be the first one out. My uncle felt too attached to send her back, never to be seen again; so he showed up at my door with her. If he could get me to take her, then he would have access to her. Maddy was irresistible, 8 weeks old, not more than 4 lbs, and Richard and I fell in love at first sight. I never dreamed of having a small dog; I never liked small dogs. I grew up with big dogs; black labs and golden retrievers. Richard grew up with Poodles; Maddy was the perfect compromise. There was no excuse for us not to take her. She was free and we had a yard for her.

We were still a young married couple and we didn’t have any children yet so Maddy didn’t have to share us with anyone. We took her everywhere with us and she was our baby. When I got pregnant I would ask my mother, who had 6 children of her own; “How am I going to love a child as much as I love Maddy?”

My mom would just laugh me off, like I was crazy, but she understood. When I had the baby, poor Maddy got ripped off; but she didn’t mind, she LOVED Emily. She grew to LOVE kids and wouldn’t bite a person if they sat on her. Maddy maxed out at a whopping 12 lbs.

We rented out a room in our house to our friend Dennis. He was also a friend of my Uncle Wayne’s. Dennis came home one day from my Uncle’s Temecula ranch with a puppy. He named it Humphrey Bogart, Bogey for short. Maddy and Bogey were actually siblings. Bogey was also a descendent of Louie but had a different mom. Maddy and Bogey became best buddies. It worked well for us, especially since we had a new baby and were not paying as much attention to Maddy.

Maddy was so genuine and loveable, careless and carefree, crazy and fun, sweet and curious, and super funny. She was funny enough to video record her crazy behaviors and send them in to Funniest Home Videos. She enjoyed attacking the light from a laser beam, a flashlight, or even the reflection from the face of my watch--and she would do it until her nose bled. Everywhere we took her, she drew crowds. At our community’s annual 4th of July party in the park, people are always drawn to her. She could play fetch for hours. Maddy is like a risky, naughty, bold, super fun, and funny friend who would do anything for you; everyone has one of those don’t they? I’m thinking of mine right now.

Maddy also grew up to be an escape artist. A little adrenaline rush and she could do anything. Trying to keep her in our back yard is the equivalent of trying to keep a cat in our back yard—nearly impossible. She has a tendency to be distracted by rats, birds, and bunny rabbits and they motivate her to run. With a little adrenaline, Maddy can jump leaps and bounds. She could chase the bunnies all day long and never get tired or bored. Maddy has turned out to be quite costly. The neighbors next door got tired of her jumping into their yard so they asked us to fix the fence we share. We spent over $2000 on a wrought iron fence to keep her contained; it didn’t really work very well. Then we had to build a dog run. Maddy hates the dog run and also found out how to escape it. We haven’t figured out how she gets out yet. We’re about ready to invest in a hidden camera system.

On Monday night I was bringing groceries into the house; I had both hands full so I opened the front door by raising my leg up and pushing the handle down with my foot while kicking in on the door. While I was walking to the kitchen with the groceries, Richard went into the back yard to get the dogs to bring them in for the night. When they saw the open front door, they bolted like lightening down our street and turned the corner in a matter of seconds. Once they turned the corner, there’s no telling if they went up the street by the pool, or around the block to “the canyon” as we called it as kids, but now named “Peliconi Park” by the city. Either way, there are small rodents to terrorize, which is why I call them “Jack Russell Terrorists.” Well, that, and also because they terrorize us with their disappearances.

Now, I admit, this happens occasionally; on average about two or three times a month. We always go running or driving after them and they always come back eventually when we do. Monday night was different. Richard couldn’t find them. It was really dark, and he thought they might have gone into “the canyon.” He looked for them for over an hour. He came home exhausted and went to bed. I couldn’t sleep so I took the next shift until about 11:30 pm and then I came home exhausted. I still couldn’t sleep knowing my 2 little dogs were out running with the coyotes. Maddy’s been attacked by coyotes twice, and barely survived the second time. The vet declared her the most stoic dog he had ever known. I laid down in bed, exhausted. I felt horrible that I had locked up the house as if the case was closed and they were dead and gone; however, I didn’t feel safe leaving the front door cracked open. If I fell asleep, my children wouldn’t be safe. I argued each side tormenting myself. I opted to crack the door so the dogs could get in if they came home. I gave one last shot at yelling their names, by this time it was close to midnight:

“MAAAAAADDDYYYYY…..BOOOOOGGGEEEYYYYY!” I yelled out into my neighborhood in the middle of the night, knowing how much my neighbors must love me now. Especially the ones next door who sleep with their windows wide open, the ones who have no children or pets; need I say more? Within 5 minutes Bogey came running into my bedroom, tail wagging, frantic and frazzled.

“Where’s Maddy?” I asked him. “Bogey, where’s Maddy?....Let’s go find her together!”

We drove all over our neighborhood and the surrounding neighborhoods looking for Maddy. Bogey had his head hanging out the passenger window; he was actually looking for Maddy too. Usually they stick together when they get out, but Maddy is much faster than Bogey, she is the leader of the pack. If Bogey can’t keep up with her, she doesn’t wait for him. I continued to call her name out occasionally:

“MAAAAADDDDDYYYYYY!” I yelled, honestly trying not to wake up the entire neighborhood but also not really caring knowing that the longer it took to find her, the further away she could be and the more likely to be eaten by a predator.

It was 2 am now and I was exhausted, we went home and Bogey slept in bed with us. I could not sleep. I dreamt that Maddy came back and I felt the relief, but then woke up and reality set in. I fell back asleep again. This time I dreamt that Maddy was gone forever and I had to move on, then I woke up with a lump in my throat and couldn’t go back to sleep. I got up and yelled her name out the front door; I kept it cracked open, went back to bed and prayed. This went on all night long.

When morning came I got the kids off to school and Bogey and I started our mission to find Maddy. We scoured all the wilderness areas around our neighborhood; starting behind the tennis courts and pool. The hills were steep, awkward, heavily vegetated and difficult to hike. The coyote dens inside the dead, broken trees gave me the chills. I imagined Maddy’s dead body inside one of the dens and living the rest of my life, never knowing her fate. It reminded me of our childhood cat Buffy, who was eaten by coyotes, as most of our cats were. The difference with this one was that one of our neighbors found her head in their back yard and body in the front yard. I didn’t want to find Maddy if she was dead, but at the same time, I wanted to know her fate so I could move on. Richard told me if I found any parts of her, to bag them so we could burry her in the back yard. He was serious, I was dying inside.

It was such a beautiful, peaceful, quiet day, so quiet I could hear all the birds chirping in the trees. When the bushes rustled from the bunny rabbits, my heart would skip a beat, hoping it was Maddy coming through to answer my calls. The sky was cloudless and as blue as I had ever seen it, everything was fresh, clean and green. The recent rains had beautified all the earth and the dirt was saturated, wet and dense. It smelled like fresh sage and wildflowers as I combed through the shrubs, breaking small branches, stepping on the blooms and releasing all the scents. I climbed to the top of the steepest, highest hill near our house and looked down into the canyon, scanning back and forth looking and calling for Maddy. The panoramic views were amazing. To my left, I could see the hustle and bustle of the world; the 91 freeway with thousands of cars hurrying to their destinations, but there were no freeway sounds, only the peaceful sounds of nature. To my right, practically the entire West Anaheim Hills, including open areas that were a deep hue of green; I have never been to Ireland but I felt like I was there. I stared into backyards and any open areas, looking for anything white and moving.

I probably called for Maddy over 100 times. I felt at peace with my surroundings and just sat with Bogey and cried. I cried until I felt at peace with Maddy being in heaven, knowing I would see her again someday. I thought about her age. She was 10 years old, going on 11 and although her life was cut short, she had lived long. Was it possible this was a blessing in disguise? Is it possible that the alternative way of loosing Maddy in the future would have been worse? I thought about her recent visit to the Animal Hospital in the middle of the night. She had a liver infection and was very ill. She still had another day left of her antibiotics when she disappeared. Was it better that she go like this, than for the kids to find her dead body in the back yard, or in the street after getting hit by a car? I felt like all my prayers for her safe return were in vain. Maddy had never been gone this long, never more than 1 day. I worried the kids’ prayers to find Maddy would be unanswered and shake their sweet, innocent, childlike faith.

Time flew by. Katie and her friend would be waiting for me at school if I didn’t book it to the bottom of the hill. I was trying to think of the best and fastest way down when my dear friend Kellie called. She was worried about me--knowing I was depressed and hell bent on finding Maddy—so she offered to pick up our kids. She asked where I was and then drove to the top of the street to the houses behind. I could see her car through the wrought iron fence of the house behind me, so I climbed the wall to get to her.

I had to make every effort possible so after the big girls got out of school, Emily and I decided to make posters and hang them all over the area. I found a recent picture of Maddy and spent the entire afternoon and evening hanging the posters with Emily. Every time a car would drive by, Emily would wave her “Lost Dog” poster like those advertisement clown guys that stand in front of stores, being paid to dance like idiots in an attempt to get your attention. We saw countless friends and neighbors drive by. They would make sad faces at us, and assure us that they would look for her.

I had my cell phone with me every second of every minute; especially now that my cell phone number was plastered all over the town. I ALWAYS answered hoping that it was good news about Maddy. The software on my phone wasn’t working properly and a warranty replacement phone had come in the mail. It was on my mile long list of things to do, to call Verizon and get my service and data switched to the new phone.

The next morning I woke up with a lump in my throat. I felt awful; how could the world continue on when my Maddy was gone? It was day 3 now and I had to move on. I tried to minimalize my pain by thinking of all the parents out there whose children have gone missing. Grateful it was Maddy and not my child I thought about the statistics of missing children returning home after 3 days being gone and knew that it was much less likely after the first day, and less and less as each day passed. Trying to move on and tackle my mile long list, I began by calling Verizon. I had the customer service gentleman on speakerphone as he patiently waited while I tried to activate my new cell phone. Benjamin was screaming commands at me so I apologized to the man and excused Ben as my demanding 2 year old boy wanting my immediate attention especially since I picked up the phone. He patiently understood from experience as he also has a 2 year old. Then my doorbell rang so I asked him to hold on again. As I opened the door, there she was! I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I couldn’t believe my eyes, a woman, an angel, was there at my door holding Maddy in her arms. I reached out and Maddy jumped to me. Maddy’s excitement to be home was evident by her wagging tail, and hyper craziness. Her body was hot from running around in the sun. I could feel the grimy layers of shrub and of dirt all over her. She smelled like a combination of a stinky gross bathroom and dry desert sage. I broke down crying and couldn’t let go. I can’t remember the last time I cried so many tears of joy. The Verizon man on the other end of the line heard it all. I think I cried for a half hour straight. I called Richard at work during class. I was crying so hard, I couldn’t talk clearly. He was worried so I tried to get it together and I spit it out:
“MADDY’S BACK!” I told him.
“Huh? Maddy’s dead?” he said.

“NO! MADDY’S BACK!” I exclaimed, “SHE’S ALIVE, SHE’S BACK! A lady saw our signs, and saw Maddy wandering around, she thought it was the dog in the pictures so she brought her home. SHE’S HOME!” I cried.

Needless, to say, Richard was more than happy to receive that interrupting phone call, and also relieved.

My dear friend Kellie went to pick the kindergartners up at school. I asked her to tell the big girls that we found Maddy. She took them over to the grass at school and huddled everyone together: Emily, Grace, Katie, and her 2 children, their good friends. When she told them they started jumping up and down and flipping out, they practically knocked her down. Together they said a prayer of thanks for finding Maddy and went back out to play.

We didn’t realize how much we really LOVED Maddy, we do now.