Early this a.m., my dog Sancho woke me up because he had to go to the bathroom. After stumbling around trying to get my bearings and muttering “damn dog,” I headed downstairs in pursuit of him and let him out the front door. My plans were to go back to bed afterwards. It’s a rarity that I ever get to sleep in. My dog is 14 years old, and for 14 years I have had a cold, wet nose pressing into my face in the early morning hours. With a nudge and a little whine that guilts me to get out of my warm, comfy bed, he jumped off the bed and rushed down the stairs. I was in slow, groggy pursuit, praying that I wouldn’t tumble down my steep, carpeted stairs. Once I let him outside, he began sniffing around looking for that perfect spot. I shivered in my pajamas and bare feet, hoping that none of my neighbors would jog or walk by at this hour. I was facing the street keeping an eye out for any nosey neighbors when out of the corner of my eye I saw him ambling towards the neighbor’s yard. I quietly tried calling out his name, but I didn’t want to be too loud, and he’s losing his hearing, so there’s that. I stepped on my front lawn and I began wobbling and tripping over all the tiny acorns that are scattered in my front lawn from my oak tree. Sancho then walked around to my side yard, out of view. I cursed again, “Damn dog,” and went inside to open the back door and look for him there.
I stood on the deck planning to catch him in the backyard. He was nowhere in sight. I walked around a bit searching for him, trying to avoid the large fungi that have spread up in my backyard from the recent rain. I couldn’t see him. I cursed some more, “Damn dog,” and went back inside. I took my time and went upstairs and got my tennis shoes on. I realized at that moment a few months ago around this time I saw a coyote streak through my side yard. I began to get scared. I ran back downstairs, my untied shoestrings slapping at my lower calves. I almost tripped over my cat who dominates the stairs and will not budge, even if you’re carrying suit cases, boxes, or a case of kitty litter. I power-walked out the back door and started searching for him in my neighbors’ backyards. I couldn’t find him anywhere. I started to get a bit worried. “What if the coyote got him already?” I asked. Or “What if he got into the street and got hit by a car?” “What if the neighbor’s rottweiller ate him?” “What if he got lost and he can’t find his way back home and someone else picks him up and takes him in as their own and I never see him again?” I worried and got a little panicky. He’s never ran away in all the 14 years I’ve had him. In fact, when I first brought him home, I had to make sure I didn’t step on him because he was always at my heels. I never had to train him to walk on a leash because he always walked at my side or a few steps in front or behind me. I clapped my hands and called out his name, all the while cursing “damn dog”. I didn’t care if the neighbors heard me or saw me in my pajamas with ratty bed-head. He is my Sancho Panza, my sidekick. My loyal and trustworthy friend. I couldn’t imagine my life these past 14 years without him.
He was nowhere in sight, and I had covered 3 backyards and clapped and called his name several times. I cursed under my breath, “Damn dog,” just so I could fight back the tears. I made a last ditch effort to see if he was in my neighbor’s front yard. When I walked around to my front yard so as to get over to hers, I saw Sancho standing at attention at the front door. His ears were perked up and he was staring straight ahead, eager to get back to me. I saw him first and called his name. He slowly walked over to me and then put his paws on my legs and let me scratch his ears. He must have heard the relief in my voice (although I was still cursing “damn dog”) because he began jumping up and down and running circles around me like he was a little puppy. We both went inside and started our morning routine, happy to be together once again. Damn dog. He gets to my heart every time.