By Christie Long
I thought I knew my dog, but I was dangerously wrong. I had just arrived at a friend’s house for dinner last week. I was headed back out to the car to get some food I had brought when our dog, Gizmo, squeezed through the front door.
I didn’t panic because, quite frankly, this dog is madly in love with me. He greets me enthusiastically when I come back to my office, even if I’ve only been gone for 5 minutes. I have only to make eye contact with him to elicit a tail wag. He never leaves my side.
Which is why I hesitated for about 1.5 stunned seconds and watched while he tore off through my friend’s front yard, crossed Oak Street, and made a beeline for City Park. Chasing him and screaming his name only seemed to make him run faster, and he had kicked it into turbo mode by the time I had retrieved my jaw from the floor and started after him.
I gave chase for three blocks before I lost sight of him, a tiny 7-pound black Chihuahua tearing through the cold dark night like a dog possessed.
I can’t imagine what got into him. It was as if he had temporarily lost his mind, or heard the call of the wild, or was terrified of something in the house and had to get away.
I’ll never know, but believe me when I say I pondered many possibilities during the next two hours of riding around Old Town on a bike, screaming his name and trying not to think too hard about the vicinity of Shields and Mulberry, not to mention what might be lurking in City Park that night that could take down a Chihuahua.
Several of us walked and rode bikes around the area, calling his name and covering about 25 city blocks in our search. I was beyond heartbroken, and assumed the worst medical calamity possible had befallen him. It was as if he had vanished, and my guilt was enormous. I never should have presumed to know the mind of my dog, as he is after all, a dog. He has a relatively tiny brain that is programmed to respond to impulses. He overrides them because of training every time he comes when I call him or sits when I tell him to. Sometimes impulse wins out.
He had been lost nearly 2 hours when my son and I were choking back tears and taping fliers to the light pole on the corner where I had last seen him. I felt a small presence behind me and looked around to see my beloved Gizmo, belly-crawling toward me and wagging his tail, clad in his blue hoodie and cold, but otherwise unharmed.
I tell my story in hopes that those of you presume to “know” your dogs will consider whether you really do. I am thankful for many things today but I am especially thankful to be able to spend many more years training my sweet little dog.
Christie Long is a veterinarian at the VCA Animal Hospital in Fort Collins, CO. Long left her job in software sales in 2000 to travel for 13 months. Along the way, she was touched by the plight of the animals she saw and somewhere in the Nepalese Himalayas she vowed to return to school to become a veterinarian. While she often finds end-of-life situations heart-wrenching, she considers herself blessed to be called upon as a trusted advisor to families during difficult times. Dr. Long’s family includes her husband and travel partner, Wiley, their 5-year-old son, Wiley IV, their dogs Pancake and Gizmo and cats Sneaky and Sidh.