This is a strange story, but true. You can’t make this kind of stuff up. It doesn’t have a lesson like a fable. It’s just out here because it was still stuck in my head. Kathie
We took a scraggly little dog home when she was just one year old. But this chihuahua-terrier mix with scraggly facial hair was so ugly, she was cute. My kids declared love at first sight.
Caramel was the best snuggler. She loved to sit on your lap, lean up against your chest, and lick your chin every now and then to remind you she was still there. Her affectionate attentions were healing balms for girls in the awkward and trying middle school years.
Her previous owners had warned us, “Caramel’s a runner.” But I didn’t think there was any way she could get out of our securely fenced back yard on her own, and for a few months she showed no sign of wanderlust, so I thought they were mistaken.
Boy, was I wrong. We should have named her “Houdini.”
One day I got a call from our neighbor, a grade-school teacher, who called to say our dog had been sitting quietly in his classroom for the last hour. He’d seen her walking by the playground, called her, and she was happy to join his class. She was very pleased with herself, and it made the kids’ day.
The walkabouts became a regular occurance from which she would return hours later very tired and full of herself–until one day she didn’t come home. We called the pound and the police, placed ads, but our escape artist seemed to have vanished on her walkabout.
About two months later, my daughter saw her tied up in the front yard of a house about eight blocks away from ours. She was no longer skinny, but looked like an overstuffed sausage with legs. It was definitely Caramel, and she was overjoyed with we stopped. The kids petted her while I knocked on door. I heard people inside, but it was five minutes before a boy answered. No, his parents weren’t home. No, they’d had this dog for years, so it couldn’t be our walkabout canine. I wrote down my name and number, and stuck it behind the grill on the tightly closed screen door, and asked him to have his mom or dad call me.
Nobody called, so I returned a few days later with dated pictures of my kids and Caramel, but the boy’s mother wouldn’t come to door. I asked for their phone number, and the poor kid–stuck between his mom and this pushy woman at the door–gave it to me.
I kept calling, and finally the dad grudgingly agreed to talk. He told me his family loved this little dog so much that they would be heartbroken without her, then he hung up. I kept calling until he answered again and said, “This poor pup had obviously not been well cared for–she was so skinny.” I guess I was supposed to feel threatened by that accusation, but I decided to ignore it, so he went back to how much his wife and kids loved her, and how their hearts would be shattered to lose her. I said I’d have a family powwow and call back in ten minutes.
My family was watching television together. I asked them how serious they were about getting Caramel back. Without looking up from the show, they nodded or mumbled, “Yes. She’s our dog!” I went over to the phone, but had no idea what to do or say next. I went back to my family, “Are you sure?” This time they were a little impatient because they were missing some of the show. I said I could use a little help, but there were no volunteers.
So I called, but the words that came out of my mouth were, “Although we have proof of ownership, we will let you keep our dog. I don’t appreciate how you handled this situation, but I don’t want to play this game. Love her well.” And I hung up. I’m not sure who was more surprised, my family, me, or the dishonest man on the phone.
Occasionally we would drive by to see if Caramel was tied in the yard. If she was, I would stop so that the kids could pet her. The first time we did so, my two youngest were squatting down hugging and kissing Caramel, and a disembodied woman’s voice screeched out from an open window:, “Get away from that dog!” My reaction was immediate. I yelled out the car window, “MY KIDS will pet OUR DOG any time they want to pet OUR DOG!”
“Way to go, Mom,” said my surprised kids when they climbed in the car.
“I think I’m still a little angry,” I answered.
Caramel was too fat and lazy to go walkabout any more, but she seemed content. So, we let our sleeping dog lie.