It was a dark night. I loved a dark night. You never knew what was out there. It was so peaceful, yet so dangerous. Rarely did you come across anyone, and you could really collect your thoughts. It was always my preferred time to go for a walk. It still is to this day.
I walked Minnie almost every night. Late. During the daytime, she was so friendly and had to stop to greet every person and dog she saw. The night walks were the only way to get her to walk continuously. Late at night, you could just walk and walk and hardly come across anybody. We used to go for an hour at least. By the time we got home, she was content and just hopped on the bed and slept.
She loved to be off the leash in the park. Late at night that was never an issue. During the day it always seemed to be.
She loved me so much, and was attached to me so much, that even though she wandered off to do her own thing, if she got too far away, she would come tearing full speed in the middle of the dark night to come find me. If she didn't, all I would have to do is call out her name and she would come running. We had done this hundreds of times and it never failed.
Until this night, when it did.
I guess I was too overconfident. You can get like that when you are younger. I had seen a lot of bad things in my day, but I still thought that no matter what I did, things would always work out for me. Because they always had. We made our way to the park, which took about 20 minutes. As soon as we approached the opening to the park, she started to pull and swell up. She knew I was going to turn her loose. I barely had the leash off of her neck when she tore away and began to explore. I walked my usual circle around park, and she knew where I was at all times. Dogs have a very good sense of sight in the dark.
Of course, I had no clue where she was. She was a pitch black dark Labrador Retriever and could not be seen in the the park with no lights of any kind.
At the time, I was heavy into the writing of songs, and I had one in my head. As she was now a dog that was getting older, I wondered what I would think of when she was no longer there. It would only be 6 or 7 years at the most until that would happen. We had her since she was an 8 week old puppy, so basically her whole life, and most of my adult life. It was hard to think of my life without her. I had made several moves since I moved out of my mothers house, and she was always the constant. She slept on the side of my bed and pretty much made every move I made. She even came to work with me in most of the jobs I did. We were attached at the hip. Girlfriends came and went, but Minnie was always there.
How would I respond to her not being there? I thought that, as with most things I had lost over the years, I would remember the good times. We had so many good times, that would be easy. There were also some very interesting stories that were attached to her, and some with not so happy endings, but even still, mostly everything about her was a good time. I told myself that when the time came, I would remember the good times.
I even wrote and finished that song and have it in a drawer somewhere. But that was a song. This was real life and she was still here, live in the flesh with many good years ahead of her.
I continued my walk around the circle of the park. I was more than 3/4 of the way around, and as of yet she hadn't come tearing towards me. That was okay. I knew she would at some point. Anyway, how much trouble could she get into in a dark park at 1am in a nice secluded neighborhood? Not much, I told myself.
I reached the end of the park and still no adoring dog by my side. I called out her name. Still nothing. I did that 3 or 4 times and then I began to get concerned. So I began to walk the park, but much more briskly, and with a sense of purpose. But, if she was out there, she wasn't coming. This had never happened before, so I really had no clue what to do. I continued to walk and call for her, but there was no response. This went on for about 20 minutes. I started to think she got distracted somehow and maybe headed towards home.
Heading towards home meant going down the street. Going down the street meant the possibility of cars. Even though it was late and there would not be many cars, it would only take one. She was used to walking down the middle of the street, and she was black as the night, so getting hit by a car was a real possibility.
I decided I would head home. She didn't seem to be in the park, so there was no point staying there. When motivated, it was only a 10 minute walk for me to get home. I took the route we always took, in the hope I would come across her. I didn't.
I knew one thing: She had not been hit by a car. At least there was that. I got home and got in my car and started to drive the neighborhood. Still no sight of her... either way. Of course by now my mind was racing. That song I had written was now starting to come true. She could be gone forever. For a brief instant at home before I got in the car I had thought to myself that I was fortunate to have had the 8 years I had with her and I would hold on to that if she was truly gone forever.
But that faded fast and I headed out to find her. I had driven the neighborhood 5 or 6 times and nothing. I was now back home, but she had not made her way there either.
I thought maybe I would go out on foot again. It was now 2:30am and I wasn't giving up until I found her, one way or the other.
Minnie was always a happy go lucky dog and nothing really fazed her. I kept walking and then I heard a rustling. I moved towards it. And it was her. She was digging into a garbage can scrounging for food. She always did that. No matter how old she got, or how much I fed her fat self, she always had to dig up garbage. She was a sweet lovable dog, but her manners were always very suspect.
I called to her, but she paid me no mind. Except to wag her tail. She was forever wagging her tail. That was her. That is one of the good times I always remember, her wagging her tail.
As I approached her, she turned towards me and gave me that look "Oh, Hi, look what I found in the garbage can". She stood still while I put the leash on her and we were on our way home. No big deal to her. She didn't seem to know or care how much danger she was actually in.
After that night, I kept her closer to me, but even still, I still let her off the leash to run free. She was a dog, and she needed to do that. We never had a close call after that night, and she was never lost again right up to the day she died, 7 years later.
I will always remember that night, and all the good times with her. Even the bad times were happy memories with her.