Note: This incident happened a few years ago, while I was working at Target for the summer. I found the story saved in a Word document, and thought I should share it on here (everyone loves a good dog story, after all). I play the clumsy girl in the red and khaki.
A few days ago, I was late for work. When I finally arrived, my hair was so soaked that it stuck to my forehead in thick chunks. The top half of my red shirt was wet as well, and my shoes squeaked as I walked down the main aisle toward Pat, who was scanning in Kitchen.
I walked past Kathy, who said “Good morning, Holly,” as she always does.
In fact, Kathy uses my name every single time she addresses me. It bothered me a little at first, because it seemed as though she was continually trying to prove to me that she remembered my name. Now I like it, though, because she looks me in the eye when she says it, because when she says my name she makes it sound so solid and important, and because she looks cheerily satisfied when I follow my “Good morning” with her name in return.
I walked past Maria, who commented on my wet shirt. “What happened?” she asked. “It’s not even raining anymore!”
“I know,” I replied, hesitating, “but there was a dog on the highway, and I stopped to bring him home.”
“What a do-gooder!” I heard Maria exclaim behind me, but I was already moving toward the next aisle, not knowing how to explain more fully. I’ll try it here:
It was about 6:40 in the morning. I was on my way to work. Red shirt, khaki slacks, name badge, What You Missed In History Class podcast. I had just turned on to the highway when I noticed a large reddish dog standing by the shoulder. My first thought was that the dog was from my neighborhood, and that his name was Buddy. My second thought was oh Lord he’s going to run out in front of a car. My third thought was blurry, because I found myself pulling over and jumping out of my truck, while in complete disbelief that I was actually pulling over and jumping out of my truck.
Up ahead I could see Buddy weaving in and out of traffic. He was literally chasing cars. On the highway. I couldn’t tell if he was having the time of his life, or if he was scared to death, but I certainly knew that he was going to get hit any second. I began to scream his name, but I could barely hear myself over the roar of traffic.
Just then, a car pulled up beside me. The man inside rolled down the window and motioned toward Buddy, then toward me. Then he spun around and drove off down the road, to where Buddy had disappeared amongst cars filled with caffeinated businessmen and moms on early morning shopping missions. I quickly got into my truck and followed, turning onto a side road where the man had turned. As I got out of my car a second time, I saw that Buddy was now lying on his side on the shoulder. The man was squatted next to him, his hand on Buddy’s head. I rushed toward them, wondering frantically if Buddy was dead, if I was going to have to be part of a roadside scene in which the actors are blurry eyed and messy instead of shining and composed. I worried, as I hurried, about how I’d take it. I worried about how Buddy’s owners would take it.
The man looked up as I neared, and said quickly, “Don’t worry, he’s okay. He’s just scared, I think.”
“That’s good,” I replied stupidly, gazing down at the dog.
Sure enough, Buddy was breathing. His long red fur moved up and down in big huffs, and he looked at me with as much gratitude as I’ve ever seen in a dog. He’d had fun, but he was ready to be helped home now, thank you very much.
And then, because I realized the man was looking at me expectantly, I explained: “Oh-he’s not my dog. He’s my neighbor’s dog. He lives right down the next street.” I checked Buddy’s tag to verify. An address a few blocks away was printed clearly upon it. Buddy was not a first time runaway.
Since the man already had his own dog in his truck, I offered to drive Buddy home in mine. Clutching the still-trembling dog by the collar, I ran across the road to where I had haphazardly parked my vehicle. The doors were locked, and through the streaked window, I could see the keys resting innocently on the seat.
I went back—Buddy still in tow—to explain to the man what had happened. He started to offer me a ride, but his own dog was in his car with him, and I suspected it might be easier just to walk, rain or no rain. So, we set off down the street, a bedraggled parade of me in drenched red-and-khaki; Buddy, who had the good grace to maintain an air of humility; and driving behind, the man and his dog. I wasn’t sure, honestly, why the man was still following. I wondered briefly whether he doubted I—who had locked her keys in her car—could manage to successfully deliver a dog, whether he wanted to make sure his part in the heroics wasn’t left unmentioned, or, most likely, whether he also appreciated the break from the mundane and the gothic thrill of a rainstorm rescue.
My back hurt by the time we reached Buddy’s house: I hadn’t dared let go of his collar for fear he would bolt toward the highway again, and so had to walk with a hunched shuffle. But it would be worth it, I was confident. Perhaps I’m simply not as “good” as the good Samaritans I read about in newspapers. They always say that they never thought about a reward, never thought about the end result. They just did what they felt was needed. But I of the racing thoughts imagined as I walked how wonderful it would be to reunite Buddy with his family. I imagined they’d explode with relief and happiness and gratitude.
In actuality, the reunion consisted of me knocking on the door of a big brown house at the end of my street, the man standing on the porch behind me. Three children answered, staring up at us with curious eyes and parting so that Buddy could run between them into the house. Their parents came forth eventually, and we explained what had happened. They didn’t seem surprised. As I suspected, Buddy was not a first-time runaway. The owners didn’t seem very grateful, either. Sure, the tears and profuse thank yous I had envisioned were definitely unnecessary, but over the course of our five-minute conversation, the words “thank you” were not said at all.
So, the man and I left. We were both a little stunned at the cold reception, although we didn’t say so. We said goodbye, and then he drove back toward the highway, and I hiked home for the spare key to my truck.
I was late for work that day, and when I arrived my clothes and hair were still wet.
Kathy didn’t notice, but Maria asked me what had happened. I didn’t know how to explain properly, so I didn’t.
I simply walked on toward Kitchen, where I began aiming my PDA laser at labels for cheese graters and garlic presses and wine openers that resembled Swiss Army Knives in their complexity.
Buddy, I hoped, was resting on a large pillow somewhere quiet. I hoped that he could learn to ignore the faint rushing sound of cars on the highway. Most of all I wondered, smiling to myself, what he would have done with a car once he’d caught one.