Here are the things that happened on Saturday: Francesca, Brie and I (plus kids) got in the car with the intention of driving to Marin County to meet Francesca’s brother Mookie for a lovely, semi-glamorous lunch before “hiking” (strolling) through the Ewok Forest. Then, an hour into the drive, traffic and carsickness happened, and we thought it best to just take the nearest exit, which happened to be Berkeley. And so the lovely semi-glamorous lunch was replaced by grilled cheese sandwiches and a pitcher of Bud, which was obviously fine by us. We wandered around in vintage shops (I picked up a gold lame maxi dress that is wildly inappropriate for my present lifestyle of Safeway runs and baby-corralling, but whatever it’s amazing) and made a string necklace for Kendrick to match the ones that Indy and Goldie wear, and then drove up to a scenic overpass and took photographs of the fact that we have all simultaneously decided that we are excited about miniature bags like the ones we last wore in 1996.
Those bags were what I was originally planning to write about today. But then we drove home to make dinner, and my plans changed. Because around 7PM, Francesca asked where Lucy was, and in the same instant all five of us realized that we hadn’t seen her in hours.
Lucy is getting old; very old for a purebred dog. She sometimes spends hours sitting in the bathroom underneath the toilet, staring at the wall that she can no longer see thanks to the cataract that has developed over her single eye. She sleeps most of the day. She gets stuck on the couch or on a chair or on the edge of the bathtub (how she gets up there, I have no idea), and barks and barks until someone comes to help her down.
It is a hard thing, to watch my sweet, bouncy puppy slow down. I can hardly stand it.
Once we realized that Lucy wasn’t in any of the spots where she typically hides, Francesca, Brie, Mookie, Kendrick and I combed the house inch by inch: the garden shed, the spot underneath the patio slats, everywhere. Eventually, we had to admit that she simply wasn’t there. This is a dog who spends 6 hours each day tucked away in the shade under our patio table and 6 hours sitting in a basket in my closet, and who whiles away the remaining twelve parked on our bed. The idea of her striking out on her own was essentially unfathomable…but apparently it had happened.
So we made signs. Mookie watched the kids; Kendrick walked the neighborhood with a flashlight, and Brie, Francesca and I got in my car and drove around for hours, talking to everyone we saw and papering every lamppost and stop sign with posters.
White and brown, 8lbs, one eye
At one point, we were driving past the park near my house and I stopped a couple of boys on skateboards to ask them if they’d seen a little white dog.
“The one with one eye?” they said. “We’re on our way to the park to look for her.” And they skated off.
I put up a notice on my neighborhood watch page, and got email after email from people saying they’d heard; they were sorry; they were going out to hunt for Lucy. On one circle around the block, I spotted my neighbor Scott and his twelve-year-old daughter hunting for Lucy with flashlights; on the next I ran into my other neighbor Dan, who was busy posting a “lost dog” notice to Facebook. I texted with girlfriends who I had plans with the next day to let them know I wouldn’t be able to make it; they offered to walk the streets with me and I knew they meant it.
We signed up for a pet Amber Alert service that would send posters to all the local vets and shelters. We put up poster after poster after poster, and I cried and tried to figure out how to wrap my mind around the possibility that I might never know where Lucy went. And then finally, around midnight, we decided that we’d done all we could until the shelters opened in the morning, and we headed home to go to sleep.
I sat down at my computer. Brie and Francesca sat on the couch, and Mookie headed into the guest bedroom.
And then: “…Um, Francesca?” Mookie said. “…Can you come here?”
I barely paid attention; I was on the neighborhood watch site answering questions about where Lucy had last been seen.
Then, from Francesca: “Ahhh…Jordan?”
And then: “Jordan you should come here right now.”
I walked into the hallway where Francesca and her brother were standing, and discovered an actual river coursing out of the master bedroom, running a full inch deep through my bedroom, my daughter’s bedroom, the hallway closet, and the hallway itself. The master bedroom toilet, it seemed, had decided that I hadn’t experienced quite enough stress for one day, so what the hell: let’s fuck up the house!
What happened next: Mookie grabbed a plunger and a mop, and headed into the bathroom to stop the leak. Brie, Francesca and I (Kendrick was still out searching for Lucy) spread out through the house to find every towel and bedsheet and throw blanket in the place, and began piling them on the floor to sop up the water. We ferried blankets back and forth from the bedrooms to the bathtub, wringing them out and bringing them back to sop up more and more.
We did this for the better part of an hour, and by the end we were laughing so hard we could barely stand up. Because it was insane: the carsickness, the flood, the fact that my dog was missing.
Sometimes when a day is that horrible the only thing you can do is laugh. It’s tough to do that all on your own, though.
When Kendrick got back and I started explaining to him what had happened with the flood and all, I cried again. I cried because I was frightened for Lucy, of course, but I was also crying because I felt so grateful. When Lucy first came into my life I was completely alone, shattered by a breakup, drifting around in a mess of a career, barely sleeping or eating, and I clung to her at night because she was my family and when she was curled up next to my shoulder, things seemed better. And on Saturday night Lucy disappeared, and while I was looking for her I realized that what I’d wanted so, so badly eleven years ago had happened: I have a family. And friends. And a town that’s not just a collection of houses, but an actual neighborhood.
I found Lucy the next morning, at a shelter about two miles away. A man had found her – apparently just minutes after she’d escaped our house – and she’d spent the night in a safe place. I heard her before I saw her; I called out her name while walking down an aisle in the shelter, and immediately recognized the shrill, high-pitched bark that came in response.
I always wanted to find a village, but never thought that was in the cards for me; I always had a sort of pastoral fantasy about this type of community, and figured it was the kind of thing you’re either born into or you aren’t. But as it turns out, sometimes home is where you started, and other times it’s one of the many, many places out there that you can find if you just refuse to stop looking.