This past weekend we almost lost our little terrier/chihuahua/something-we-can’t-quite put-our-finger-on dog, Max. Actually, we DID lose our little street rescue for a while, but he’s back now. He’s ever-so-slightly worse for wear, but right where he should be. He’s been sleepy, but to be quite honest, that’s not a big stretch for Max, who loves a good ol’ day-long nap. He’s a senior citizen, our Max. He doesn’t like to roam that far from his favorite couch.
And that’s why the whole thing is puzzling. He’s not a wanderer, for one thing. Well, not anymore.
Oh, back in the day, he got into some shenanigans, let me tell you. When we’d leave the window open beside our front door, he could squeeze out of it and chase us down the street as we walked to the store. But those days are long over for Max.
Nowadays, he’ll saunter up to the bars of the front door to find out what his younger sister Misa is barking at. He’ll lend a huffy bark or two and then go back to the couch to lay with his nose between his two front legs.
Yesterday, when my daughter and I got home from school, we found Misa locked upstairs in our bedroom, yapping like someone had slammed her tail in the door.
At first, we couldn’t figure out why she was so upset, racing up and down the stairs trying to lead us to the front door. But when we called for Max and couldn’t find him, we realized she was trying to tell us something was wrong.
I tried calling Gil, my husband, but he didn’t answer, so I began to fear that Max had some kind of medical emergency. When he walked into the house Max-less, I assumed the worst, and my brain started thumbing through the first stages of grief. But when we asked Gil, his answer made my blood run cold, just like it did when I was a kid, and someone uttered that line in the old urban legend: “the call is coming from inside the house.”
He said, “What do you mean? I left Max upstairs in the bedroom.” My heart dropped to my shoes. We all stared at each other, almost comically, for a split second. Then we all started racing around the house, shouting, “MAX! MAX! MAAAAAX!”
We couldn’t figure out how he got out until we saw a broken tree branch under the SECOND FLOOR WINDOW.
It appeared that the old gent had managed to climb up to peer out, then leaned a little too far to huff at someone passing by and took a tumble out the window. Thankfully, a very leafy, dense tree must have caught his fall. But still.
He’s a shy fellow, so if someone had approached him, he would have run, and then may not have been able to find his way back.
This knowledge led to a complete scouring of our entire neighborhood, campaigning neighbors and strangers on the street. We spread out and drove our cars around, shouting his name. We took Misa with us, hoping her presence would draw him out.
My daughter stayed home in case he was able to limp back home while GIl and I took to the streets again. My voice began to quiver as I shouted his name, sounding less like a friendly pet mom and much more like La Llorona weeping for her fur baby. While walking, shouting and crying, I uploaded pictures to lost dog sites on social media.
Just when I started tearfully rehearsing how I’d break the news to my older son living in Canada, my phone rang. It was my daughter, sobbing. I began mentally preparing for all seven stages of grief. My Max, my right-hand dog. Hope was lost.
But then I started to make out the words through her tears: “He’s ok! He’s home!”
Gil had taken a hike deep into the jungly back lots behind our house, praying under his breath. Just when he was ready to give up, he stared straight into the eyes of our unbelievably filthy, elderly little Max. They stared at each other for a second, barely able to register the wonder of finding each other while wandering around in a tropical jungle. Then, both human and dog raced full speed toward each other. Max leaped into his human dad’s arms like he hadn’t leaped in about three years. Even though he had just very recently fallen out of a two-story window. It’s weird how ok he is, to be very honest with you. The vet says we are so lucky. Don’t I know it?
The moral of the story: I don’t know, I just had to unload this very stressful story.
Or actually, yes: Do NOT assume your dog won’t fall out of a window because you think he’s too old for climbing up and too much of a fluffy genius anyway. Close those windows if you aren’t with your dog.
Also, Hope abounds. It can come to you like a wonderful surprise in the middle of a muddy jungle, with the force of a desperately joyful dog. Never give it up.