Columns and stories of life from the Fredericksburg area.
WRY TOAST: Oh, Shih! Another dog is on the lam
BY EDIE GROSS
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
IT WAS ABOUT 10 o’clock at night, and I was sitting in my car outside the Riverside Center Dinner Theater where I’d just finished an interview when, out of the corner of my eye, I thought
I saw something four-legged dart past.
It was dark out, and it happened so fast that, for a moment, I was convinced I’d imagined the whole thing.
I was thinking I might need new contact lenses when I saw a man come running full-tilt around the side of the building, racing in the same direction as the aforementioned blur.
I didn’t know the man, but I instantly recognized his run: limbs flailing in a pathetic attempt to propel the body forward at the same rate as the four-legged escape artist he was chasing; face contorted in equal parts fear and fury; a string of expletives cascading from his lips.
It was the Sprint of the Damned—the deranged scamper you do when your dog has gotten loose.
I’ve done it more times than I can count.
Around the age of 9, my beagle went through a prolonged phase where she thought it was great fun to greet me at the door when I came home late from work—and then bolt right past me for a midnight jaunt around the neighborhood.
Witnesses to the spectacle would spot a flash of fur scurrying down the street, followed a few seconds later by an irritated and often barefoot man at full gallop after his wife’s beloved hound, followed a few seconds after that by a panicked redhead screaming her dog’s name while furiously shaking a box of biscuits.
After her third or fourth escape, fearing I’d lose her for good one night, I outfitted her with a reflective full-body harness, decked out with bells and a flashing red LED light. I figured that would make her easier to track in the dark and maybe prevent drivers from flattening her fugitive, ungrateful, tri-colored hind parts.
That was right about the time she gave up this irritating habit and opted for staying on the couch instead, probably because she knew just how ridiculous she looked in that jingling, twinkling getup.
By the time I caught up to the man at Riverside, he was walking dejectedly back the way he’d come, shaking his head and muttering under his breath. This was not, he explained, the first time his dog had played this game.
I told him I understood and promised to keep an eye out for the errant pooch. Sure enough, I spotted her a few moments later in the parking lot of a motel off U.S. 17, trying to get friendly with
a guest’s dog, who was on a leash and in no mood.
I had no biscuits to shake. But on the passenger seat, I had some toast left over from my breakfast, and I used it to lure her into my car. Then I took her back up the road to her owner, who no doubt gave her a stern lecture about the dangers of accepting half-eaten toast from strangers in motel parking lots.
Funny enough, I’d use that toast gag again a few weeks later. On the way to work one morning—running late, as usual—I spotted two dogs dodging traffic near the entrance to my subdivision.
So I pulled over, grabbed the ever-present toast from the passenger seat and set to luring. The first dog, a border collie mix, eagerly accepted the gift and hopped into my car.
The second one, a golden retriever, was holding out for something better. He let me pet him, but he wasn’t getting in my car for anything less than a Belgian waffle or maybe a blueberry muffin topped with streusel, neither of which I had.
That’s about the time my husband drove by, also on his way to work, and spotted me mid-wrangle.
While I carry spare toast on me, my husband keeps his trunk full of random items from our garage.
On this day, he had a winch strap with him—then again, who doesn’t?—and he used it to fashion a makeshift leash that he slipped over the elusive golden’s head.
Neither had tags, so off they went to the county shelter. Turns out, they’d escaped from a neighbor’s backyard. They returned home in time for lunch.
Two weeks ago, my husband and I were heading out of town for the night. We had both our dogs in the car so we could drop them off with the sitters. We were literally three minutes into this trip when we spotted a tiny black-and-white Shih Tzu ambling across a busy two-lane road.
I asked my husband to pull over, and he obliged, though the look on his face said, “If you think I’m going to sprint—barefoot or otherwise—after a dog I don’t even know, you’re out of your mind.”
I dropped my beagle into his lap for safekeeping, shut the car door behind me and went around to the trunk. Unfortunately, I was traveling without toast, but I had brought a bag of our dogs’ treats, so I grabbed a handful and set to luring.
This dog was a bit of a wiggle worm and he made me work for it. But eventually I managed to get my hands on him, and into the car he went.
Our dogs were so excited to meet the new guy, you’d have thought we promised them a trip to an all-you-can-eat bacon buffet. The force of all three dogs wagging their tails in unison was nearly enough to drive the car off the road.
Worse than that, we could barely see the road through the cloud of dog hair that now obscured the windshield. It was as if someone had sprayed a fire extinguisher full of fur inside the Corolla.
This dog didn’t have tags either, so we took him to the shelter. His owners, who’d been worried sick about him, picked him up there that afternoon.
I don’t know who they are, but if they’re interested, I’ve got a tricked-out glow-in-the-dark harness that ought to fit a little Shih Tzu—and maybe make him think twice before leaving the house.
Edie Gross: 540/374-5428