An Almost-Escape

A few days before Thanksgiving, our yard man showed up to mow/mulch in what we anticipated would be his final appearance until next spring.

Now this is a guy we’ve used in the past, several times in fact. He generally does a decent job, is reasonably fast, and (when we remind him) edges and blows off the sidewalks and driveway.

I distinctly remember cautioning him when he first reported for duty that I have a dog. The gate, I said, needs to be shut and locked when he finishes — every time, no excuses.

Okay, he said.

Being a Nervous Nellie, I always checked after he left to make certain he’d done just that.

And he had.

One can grow complacent in the face of reliability.

The day in question was dreary. Foggy. Damp. Drizzly. Cold.

As soon as the yard man left, Mom opened the door so Darling Doggie could relieve himself.

In his nice, safe, fenced yard.

Did you check the gate? I asked her.

No, he always shuts it, she said.

Something insisted I check.

I took out a bag of trash and found Darling Doggie standing on the back porch. A quizzical expression flitted across his furry face.

I need to check the gate, I told him. He beat me there and stood about a yard inside staring at the OPEN gate!

My heart skipped a beat, or maybe more.

Patting him and praising him for being a good dog, I inserted myself between him and the gate, and swiftly shut the thing and locked it.

He followed me inside, where I promptly gave him a Pupperoni treat.

But as he slept that afternoon (and as I fell asleep that night), scary images raced through my mind:

What if he’d seen a squirrel or cat and given chase?

What if he’d become disoriented in the world beyond the gate and couldn’t find his way back home?

What if I’d had to track him all over the county?

What if someone had stolen him?

What if a strange dog had come into our back yard?

What if I hadn’t checked that gate?

Those whose hearts have never been claimed by a dog probably can’t understand the panic I felt. Pets rely on us their entire life, not like babies who eventually grow up and often move away.

So St. Francis, thank you for the insistent nudge, for looking after my Sheltie!

And next time, I don’t care how reliable a worker is — you can bet I’m going to check that gate before sending my doggie outside.