It started out as a normal Flagstaff day, blinding sun with high speed icy winds. I had recently been hired at a new retail store, and my father, the amazing wonderful man that he is, gave me a crisp one-hundred-dollar bill. Even though shopping wasn’t my favorite thing to do, I was excited to spend because it wasn’t technically my money. (Hell, I also wanted new skinny jeans in a lighter wash). So, after giving my fabulous pupper, Buddy, his seizure medication, I left with one of my housemates to check out the nearby thrift stores and shop at my new job.
We were gone for a total of four hours. When my housemates and I returned to the house, car full of bags bursting with new clothes, we noticed that the garage door was wide open. Odd. Someone must have forgotten to shut it. Brushing off the light dusting of worry that settled on my shoulders, I grabbed my bags and headed inside.
The moment I get through the door I notice something is off. I don’t spot Buddy among the other dogs waiting like soldiers at the front door. Weird. He usually waits downstairs for me, but perhaps he is napping upstairs on the bed. I ignore the tiny niggling of worry that shoots through me as I take to the stairs two at a time. My room isn’t a real room. It’s technically a loft that my parents and I converted into a sort-of room. As such, I don’t have a door, just a red curtain hanging over the space where a door could have gone. I brush that aside as I step into my sort-of room and toss my bags on the floor. My eyes dart to my bed, expecting to see the mass of brown and white fur curled up at the end of the bed. It’s empty. I check the rest of my room and then all the other rooms upstairs. He’s not there.
Confused, I clamber back down the stairs to check outside. I crack the door enough to stick my head outside and call his name. Once. Twice. I whistle. Nothing. I bring my head back inside, a little worried, but not really. He’s prone to hiding and not coming when he is called. Maybe he found something new to smell, I tell myself as I leave the door open and retreat to the couch. I flop down as my housemates crack open a bottle of red wine. It’s a new one we found at World Market, rather cheap but worth it after a hard day of spending money. I being the eager beaver that I am, pour myself a fat glass, pop in Mamma Mia! and wrap myself in a thick blanket, sure that Buddy would eventually show himself.
About an hour later (or two glasses later or five ABBA songs later, whichever you prefer, they are all accurate estimates of the amount of time that had passed), I notice that Buddy still hasn’t shown his beautiful face. I voice my concern to my housemates. I’m up off the couch before they finish telling me that they haven’t seen him in a while either. I double check upstairs. Maybe he is hiding in some corner or underneath a bed. I tear through the entire upstairs, checking every nook, cranny and underneath all the beds. Nothing.
Panicking a little, I come back downstairs, check the garage (nothing), and throw on my slippers. I comb through the backyard but come up empty. I enter full blown panic attack mode. I rush back inside and change into actual walking shoes—the wine making everything spin just a bit—and charge out the front door.
His name spills from my lips and carries on the wind as I furiously pound up and down the sidewalk. The residential neighborhood that I live in is nestled against the base of Mount Elden. My block, along with all the neighboring blocks, have an access point to the trail that winds itself around the entire base of the mountain. For a second I hesitate between checking the trail and the rest of the neighborhood. Which way would he go? It hits me a second later that I have absolutely no idea. So, I start with the neighborhood, hoping that he would stick to the more familiar path. I try to convince myself that he wouldn’t go and be adventurous without me.
I walk the first route, practically ruining my vocal chords in the process. Nothing. Not even a hint of a tail. I try my luck with the second route, talking with people along the way, giving them Buddy’s general description and where I live. I hope that with the extra eyes out there looking for him that he would be found easier. Nothing. I try the third route, hoping on top of hope that he would just show up trotting about with his tongue hanging out the side of his mouth. Still nothing. As the sun sinks even lower in the sky, my worry mounts and I begin to doubt my original assessment. Maybe he did go on the trail. I return home to change into hiking boots.
The trail isn’t ideal for him to be lost on. It’s long and winding with several different paths that cut through the main trail at several points. (Once we diverted onto one of these paths, and I got lost trying to get back.) The trail cuts through some of the forest and huge boulders stacked uncertainly against each other. Cacti line the path and thorny bushes jut out long arms to brush and smack unsuspecting victims. It’s a beautiful trail when covered in grass and wildflowers, but I only see danger. Immediately, my mind conjures up visions of my beautiful, clueless, dopey dog surrounded by a fierce wild pack of coyotes. My heart flutters with panic (it was absurd really, I have never once seen any trace of coyotes on that trail… ever).
After adorning the appropriate shoes, I all but flat out run to the trail, Buddy’s name spilling from my lips once again. The entrance we use for the trail splits off in two directions, and I don’t waste time hesitating. I take the path that leads to the left, totally certain that he had no clue about the other direction. My pace is fast as I take off down the trail, and I make it to our stopping point in record time. I shout his name. Nothing.
At a loss for what to do, I go a further down the trail, thinking that he might have gone further to explore. All too soon, the light begins to die, and with it goes my hope of finding Buddy. As my fingers start to lose feeling, I decide to turn back, trying to loosen the tight belt of grief and self-loathing that had appeared around my neck. Maybe he circled back around and is now waiting at home. The lie is almost convincing—at least it keeps me from letting an endless river of water pour out of my eyes. My voice continues to put Buddy’s name on the wind as I walk. I make it back home just as the last of the sun disappears from the sky.
Buddy is not there waiting for me. The last of the remaining hope utterly shatters. Buddy will be spending the night outside. In the cold. On a night where it is expected to rain.
It’s at this point I find myself holding another fat glass of wine, wrapped in a blanket and staring blankly at the T.V. The Office is playing, but I don’t hear or see much of it. I wallow in how terrible of a mother I was to not notice it right away. Why didn’t I act sooner? My housemates let me wallow for a bit before intervening. They make me finish my wine before helping me make a LOST DOG poster. After some prompting (and lots of help, seriously, I'm a wreck at this point) we post it to the Flagstaff Lost + Found Pets Facebook page.
Going to bed that night, I sleep uneasily. I don’t think anyone would check that Facebook page and that I'm in for a long day of search and rescue. However, when I wake the next day and check my phone, I am ecstatic to learn that someone has found him! Oh, happy days! Someone had taken him to the pound!
Ignoring the fact that I am still fully clad in my pajamas, I race out of the house. Giddy with relief, I head over to the Flagstaff Humane Society to pick him up. (I would go into the state of the place, but that I think that is for another time).
A hundred dollars later, Buddy and I are chilling on the couch watching T.V..
So, moral of the story? The people of Flagstaff are very dog-friendly and will most likely make sure that the dogs don’t sleep outside in the cold. Also, the Lost + Founds Pets page is a wonderful way to let people know to keep a lookout for your dog. With those facts in mind, you will probably be able to find your lost friend in less than twenty-four hours.