This morning started out ordinarily, in a similar way of my other mornings. I turned in bed, almost awake, Charlie sensing it was time to get up. I heard his paws hit the wood floor as he got out of his dog bed located on the floor next to the human bed. The metal license tag on his collar slightly jingled while he did the dog shake. Then the tap, tap, tap of paws rounded their way around the bed. Like he does every morning, Charlie put his front paws on the mattress and stretched up to greet me.
I looked at his large beady eyes right near my face. His tail was thumping loudly, swinging back and forth persistently, hitting the corner of the bedroom wall.
It was time to get up.
We walked out of the bedroom, me leading the way (as it should be in any owner-dog relationship, with the "master" being in charge). Charlie followed down the stairs and I let him outside into the backyard after glancing at the outdoor temperature of only 10 degrees Fahrenheit. I opened the blinds to the back window, seeing Charlie begin his morning ritual of smelling and inspecting the happenings from overnight. I went around and opened some of the other blinds in the living room and dinning room before refilling Charlie's water dish and then prepared the coffeemaker for my morning brew. I glanced out the back window. Charlie did his business and then went around the patio for more yard inspection. I knew he would take a little more time. Next he would go stand on the deck, hold his head high, smell the wind, then walk off the porch and around the side to the gate that leads to the front yard. Then he would be willing and ready to come in for some breakfast. He's a creature of habit.
I started the coffee and then gathered some breakfast for myself. I opened the back door. Charlie wasn't sitting there waiting, like usual. I looked out the back window. I thought he must still be over where I couldn't see him, sniffing. Instinctively, I had a bad feeling. But I convinced myself that all was fine. There are some mornings where he likes to take his time. I continued with my morning ritual of opening blinds, turning the spindle to the last window, the one in the kitchen.
Immediately, after seeing out the window, I remembered the conversation Michelle and I had the night before about the defective latch on the gate and how it occasionally swings open in the wind.
You've got to be kidding me, I thought to myself, half annoyed with Charlie but also slightly delighted for him because what dog doesn't deserve to have a little freedom and excitement that a lack of boundaries provides. His little mind was probably bombarded with adrenaline to roam the neighborhood. My next thought was one of anxiety and fear for Charlie's safety (I'm not completely an irresponsible dog-owner). Our home is one house from a street with decent traffic.
Remembering the temperature, I put my coat on over my stylish pajamas, becoming more perturbed with the situation.
I walked out onto the deck, stepped down, and followed the sidewalk around the side of the deck to the defective gate.
"Charlie," I said, standing there. There wasn't any sign of him yet. I stepped a little more brazenly out of the backyard, stopping near the front of the house. I glanced at the neighborhood houses across the street, not able to really see in their windows, but glad that I couldn't easily discern bodies looking out, seeing me in my dapper attire.
Next, I began to scan the neighborhood for Charlie. I wasn't prepared to show myself to the world and hoped I wouldn't have to go inside to change and begin the search party.
Our dog was better than this. He will listen to me. I've trained him well. I'll let him know that I meant business this time.
I took a deep breath, pulling the cold air into my lungs: "CHARLIE!"
If Charlie was anywhere in a two to three block area, I know he heard my call. I waited, hopeful, still scanning for where he might be.
And then . . .
I think my hearing and sight captured the moment at the same time. Around the corner of the neighbor's house, on the sidewalk along the busy street, a flash of a brown and white Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in a dead sprint, head notched forward, tail down, and ears flowing in the wind, brought me a smile of amusement and relief.
That's my dog, I laughed to myself at his particularity to stay on paths like the sidewalk. Ordinary dogs would cut across the grass, through yards, disregarding human infrastructure. Not Charlie.
Without letting up, Charlie rounded the corner of the sidewalk turning onto our block, a twinkle in his eye, his legs pumping in unison. He kept his stride, running on the concrete, past the neighbor's house and continued along the front of our house. In a perfect pivot, he leapt up the steps and followed the sidewalk towards the front porch. I'm describing this all in slow motion, but in real time it happened in seconds. I thought he would slow down, since he was back home. Instead, Charlie's sprint continued, along the little curved concrete path around the side of the house, past me standing in flannel pants and a winter coat. He disappeared through the gate to the backyard.
I followed him and made sure that the gate latched behind me. There, a happy Charlie stood on the back deck next to the door of the house. I quietly, halfheartedly, let out a "bad dog" which didn't phase him at all, nor was it meant to. At that point it just seemed obligatory and it really didn't matter. I was glad he was back. He heard my yell and quickly came home.
Most importantly, he stayed on the sidewalk the entire time. And that is as far as I'm allowing my imagination to go, leaving me with the amusing memory of him safely running on the sidewalk back home, free from danger the entire time.