It was last Monday, two days after we put down our chocolate lab, Baxter. His collar was sitting on the counter along with the clump of fur the vet shaved off his hind leg. When feeding time rolled around, I kept grabbing an extra scoop of food even though there was only one dog to feed now. At night, I had to keep putting down the chair I grabbed intending to build a barrier at the base of the stairs to keep him from attempting the climb he couldn’t make. I still panicked that I left the gate open when I went outside in the morning and didn’t see him in the backyard. With his presence still fresh in my mind and habits, I wasn’t ready for the sight I received that Monday morning.
While finalizing my previous post about Baxter’s last day, I heard a single, loud bark. “What’s Roscoe barking at?” I thought. But when I looked around, Roscoe was laying next to me. He had been sleeping, but the bark aroused his curiosity too. It didn’t come from Roscoe.
A greenbelt runs behind our backyard. Numerous dogs and their owners stroll down it every day. Since the dogs are pretty well occupied with their adventures, they usually don’t bark much. Yet sometimes you’ll hear one. But this bark sounded too close to be in the greenbelt. Sometimes a dog confined to his backyard will bark at the dogs running in the greenbelt. (This was one of Baxter’s favorite past times.) But the bark I heard didn’t fit this scenario either. It was a single bark that dogs use to gain attention instead of the rapid barking of one dog claiming its territory to another.
Confused, I walked over to the back door with Roscoe on my heels. Roscoe recognized the situation before I did. His tail and ears were up, and he was dancing this little shuffle he does whenever someone rings the doorbell. Roscoe is trained to wait at doors for people; he won’t go through them until he’s given permission. But on this occasion, he was ready to shoot through the glass to meet what was on the other side. Despite everything Roscoe was telling me with his body language, I still couldn’t grasp what I was seeing.
He perched on the top step, waiting to come in. He perked his ears and cocked his head to one side. I could hear him in my mind, “You gonna let me in or what?” I was staring into the eyes of a chocolate lab!
A million thoughts started slamming against my skull. A ghost? Did someone put him there? A cruel practical joke? A sign? Fate. I stared at him through the glass door. Now I’ve never been one to believe in fate or signs or karma or anything else like that. I possess a strongly analytical nature and look for rational explanations for events. But at a moment when I was still keeping an eye out for Baxter at night to make sure I didn’t accidentally step on him in the dark, this was a bit much to simply dismiss with reason. I wanted to believe. But my skeptical personality held, and I went to figure out how the inexplicable had manifested itself in my own backyard.
As soon as I cracked open the door, the dog bolted inside and began sniffing all over the place. He paid little attention to me or to Roscoe. It was like he already knew us and just needed to check out his new home. I went outside with Roscoe. The new lab followed us. He wore a faded red collar but no tags. Grey hairs were starting to develop through the shiny brown fur on his chin and neck . I guessed he was about six years old.
I checked the two gates leading into the backyard. They were both shut. The back fence is only four feet tall. He could easily have jumped that. But I’ve never known a dog to give up the freedom of a wide open greenbelt to jump into a yard. Then I thought about the chickens (we raise chickens in our backyard for the eggs). Their smell probably lured him in. Just as I was thinking that, the dog stopped trying to play with Roscoe and froze. He had just discovered the chickens. He ran up to investigate them through the wire of the coop run. If it wasn’t the chickens, then why did he just happen to appear in our yard less than 48 hours after we put down our own chocolate lab?
I had no answers. Maybe there were no answers. Maybe he was supposed to find this yard, to find me. Except for the sniffing, he didn’t act like a dog in a new place. When I said “come,” he came over to me like I was his master. But he also sat on command. He knew “down” and responded to a whistle. He was trained and therefore belonged to someone. I called the Humane Society to report that I had found a dog. They weren’t open yet, so I left a message.
For the rest of the afternoon, the new dog followed me around the house. When I sat down to work, he laid next to my chair. When I got up to grab a drink, he followed me into the kitchen. When I went outside for a smoke, he sat at the door and watched me through the glass. I introduced him to a tennis ball (big mistake). He dropped it repeatedly at my feet. “You gonna throw this or what?” I heard him think. If I sat down on the floor with him and scratched his ear, he threw his paw over my arm and tried to start a wrestling match. It was like he had been my dog for years, except I didn’t know his name.
What should I name him? A dog needs a name. How about Milo? Yes. That’s a good name. Milo and I could wrestle in the backyard. We could chase the ball in the greenbelt. We could go on walks and hikes in the woods. Milo could curl up next to me in the camping tent. He could lean against my legs as I rubbed his ribs. He could put his head (or a tennis ball) in my lap while I read.
My phone rang. It was the Humane Society. “We got your message about finding a dog, and there’s someone here who lost one with the same description.” They put a man on the phone. He described the collar and named the neighborhood we lived in — neither of which I divulged in my message. He said his dog was named Reggie. The dog was standing next to me (still following my every move). I looked down at him and said, “Reggie?” His ears perked up, and he got all excited. So this was Reggie. I told the man it looked like I had his dog. He said he lived a couple streets over and his wife would be over to take Reggie home.
After I hung up the phone, I looked down at the dog, at Reggie. He was someone else’s wrestling partner, someone else’s camping companion. He chased balls thrown by someone else. He wasn’t Milo. He was Reggie. Someone else named him. He was on his way home. Two dogs lost in two days.
After the dog, Reggie, went home, I still had an uneasy feeling. Finding his family didn’t mean this wasn’t a sign. I still had no explanation of how Reggie appeared in my yard. Maybe he wasn’t the dog I was destined to have, but a messenger of fate. He was telling me what I was supposed to do. I mean, what are the odds of a chocolate lab showing up in my own backyard, two days after putting one down?
A couple hours after Reggie went home, the doorbell rang. It was another neighbor that lived three houses down. “I put your dog back in your yard. I thought you should know he was out. You do have a chocolate lab, right?” I told him how we did have a chocolate lab up until two days ago. His face dropped as he realized the magnitude of his mistake. I assured him that we did find Reggie’s home. He apologized for the error and left.
Now I had come full circle. The inexplicable had been explained. The veil was lifted from the mysterious forces of the universe. Yet it’s true that Reggie was a messenger of sorts, but the message he delivered didn’t come from the cosmos. It came from myself. Last Monday, my fate was not revealed to me, but my desires were. I couldn’t see the rational explanation at first because I wanted a dog. The rational explanation got in the way of my want. Sometimes it’s easier to believe that some event is meant to happen, instead of staring our desires in the face and bringing them to fruition. The first situation absolves us from action (it’s inevitable, right?), while the second requires it. I suppose it’s possible fate exists and this was an example of it. But I doubt it. Either way though, I should listen. I think I’ll go look at who’s available at the pounds and rescues.
Launch your own filament in the comments below.