He bounded into the yard Saturday morning around 10 – unannounced and uninvited – with an enthusiasm usually reserved for squirrels. He was off-putting at first, in part because of his exuberance and in part because of his mouth. It had teeth and a tongue and when it comes to unknown dogs, you’re never sure which is going to take precedence. Thankfully, this 80-pound transient was all tail wags and slobbery kisses.
But I didn’t know that during the first moments of our meeting. He was a strange dog. I even said it out loud, "Hello strange dog." I could tell right away that wasn’t his name, so I decided to call him "Dog." No one wants to be strange.
It was one of those day-changing or weekend-changing moments you don’t even realize is a moment until it becomes one and you are so wrapped up you don’t know exactly when it began in the first place. A stray dog runs into your yard. It’s a meaningless occurrence, because a wandering pooch tends to wander out just as quickly as he wandered in.
I figured our drifter would see how boring we were and move on toward home. Unfortunately, he was easily entertained. Our Labrador retriever came out to make sure the new dog received a proper welcome. Labs are like that – friends with everyone. Soon after, our son tossed a stick in a game of fetch. It was a veritable love fest of fun in our own backyard.
When he’d been around about 20 minutes without his owners showing up, I took his picture and posted it on a statewide lost dog website. He was a beautiful pup; I knew someone was looking for him.
After half an hour of play, our new friend was panting profusely and clearly thirsty. We were at a crossroads. Up until now we’d merely entertained the pooch. Providing water for him elevated us to a level of sustenance.
But it was a warm day and his black fur made him susceptible to the heat. His coat was so sleek it shone in the sunlight. He had a smidgen of white on the tip of his tail and on his throat and stomach, which happen to be the exact same markings as my own much-loved little black kitty. The strange dog was growing less strange by the minute.
I got an empty gallon ice cream container and filled it with water. Black dog stuck his entire snout in the bucket and did a happy shimmy shake. He poked at the water with his paws, as if he wanted to hop right in the bowl. After a minute or so, he’d splashed and sloshed all the liquid out. I think he drank some. A little at least.
By noon, the kids had named him Doug. Shortly after, someone fed him lunch, which completed the trifecta of things not to do when a strange dog happens upon your yard and you do not really want a new dog.
Doug operated in one gear, and it wasn’t low. During the next couple of hours he dashed full-throttle around the yard and through my newly planted vegetable garden. He found his way inside the house once or twice, causing chaos with the cats who created a Dislike Doug Club. When we opened the car door, he hopped in. Doug chased bugs and went through numerous buckets of water – most of it spilled. He didn’t respond to his name, but that didn’t matter.
He was becoming more charming by the minute.
I kept checking my email for a note from his owners. I knew he had people who loved him more than my kids were starting to love him. I hoped so.
By nightfall, we’d set up a doggie bed in the garage. I cautioned my husband about placing his water bucket close to the bed, but it was too late. We fetched Doug a new dry quilt.
The next morning, after he snuck in the house one more time and inadvertently tormented the cats, Doug’s owners found him in our yard. I was as happy as Doug with a fresh bucket of water; he’d finally get to go home. I knew it must have been a little off-putting for him, having to spend the night in a strange garage.
He bounded enthusiastically into our lives and in much the same manner he bounded out. Doug, whose real name is not Doug, may have started out as a stranger, but in a short span of 24 hours he dogged his way into our hearts. We were glad to have him for a day, but are even more glad he is home.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, playwright and author of "The Do-It-Yourselfer’s Guide to Self-Syndication." You can read more and follow her column on the Slices of Life page on Facebook.