Half a mile from the highway, driving home from work and errands about 8:30 p.m., on the pitch dark road leading into our little community, the road up ahead looked kind of funny. I strained to see better but all I could make out was what seemed to be a light patch in the road beyond the full reach of my headlights. I slowed down and as I approached, I saw that this lighter patch was moving. Slower and closer still I realized it was a white dog running in my lane in the same direction ahead of me.
Stray dogs always wrench my heart. The town where we actually live is very, very small, with only a couple streets, a couple churches, a school, library and fire station. At the highway is a post office and general store. This dog was too far from "town proper" and way to close to the highway in the dark blackness of the night. At least it was running in the right direction.
Going only about 5 miles an hour now, I saw that the dog sped up as I passed it. Not like it was chasing the car, but like it was trying to get my attention. I slowed to a crawl and she trotted beside me curiously looking up into my window. She was a white pit bull with perky flopped over ears. As soon as I stopped the car, she put her front paws on my door and looked in. With window rolled mostly up I talked sweetly to her, not sure I could trust her. I had no clue as to her temperament yet, I just knew she was very interested in me. As I watched her responses to my constant sweet talking, I incrementally rolled my window down farther and farther. Before long, the window was rolled all the way down and she was leaning in, tail wagging and totally lovey.
I knew I had to do something. But what? I couldn't take her home because I was dog sitting for my friends and already had a dog at home. Our outdoor kennel was not escape proof and had a big gaping hole in the chicken wire where a previous canine visitor had squeezed his way out. Even if I fixed it, I couldn't take this dog out of town the other direction and closer into the woods only to have it escape in the night and be even more lost. I didn't know what to do. But...I had to do something.
I wondered if she'd get in the car with me so I could try to find her house. I got out and before I could open the back door, she jumped right in the front seat and started to settle in. I called her out and into the back seat where she sat right down like she'd just paid her ticket and was waiting for the ride to begin. I drove to one house with a long gravel driveway. I honked the horn and called out "Hello!" hoping to rouse someone in the house. The rule of the country is that you don't get out of your car because chances are there's a very protective dog loose on the property somewhere. When a couple finally came out, they said they didn't know where the dog lived but thought they'd seen her down by the library a few times.
With the dog now sitting up in the front seat beside me, I drove down two of our six total streets, watching her closely for any signs that she saw her home. Nothing. She just sat there observing everything as if thinking, "Oh boy, isn't this fun!" My next attempt led me to a house, with a German Shepherd and a couple of kids running around. I asked if they recognized her and the handsome young Indian boy said, "Oh, hey, that's Trouble. She lives over that way." He then proceeded to give me the most confusing directions I could imagine, especially since our town is so stinkin' small! I set out to the road he told me of. Nothing from Trouble helped me figure out if I was on the right track or not. She was just enjoying her ride, sitting up looking around, and sometimes laying down on the front seat like she was going home with me.
Next up, the Fire Department. I left the car running as I went inside and asked a firefighter if he could come out and possibly identify a dog for me. "A dog?" he asked, wondering what the heck I was getting him into. He came out with me and another firefighter followed along.
"Trouble! How're you doing, girl?" It seems I had the town celebrity in my car. Everyone seemed to know Trouble. She reached her head out the window and wriggled her whole body as she greeted her firehouse friends. From them I learned that Trouble is indeed trouble. She's an escape artist who's owner has ultimately given up trying to contain her. Trouble makes her rounds visiting folks in the tiny little hub of our town that contains only the library, firehouse, and churches.
I finally got specific directions to where Trouble lived. "Right behind the church" would have been a good sentence the young boy could have said to me, but no. I'd gone way past the church into eery territory unknown after talking to the boy. Now I went back where I'd slowly passed before and carefully observed Trouble's demeanor. Right back to where we'd heard the little yappy dog barking in a yard -- her yard -- but Trouble seemed to pay only passing attention to it. Back at her house, I stopped the car and opened the back passenger door. (She was back in the back again, having made herself quite at home jumping around my car.) I opened the door and she just sat there, looking at me and the house as if she didn't have any intention of going home. She was having too much fun driving around with her new friend.
With a little coaxing, she got out and walked a few feet down the driveway. I wasn't entirely sure she would go home. When I drove away she was back out into the street again, looking at me, apparently wondering why our little party was over. But I'd done my best and was happy to have taken her home.
She probably would have eventually made her way back home from where I'd first seen her. But I'm glad I picked her up. I'm guessing she was farther away than she'd ever been before and she was much too close to the highway for a dog with such a wanderlust. Especially at night. I figured if she stayed out all night after I dropped her off, at least she was back in her own neighborhood.
The next day on my way into town, I passed the little white log cabin church on the other side of the main road. The parking lot was full of cars and a few people were milling about. And there was Trouble. Right in the action, saying hi and making her rounds.
She's a funny, happy and friendly dog, that one. I'm glad I met Trouble.