Good Boy

It's six o'clock in the morning and I've just said goodbye to my wife, who's leaving on a weeklong road trip with her family. I've waved from the doorstep, watched their car shrink into the distance, lowered my arm and quietly closed the door. It's very empty here.

But Vince ... he's ready to go. It hasn't really sunk in yet for him that Penny will be gone for five days, and he just wants to get on with doing what he does every other morning, (though usually about an hour later), which is run around the back yard like a crazed maniac.

It's raining, though, so he'll probably want to come right back in as soon as a drop hits him on the nose or head. I open the back door for him, and he slowly trundles out into the wet morning. I watch him through the glass, now sitting in the wet grass looking out in the dark, and decide that's enough.

"Come on, Vince" I call, poking my head out the cracked door. "It's raining, buddy. You should come back inside."

At this moment, he sees something. He darts off into the dark, a furry brown blur across the grass, disappearing faster than my eyes can follow.

"Vince! No! Stop!"

My yelling is useless; a year of training locked out by millenia of instinct. Whatever he's chasing is fast, and now I can't see him anymore.

My shoes are in the bedroom, and I'm stomping my feet into them as I'm making my way out into the rain, pulling on a jacket hung next to the door. The rain is cold; it goes right through my pajama pants.

He turned right the last time I saw him, so I head that way, east, toward Highway 135. I'm stumbling through backyard after backyard, peeking around barns and fences, calling Vince's name loudly so he'll hear me, then softly as I remember my sleeping neighbors.

No sign of him.

Eventually, I come to the back of a house that faces the highway. I slow down as I walk around the side. My eyes are searching the floodlit pavement for a crumpled brown body.


Trying to be relieved, I pull my jacket tighter around me and head back home, still staring hard into every dark corner of every yard and listening for the jingle of his tags.

"Vince..." I'm still calling. "Vince..."

When our house finally comes into view, it looks very anonymous, easier to miss at this distance than I realized. All the houses seem to blend together, and there certainly are a lot of them. By the time I turn into the yard, though, I've checked every shadow and woodpile on the block. I still haven't found him.

I'm cursing the wet grass and the blowing rain and the looming highway, but mostly myself. Why didn't I just put up a fence? It wouldn't have been that hard. Why did I let him out without clipping him to his run? Because it was raining. I have a week now; I could put up the fence now, but there's no dog to put inside it. Now I'll have all this time in the house, by myself, to not build the fence I should have built last summer.


He trots across the yard, coming in from the other direction, the way I didn't go. He must be wet, but he's smiling, and he's heading toward the house.

He runs up beside me and we walk toward the house together. I know he doesn't understand why I'm out in the yard, but he's happy to see me.

"You're not supposed to do that," I tell him softly. "I said no."

As I say no, his ears lower and he slows down. The tail stops wagging, and as we get close to the light I can see that his fur is wet.

I open the back door and he hops up the steps, pausing when I ask him to so I can dry off his paws. Sighing and coughing as I run the towel over his back, I look out into the dark room and say, not really to anyone in particular, "I hope you had fun."

He heads off for the living room, ready to go back to bed, waiting to be forgiven.

I follow him silently and barefoot, leaving my soaked tennis shoes by the door. When I finally reach down to pat his head and welcome him home, I'm still mad. But his damp fur feels good, and he is warm.

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