...or there but for the grace of dog go I.
Yesterday was market day here in town. For five hours on a summer Friday, the population of the village increases by tenfold, and things are a little nuts, to put it mildly. Being my usual introverted, antisocial self, I avoid it as much as possible, and arrange my dog walks so that they are respectively earlier and later in the day than market hours.
Yesterday afternoon, I had the dogs down at the lakeshore, and an older neighbour, whose face I know but whose name I don't, came down to the rocks and said that she'd seen one or both of the dogs from afar, across the bay, and had driven over, thinking that it was possibly a young yellow Labrador, Kiki, who belongs to the neighbours just up and across the road. ''Across the road'' being a rather busy artery that is the only route between two big lakes, and especially heavily trafficked in the summer, and even more so on market day. Kiki has gone on the lam any number of times in her young life (7 months). Usually she just dashes across the road to visit with a passing dog, and she has one of the neighbours hot on her tail. So far, she's managed not to get run down. But learning that she'd gone missing on market day was truly heartbreaking. She could have gone anywhere, and she could be miles away, in the bush, lost. Or hit on a road somewhere. It's any dog owner's worst nightmare.
Today was another busy day in the village, because it was the annual fall fair. This is as homespun as it gets, with an ad hoc parade of pickup trucks, the fire truck, a bagpipe band (side note: Arwen is terrified of bagpipes. Who knew?) and kids on bikes, proudly decked out in streamers and other baubles. There's a frog-jumping contest and log-sawing competitions for all ages. There's a barn full of garden bounty and baked goods and crafts competing for ribbons and prizes of a dollar or two. And you'd be surprised at how many people show up.
This afternoon, as the fair was winding down, we walked over to the general store, and trotting towards us on the sidewalk came an ever so friendly and docile black dog. She was some kind of mix, looking like part sheltie, part retriever. She didn't appear worried or lost, and she was happy to wait with Tim while I ran back to the house for a lead. She had a tag on her collar with her name (Bella) and some contact numbers. No answer at either of them. Both were in the greater Toronto area code, so Bella was obviously a cottager's dog. I paraded her up the main road in hopes that her owner might be frantically searching for her. No luck. But while I was doing that, my next door neighbour came to tell me that Kiki's escape had been a misunderstanding, that the husband had taken her out for a ride in the truck and the wife had come home to an open door and no dog.
So now we were in the bonus dog column...not only had Kiki been located, but now we had an extra, Bella.
We took her home and introduced her to our two girls. Everything went well, and Bella went about calmly exploring our house, even (much to the consternation of the two Labradors) disappearing down into the bowels of the cellar, The Place Where No Dogs Ever Go.
Eventually, Tim's phone rang, and Bella's dad came to claim her. He was on foot, walking toward our house, so we leashed her and headed to meet him. From afar, a little girl and Bella saw one another at about the same time, and the reunion was...well, sweet doesn't even begin to describe it.
As it turns out, Bella belonged to the people who now own the cottage we used to rent for years. A weird, small world twist on an already weird day.
I can't speak for Tim, but Bella tugged at my heart, because there was so much of our old brown dog, Mira, in her. Even though she was obviously well cared for and she had plenty of I.D. on her, there was a teeny, tiny part of me hoping that she wouldn't be claimed. Just a teeny tiny part. But seeing her get back to her little girl certainly made me grateful for happy endings.