Well, I’ll be doggoned
Sometimes fate is a cruel master.Just ask Hayden and Mattie, a couple of local kids who lost their dog Molly on a camping trip a few weeks ago. They traveled to a remote and unspoiled section of a breathtaking, red rock canyon area in Utah. The trip held all of the hope for renewal that springtime and a family gathering promise. As the family sat around a campfire enjoying the warm, late desert afternoon, they decided to light off a few small fireworks to celebrate the coming of summer. Molly was an older, calm dog that had never been bothered by loud noises. Nobody gave it a second thought.Maybe it was the booming echoes coming from all directions off the sandstone canyon walls. Perhaps it was being in an unfamiliar place. Whatever the reason, like a flash flood spawned from distant thunder, Molly hesitated for a moment and then took off through the winding chasm. Before the last ringing of the explosion faded, a member of the family that could never be replaced had vanished.Hearing this story, I tried to imagine myself in that situation. I felt myself standing in stunned silence, suddenly feeling very small and helpless in that vast expanse of feral country. In an instant, none of the calculated risks of recreational enjoyment added up. There was no plan for this. I felt like running and yelling; doing anything but just standing there.Of course Hayden, Mattie, and their mom did all of those things and more. For the rest of that day and all of the next, they searched and hiked and yelled until they were bone weary and hoarse. And they cried, too, as the harsh reality set in that they might never see their dog again.To my dog, I am everything. And she is more than that to me. I feed her and give her water. I’ve risked my own safety to get her away from a big dog looking for a fight and a bigger river starving for more flotsam. I’ve waken at all hours of the night to check on her when she isn’t well. From her, I’ve shaved off more tics than a Glenwood referee from the clock as the visiting team sets up for the final shot. In exchange, she gives me unconditional love. I am way ahead in the deal. In circumstances like this, you want to think all the best thoughts that you can. You would give anything to convince yourself that Molly is all right, somewhere out there. But, if you really want an appreciation for how big a Utah canyon is, look around at it and try to identify all the places a dog might be down there. It’s impossibly huge. Can you picture packing up the car after two days of searching? How do you call it quits when the quietest family member is lost and alone in the wild?During the four-hour drive home, there’s not much a mother can say to her kids when the blanket in the back of the car lies vacant and the empty dog bowl rattles over every slight bump in the road. But, neither of them is blaming her. Through the quiet sobs, the kids are too busy blaming themselves. One small moment of indiscretion has changed a family forever. It’s a heady price to pay and all of us should pray we are never billed so indiscriminately.Imagine the dreams you might have that night. You’re feeling a little down and then you see her trotting toward you, happy as always. She nuzzles up next to you, tail wagging furiously, and barks for you to come play. You take off running and she’s right on your heels. This time you are going to outlast her, she is going to give up first. But, it’s always the same. You collapse, exhausted, onto the grass and she’s all over you, wet kisses until you think you’re going to drown or suffocate from laughter. With a smile on your face, the early morning rays of springtime sun stream in past the edges of the shades and wake you. Then you remember. You tense up and this untended beast begins to rip and tear into you mercilessly again.The kids didn’t sleep well either. You don’t want to, but you send them off to school anyway. Then you do the only thing you can. You jump in the car and head back to the desert. You know she’s not dead. She can’t be. You feel it in your heart. You get to the canyon and start hiking around, yelling, listening and looking everywhere. At first you are filled with all the confidence that your efforts justify. But, ever so gradually your hopes fade as the desert sun reaches its zenith and then gives way to a moon that won’t hear any howling tonight.Molly is gone. You’ve done everything in your power and it’s just not enough. Weary and devastated, you sit down to cry, remembering how she looked the last time you saw her right in this spot. You eventually garner the courage to leave this place forever and begin preparing for the rest of your life without her. You jot down your name and number and leave it with some hikers, mostly because you can think of nothing else to do. It reminds you of all the tear-stained lost pet flyers you have seen futilely stapled on telephone poles and trash barrels. You are now a member of that lonely club.You arrive home and give the kids a hug that you wish could stay with them forever. You try to find an explanation where none exists. You look in their eyes and cry because there will be so much more pain in their lives that you can do nothing about.Then, just when you’ve begun to believe that the hurt will last forever, the phone rings. The last ditch didn’t run dry. The hikers found Molly! Five days in the remote desert, and your old, docile friend walks out of a huge, wild canyon unscathed. How do you explain that? Sometimes fortune throws you a bone.Roger Marolt has heard a lot of doggone stories growing up in this town. Send your to firstname.lastname@example.org
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