“We have to call Animal Control,” I announced to my family at the dinner table one evening during the summer. “That poor dog barks day and night. I wonder if they give it any attention at all.”
The men from the rental duplex across the alley had confined their dog inside a makeshift shelter in their driveway. The animal had barked through most of June and into July. A plastic tarp draped the top of the structure, but on rainy nights, the incessant howling ripped me to pieces and left my nerves raw.
Flicka swallowed a bite of bread. “I just saw the dog out the other day for a minute before they put it back in. It’s gotten pretty skinny.” She glanced at me across the table and then did a double-take. “Mom, are you crying?”
I bit my lip and reached for a bowl. “We have more salad here.”
Husband eyed me. “Don’t call Animal Control yet.” He finished his last bite of meatloaf, tossed his napkin on the table, and stood. “I’m going to talk with them first.”
He left the house, but returned from his visit only five minutes later. “They’re trying to get rid of the dog, they said.”
“What does that mean?” I straightened from loading the dishwasher. “Starve it to death? Let the summer heat kill it?”
He shrugged. “That’s all they said. Let’s just wait and see what happens now.”
The dog didn’t bark anymore after that. And Husband’s visit with the neighbors signaled the end of the flashes of black fur I had seen between the slats of wood in the crude shelter. Although the people across the alley still had their pit bull Daisy—who had come to play with our Lala numerous times—I hadn’t seen much of her in the past couple of years. Maybe their days of dog ownership were over.
Then one day the next spring, I heard some shouting that drove me to the kitchen window. Our gate stood open, and two boys from across the alley tore around in our back yard, whooping at Daisy who was relieving herself near my flower beds.
I stuck my head out the back door. “Why is she in the yard?”
Barking, Lala shoved into the backs of my legs, desperate to join the mayhem outside. I blocked her exit; I didn’t have time to chaperone a doggy playdate today.
“She came in on her own,” one of the boys said. “And we can’t get her out again.”
I stepped outside. The boys pulled sticks from our fire pit and ran at Daisy, jabbing at the air and hollering. She dodged their every move, her tail whipping back and forth.
I clapped and put on my perkiest voice. “Daisy, come! Come here, girl!” She bounded toward me, her lips and ears flapping and her tail beating the air. In that moment, I caught the sparkle of life in her eyes: exuberance, innocence, mischief, longing. Just like the kids who owned her. I gave her a scratch behind the ears and patted her flanks. Then I herded her through the gate and into the alley. “Boys, go put her away now.”
They sprinted after their dog, and I headed inside. Minutes later, though, Daisy was back in our yard, exploring every inch. This time, she emptied her bowels, and I sighed. The boys reappeared, and even though their methods had failed the first time, they again waved their branches in the air and screamed.
I joined them outside. “Is your dad home?”
“Could you tell him to come over and get Daisy?”
One of the boys jogged back to his place. The other stayed in the yard and used his stick to joust with an imaginary opponent. Daisy pawed at the tender grass, kicking up dirt still damp from the latest rain. Soon, T.J., the boys’ dad, sauntered into our yard. He yelled at his dog; Daisy zoomed in the opposite direction. Then he picked up a stick and charged at her; she evaded him. When he zigged, she zagged. Finally, he and the two boys chased her out.
The next day, Husband and I picked up the girls from school. As we neared our house, we spied a dog, loose and nosing around on a lawn at the end of our block.
“Isn’t that Daisy?” Husband said.
“Yeah. Pull over.” I unclasped my seatbelt.
He stopped the car, and Dicka and I hopped out. With some coaxing and clapping, we lured the dog back to our place. The kids from across the alley shot hoops in our driveway, but when Daisy zipped through their game, they didn’t seem surprised to see her. Then T.J. emerged from his duplex. Was he going to retrieve his dog? Had he noticed she was missing? Instead of coming over, though, he stood on his back step and watched us.
I approached him while Daisy poked around nearby and sniffed at the garbage cans. “We found her a block away in someone’s yard.” I splayed a hand on my chest. “I’m glad she wasn’t hit by a car.”
“Shhh,” T.J. said, a cigarette dangling off his lip. He caught my hand and stroked it. “It’s okay. It’s okay.”
I withdrew it and with a half-smile, I shook my head and walked away.
That evening, I stared out the kitchen window. Our driveway was empty; only an abandoned basketball remained from the day’s games. And our yard was still; no more Daisy or boys with sticks.
“Maybe the next time we see Daisy wandering, we let her be,” Husband said over my shoulder, his voice low.
“Yeah, maybe.” I sighed.
“You can’t fix everything.”
He was right. But like Daisy’s tail, hope wagged anyway.
*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date
*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.