Monday, August 8, 2011

Out of sight, out of my mind

Thursday of last week, my son misplaced some of his favorite toys. This doesn’t happen all that often, really. Sometimes it might take a moment or two to locate a specific toy amidst the general tide of clutter that ebbs and flows across the living room floor and sometimes stretches as far as the foyer or the dining room, but that’s not such a hardship. Other times we might have to remember that the little guy had wandered off to the den with toy in hand, or that he had been allowed to bring a certain plaything upstairs and into the bath, but again, those steps are easy to retrace and the mislaid toys easily recovered.

Every once in a while, though, something will end up in an odd, out-of-the-way nook of the house and require a little more effort in the retrieval. This is what happened last week, and it was all the more strange because it was three toys that went missing all at once – and, of course, they were Cars and not just any Cars but the high triumvirate of The Big Race, Lightning McQueen and the King and Chick Hicks, the lattermost of which had only just been presented as a reward for the little guy’s good behavior a mere two days prior. Then suddenly all three were nowhere to be found.

They were missing for about 30 hours or so, but those were a long 30 hours. I found out about it when I got home from work on Thursday. Earlier in the day my wife had seen the little guy playing with the three cars, and then had to bundle the kids into the car and go run a few errands. By the time they got home neither the little guy nor my wife could remember exactly where he had been playing just before they left the house. The only certain thing was that the toy cars had not gone along for the ride and had to still be somewhere in the house. But checking all of the usual and unusual-but-not-unheard-of places (including just inside the coat closet door, and inside the play-kitchen oven) yielded zip.

Once active searching had ceased (or at least been put off until the free time of the weekend would allow for more thorough house-dismantling) I was still in low-grade lookout mode. Fortunately, we were almost positive that all three cars would be found together, and all three are different colors. So while a blue car might get overlooked between blue couch cushions, some combination of blue, red and/or green should stand out to the watchful eye. Or so I hoped. And ultimately, indeed, it was Lightning’s cheery red that caught my eye on Friday night when my wife was giving the little guy a bath and I was changing his sister’s diaper in her room, and I happened to notice first one and then all three cars, lined up along the wooden seat of the nursery’s glider, tucked between the cushion and the armrest. Why exactly the little guy was lining up the cars in furniture crevasses in his sister’s room, we may never know. But crisis averted, and potential dark cloud hanging over the weekend lifted!

And then on Sunday afternoon our older dog ran away.

My wife told me early and often not to beat myself up, but it was totally my fault. I had been doing yardwork earlier in the day and in the course of cleaning up afterwards somehow managed not to secure the gate in our backyard fence. In the afternoon we let the dogs out into the backyard and, while the backup dog saw no point in leaving our property, something must have gotten his big canine brother’s attention and lured him beyond the confines. Sometimes we leave the dogs out for long stretches if they don’t immediately bark to be let back in, and by the time I went to re-admit them, only one came through the door. Rounds of walking and driving the neighborhood while calling our dog’s name followed, but he didn’t come back, which was distressingly inconsistent with his previous patterns of behavior. We were forced to conclude that he had been found by a fellow dog-lover who didn’t think he should be wandering the streets (compounding my overall guilt, it was a very hot and muggy day around our neck of the woods, so no doubt the dog was panting like crazy and someone was moved to pity on his behalf) and was thus out of earshot. And we hoped like mad that said dog-lover would bring our mutt to the cops or shelter or vet, where someone could scan him for his microchip and bring about the technologically enabled reunion. All we could do was wait for that to happen.

But still, kicking around the house last night, I found myself once again in low-grade lookout mode, even though it made absolutely no rational sense. As if we had simply misplaced the dog and kept overlooking him, and if I checked under the right bed or in the correct corner in the back of the closet, he might turn up and we could all relax. Utterly irrational, but even when I consciously acknowledged such, I couldn't shake off the feeling that it was important I keep a constant vigil.

Fortunately this story, too, has a happy ending, as my wife swung by the animal shelter Monday morning and was told that yes, someone had called to see if anyone had reported a medium-sized black dog with a red collar missing. There was some rigamarole with privacy concerns where my wife had to leave her number, the shelter had to call back the caller and pass those numbers on, and then my wife had to wait for the finder to call her to confirm they had our dog. But they did and they did and as of 4:30 in the afternoon the walkabout adventure was over and the animal/human balance in the house had been restored. Huzzah.

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