HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY EVERYBODY!
Josh has been bugging me for a whole year now to tell this story so, I thought it would be fitting to relive it on its anniversary. It is sure to be a classic 4th of July "tail" for years to come. So, here goes….
It was July 4, 2006. After realizing that it was over one hundred degrees inside our house and that all of our food had either melted, disintegrated, or spontaneously combusted, we sought refuge in the good air conditioning and sustenance of the Cheesecake Factory. By the time we decided being at home would no longer be a safety hazard, it was dark outside and the 4th of July festivities were in full swing all around us. It seemed like there were insane amounts of explosives shooting into the air from every one of our neighbor’s yards. I hadn’t seen anything like it since I lived in the "909." Josh and I decided to enjoy the spectacle from our front step since the likelihood of someone catching our house on fire was high and we preferred to watch it burn down from the outside rather than the inside. The sky was filled with bright bursts and loud bangs and there were more people out and about than I have ever seen on our block.
As we watched explosion after explosion come dangerously close to igniting someone’s roof, we noticed a semi-large dog, making his way across our front lawn at full speed. He was headed straight for us, and before we could even figure out what was happening, the dog had stopped right at our feet and appeared to be looking for shelter from all the noise by nuzzling in between us. He was noticeably terrified and, judging by the way he was panting, had probably been running for a while. We weren’t really sure how to react. The dog obviously belonged to someone but no one around us appeared to be missing him. He was wearing a collar but nothing else- no license, no ID tags, no clues as to where he might have come from. We yelled over to some people that were in our neighbor’s yard. It wasn’t their dog. We yelled as loud as we could, "Did anybody lose a dog?" No answer, just more deafening booms. The dog was obviously getting more distraught and we weren’t quite sure what to do.
We decided maybe he was thirsty so I went in the house to get some water and Josh stayed with the dog trying to calm him down. In the time it took me fill up a small container with tap water the dog managed to find its way to our open back door. I could hear Josh yelling from outside, "I think the dog is in the house!" as I turned around to see the dog walking casually through my living room. Josh’s suspicions were confirmed when he finally caught up to the excitement just in time to see the dog make his way to our kitchen floor and comfortably lay down like he owned the place.
We were baffled. A strange dog had taken up residence on our kitchen floor and we had no idea what to do. He was still panting pretty hard but no longer looked scared. He just sat there perfectly content to suddenly be a part of our family. We cranked up the air conditioning and all of the fans to drown out the ongoing festivities outside. This dog was large enough to kill us both if he suddenly snapped and went on a rampage, so we made sure to speak softly and not move too quickly as we scooted the small bowl of water toward him. We didn’t have dog food on hand so we decided a few slices of bread would probably be okay for him to eat- the only other choices were Marshmallow Peeps or melted Spongebob Squarepants fruit snacks.
While the dog decided to take a nap, we tried to figure out what to do. The Humane Society and Animal Control could be of no immediate help to us. Their suggestions were to either wait till the next day when they could send someone out to pick the dog up or just drive him to the nearest shelter and drop him off ourselves. I wasn't wild about sharing a confined space with a dog I didn't know for a twenty minute car ride to Downey so we decided to take the dog for a walk and try to figure out where he lived on our own. We just happened to have a dog leash on hand (a remnant from the previous Halloween- it's not nearly as weird as you are probably thinking it is) so we pulled it out and as soon as we started talking about going for a walk in that excited talking-to-an-animal voice, the dog's tail started to wag.
There were no objections form the dog when we latched the leash onto his collar and led him outside. By now most of the neighbors had exploded anything they could light on fire so things were winding down for the night. As we paraded the dog up and down the streets, we hoped that he would just suddenly remember where he lived and lead us there but he didn't appear to be in a hurry to get anywhere. In fact, he was very well behaved on the leash and didn't even get that excited around other dogs we passed. Someone somewhere had trained this dog. We talked to everyone who was still outside and no one recognized this dog or knew of anyone who might be looking for him.
There was a brief moment of hope when, upon hearing the sounds of some kids (probably playing with explosives) in a nearby cul-de-sac, the dog's ears perked up and he gently pulled us toward the noise. There were several families in the cul-de-sac cleaning up the remnants of their flaming fun. None of them thought the dog looked familiar though. We warned all of them that this was not our dog and we didn't know how friendly he actually was but some of the kids ignored this and wanted to pet him anyway. The dog seemed to have no problem being pawed by tiny hands and surrounded by high pitched squeels and laughter so we suspect he may have come from a family with young children. Unfortunately, none of these families were his so we decided to return home, unsuccessful in our mission.
As we headed back in the direction of our house, the dog seemed to almost be leading us, like he remembered exactly where our walk had begun and when we came within a block of destination, he broke into a bit of a trott and lead us right up to our front door, tail wagging, tongue hanging out, happy to be...home? By this time, I had already decided to name him Sparky (get it, Sparky?) and was trying to figure out how we could hide a large animal from our landlord and the guys living in the "real" house behind us. Josh and I have both wanted a dog since before we got married so this was almost an answer to prayer but the reality of the situation was that this just wouldn't work out. Not now anyway.
We took several stunning photographs of Sparky and printed up a bunch of "Found Dog" posters that we planned on putting up all over the neighborhood the next day. Everything was set, we would keep Sparky in the gated area behind our house for the night and feed him some dog food that our friend had agreed to bring over in the morning. Once we got the posters up, we would give it a couple days and if we didn't hear anything, we would give in and call a shelter to come pick him up.
I would love for this story to end with us being the heros who reunited a lost dog with his family. I would even settle for an ending with us saying goodbye to Sparky as they took him away to be adopted by someone who could keep him. Unfortunately, the real ending is rather anti-climactic and offers no closure- which is why it's taken me a year to figure out how to tell it without it being a total bummer at the end so, you can either insert your own happy and exciting conclusion here or just read the real one below.
Basically, when we got up the next morning and went outside to check on our visitor, he was gone. There was no sign of him anywhere. Only the side gate, unknowingly left open by one of the residents of the house behind us. We were sad but hopeful that Sparky had either remembered where he lived and returned home, or been picked up by someone who kept him as their own. We will probably never know. But even now, every time I see a grey and black dog anywhere near our neighborhood, a part of me wonders if it might Sparky, trying to find us- if only just to relive those few hours we all shared last year on the Fourth of July.