Friday, January 5, 2007

The two words that can make my world crumble

As soon as I picked up the phone, I could tell something was wrong. It took Jerry a minute to force the words out of his mouth.

"Toby's gone."

It came out sounding cracked and far away, but those two words echoed in my head continuously as it sunk in. Fortunately I was just finishing up at work. But instead of the usual goodbyes, I shot up from my chair, told Jerry I'd be home as soon as possible, grabbed my coat and purse, shouted some sort of quick explanation to my boss and literally sprinted for the door.

The drive home felt like the longest 12 minutes of my life. It should've taken me 20, but if there ever was a reason to disobey the speed limit, I figured this was it.

Every muscle in my body was tense as I sat bolt upright and clenched my fists around the wheel. In the silence of my car, I tried to come up with a plan, think of his favorite spots on our daily walks, what route to take, whether I should even bother stopping at home. Then I looked up and prayed.

A sense of calm washed over me as I took stock of all the things we had working in our favor. It was a little after midnight so there wouldn't be too many cars on the road in our small town. Jerry and I would have a lot of energy for at least a few hours. Plus, it hasn't been a typical January where the temperatures would test his small size. He could survive overnight. And my biggest relief was knowing that his collar contains all of our contact information, including a notice of a reward if he's spotted alone.

Then the doubts crept in.

It's late so no one will see him. What if he finds his way into the creek and drowns? What if a car hits him? What if we find him, but he's hurt? It takes an hour to get to our vet, would he survive that long? ... He's probably scared by now.

But I shook off all of the negative thoughts because I knew I needed to be levelheaded. I knew I couldn't let myself get worked up or I wouldn't be able to function. And that wouldn't help us get our dog back.

As I got into town, I rolled down my front two windows, cranked up the heat and slowly swept my headlights over the nearby park, continuously calling out his name as loud as my voice would allow me to. I doubted he would cross the train tracks to get to it because he's usually freaked out by the rails, but it's a nice big grassy space that he loves, so it was worth a shot.


I called Jerry for the fourth time as I slowly made my way back home, sweeping my eyes in all directions hoping for any sign of movement on the ground. Jerry was starting to lose it.

"We have to stay calm for Toby," I said over the phone. "Getting all worked up isn't going to help. It's not your fault -- get that out of your head right now. We can do this."

Jerry stayed on foot in the area around our house squeezing Toby's favorite squeaky toy as I crept up and down the surrounding blocks and alleys in my car, screaming out the window.


After deciding to widen our search area, I picked up Jerry and we each looked out our respective windows. As we drove, our voices echoing in the distance, we stirred every dog in the neighborhood into a barking frenzy. But none of them sounded like Toby.

I kept screaming until my vocal cords gave up and my voice grew hoarse. The burning at the back of my throat started to sink in and other parts of my body started to scream when I no longer could. My chest grew heavy, my legs felt numb and my heart literally hurt.

"How are you staying so calm?" Jerry asked quietly.

"I'm in complete denial," I said, ignoring my body giving up on me.

"Well I'm broken inside," he said. It came out sounding like a whisper. Then it hit me. That was exactly how I felt. Broken.

The tears flowed out in a steady stream and I tried hard to choke back my sobs, but I couldn't. I stopped the car in the middle of the street and gasped for breath.

Then Jerry became strong for me. "You were right, this won't help Toby. We can do this. You just drive and I'll yell."

I shoved those feelings away again and tried to call out, but the word "Toby" was too much. I couldn't say it anymore without sparking a flurry of emotion. So I just drove. We drove for more than an hour before I suggested we check at home again just in case he wandered back.

When we got there, I desperately needed a quick break to clear my head. We kept the car running as I sprinted inside to use the bathroom. The lack of Toby greeting me at the door almost sent me into another hysterical fit, but I kept on task and went upstairs.

And there, as I sat on the toilet, I swore I heard him whining. I felt absolutely delusional, but it sounded so close. So real.

When Jerry came upstairs to change out of his shorts and into pants, I confided what I had heard.

"This sounds completely crazy, but I think I just heard Toby whining. It was really nearby."

Then Jerry pushed open the only closed door upstairs, the one to the vanity, and Toby sprinted out, prancing and jumping at our feet.

We didn't question it at the moment, we just broke into tears of relief and slid to the floor. Jerry scooped Toby into his arms and I piled on top of them, laughing and crying and feeling so incredibly thankful for what I take for granted everyday.

After parking the car, silently apologizing to all the neighbors we woke up and reconvening on the couch, Jerry and I tried to figure out what happened.

Jerry swears he let Toby outside, but he probably just panicked when he couldn't find him. Meanwhile, Toby nudged his way into the vanity and the weighted door closed behind him.

Although I hope never to go through that again, it did teach me some valuable lessons. Today I plan to make a "missing" poster for Toby and have copies printed out and ready to go -- just in case. I'm also going to make an appointment to get an ID chip inserted into his neck, so we can prove he's our dog in the event someone decides that keeping him would be a reward in itself.

But above all that, I'm going to cherish every moment with Toby today. Because now I know what it would've felt like without him.


Rachel said...

okay, that story definitely broke my heart. i literally choked back tears until i got to the bottom & realized you found him & all was right with the world. then, i couldn't stop the tears! i'm glad toby is alright... whew! <3

Taylor said...

Aww! I'm so glad you found him.

Suzy said...

that brought tears!
Bud and I had the semi-same problem happen the Tucker and Bertha last fall (before we turned two dogs to four)-the "Kids" sleep in the garage, and after calling me at work and freaking me out, calling about 12 people in town to drive around and call for them. Bud went home to get his gps and headset b/c he was about to go get his friend's plane to look for them in fields and stuff, and happened to hear some noise in the garage....neither one of us had let them out that morning! Ugh!!
I'm so glad Toby is same and sound!!

oneka said...

OMG! I was already thinking of the worst! I'm so happy you found him...*sigh*

Kristin said...

I'm so glad you found him. What a scary thing.

Janice said...

Wow, reading that literally broke my heart. I was crying at parts, and I'm so sorry that had to happen to you. I couldn't imagine what I would do in that situation if my Jack Russels were to vanish. I would panic.

The Plainsman said...

Another gripping post! Yes, with dogs and with cats, too, those temporary losses really cut to the heart. Good Toby was not actually AWOL, just in a "good" hiding place.

The chip and the poster are great ideas, as might be finding a local 24 hour animal hospital or vet for those emergencies.

Tiger said...

That brought tears to my eyes! I'm so glad it had a happy ending though. I'm so glad you found him, even if it was in the closet.

I'm so happy you didn't lose you're little pup for good!!

nothingbeast said...

Every once in a while my cat will find a new hiding spot and I can't find her right away.
Sometimes she's hiding for an entire evening and I start wondering if she found some hole in my house that I don't know about.
But another part of me thinks she knows how easy she has it in the climate controlled house with the automatic feeder and litter box. ;)

Miriam said...

I'm so glad you found him! I would miss Toby if he was gone. I love reading about his antics and seeing pictures of him.

duckykay2 said...

I'm glad that Toby is ok. I wouldn't know what to do if one of my cats went missing.

Leslie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leslie said...

*Sorry, had to repost due to a typo. I'm sure you understand. :) *

We thought we lost my grandfather's dog a couple weeks ago. My grandfather was traveling so we had his dog, Simba, who is his only companion now that my grandmother is gone. We left the house for the evening and when we got back Simba was nowhere to be found. My parents searched the house and asked my stepbrother when the last time he saw Simba was and if he took her out. I was calling her name outside. My stepmom went upstairs and heard a thumping sound coming from the attic. She had gotten into the attic and was sitting there patiently all night in the dark. There's no way to open the door from the inside (at least if you're an animal) so she was stuck until we found her.

It was frightening though. I'm glad you found your Toby.

natalie said...

honey, that seriously made me cry. that happened to my pug a few years ago (he was in the laundry room). i'm so glad toby was safe!

Anonymous said...

oh my gosh I am so happy that you guys found him. i felt like I was with you as I was reading and now if you'll excuse me I am going to go give my dog, Coco, a big hug.

Nutkin's Ho said...

Wow, I'm really glad that you found him! I was really worried.

...a chip inserted into his neck? Seriously? I've never heard of that being done.

sherrine francis said...

Oh my gosh,
I can't believe I just bawled my eyes out.

I'm so glad you found him, I would have killed myself if this post had an unhappy ending.

Tina P. said...

this actually made me feel reallllly sad, and i don't even know Toby.

Anyways i keep forgetting you got your own blog and expect your entires to show up on xanga. I'll get used to it.
Love Love

loren said...

I'm glad you found him :)

jittersis said...


duckykay2 said...

I saw this and immediately thought of Toby.

Kristin said...

I've been there. One time I couldn't find one of my cats. But that sense of ultimate relief when you finally find your pet is one of the best feelings in the world.

Amy said...

Soo glad Toby is okay! I've read about that dog and seen pictures since you first got him. Losing him would be like losing one of my own.

Corbow said...

Whew! That reminded me soooo much of the one time a few months ago that we let Sasha and Chloe out by themselves. Sasha stayed close by, but Chloe disappeared for a while, and I was freaked out. Even now I have to remember that she likes to sleep on top of the bookcase behind the fake plant, and she's almost completely invisible up there.

Anonymous said...

Once I thought, my dog, Oscar (he's a weiner dog), I started freaking out and headed out the front door up the street. No one had seen him and I couldn't find him so I went back home to call someone to help me look. The whole time he was waiting at the back door. Some how he had got out and no one realised. Haha.

Now, he's safe and warm, sprawled out on the couch.

: )

nothingbeast said...

It's really weird you posted this Friday. I get home from work, and can't find my cat ANYWHERE!!!
So I look every place she's ever hid before and nothing.
After a bit I think about going to the garage, even though there's no way she could get in there.

And there she was, scared to death because she wasn't in the house anymore. Scared me to death, because the garage has a missing window in the door. Now I gotta figure out how she got there.

Hannah said...

That happened to my older dog, Laci (who past away last March).

She snuck out the front door two time while we had her. Once it was in our neighborhood but after looking for an hour we found her "chilling" with the dog next door.

The second time it was at my grandmother's house out in the booneys. My uncle had left the door open and didn't realize that she was there. I noticed I didn't see her around the house and I began to frantically look for her yelling out her name. I was so mad at my uncle that I wanted to punch him. Just the thought of her being alone out in the woods killed me inside. We finally found her at the edge of the woods about to go in. I was relieved we found her.

I know what it's like to have that sinking feeling so I'm glad you found Toby.

Mia said...

That's happened to us too. Or it did with my old old dog-
We came home one night and we couldn't find her anywhere, and somehow one of my parents thought to look in their room behind their bed, and there she was!

If it happens again, searching your entire house is probably a good bet at first :).
I mean, toby is pretty tiny, so he could hide anywhere, that sneaky dog.