Living with Juliet
Lady is anxious and hits the door running. Her new control collar is on and she's gotten the message that she and Juliet are on their way to a new adventure. Juliet isn't looking forward to the job. She knows walking Lady needs doing, but she is a dog so full of energy that some days she acts like she might explode. Juliet knows I'm going on the walk with them, but that won’t make the task any easier. Before putting Lady’s collar on, in her mind, she invited me along. I’m with her whenever she wants a companion and I talk endlessly in her head. I'm lucky to be with her, a part of her. It wasn't long ago that I was just a curiosity; another guy she knew from the past. But that has all changed. Now that a part of me resides in her soul, I can look into her eyes, make her smile, kiss her beautiful lips and remember her signature scent. I know any man would feel lucky to be elevated to such glorious stature and honored to be an invited guest in her life. I am blessed to know her kisses and know that each of mine are welcomed, even though they are strictly imagined by her. If there is an interruption of my attentions, she need only imagine me back.
This walk, like so many others, takes us by the cat barn, fenced horse pastures and countless acres of rolling farmland. The cat barn is a neighborhood assisted outcropping of love for a mix of abandoned house cats and feral cats of every description. Area residents spread abandoned hay bales for warmth and bring fresh water and food to about two dozen four legged nomads in desperate need of caring hands and hearts. Today’s walk also includes a challenge to the senses. A woodchuck racing across the road last night didn't see the SUV coming and managed to fall victim to it’s right rear tire. Luckily, it happened in an instant and was painless. That didn't help Juliet, though. The wind carried a warning about the incident well ahead of our approach and well beyond the site of his tragic end. Lady only reveled in the odor. Her curiosity was overwhelmed by it and made Juliet's job all the harder. Between wrestling Lady’s ambition and fighting the pungent smell of road kill, getting down wind became urgent. She was thankful for the new control harness/collar for making it a little easier to steer Lady away. After escaping the ordeal, Juliet didn't know another route that would get them back home without the unavoidable repeat performance. But I did. I don't know how I knew. I'd only been in the area a short time, but somehow I knew a turn here and curve taken this way or that would lead here or there. I thought to myself, “Here’s another unexpected miracle too good to be ignored”.
Like a copilot, I told Juliet this was her left turn to get back home and bear right at this intersection and at the fork right again. Lady's sense of direction has never been questioned because she has none. Direction means nothing to her. It's freedom and fun she sniffs out and a quiet nap when it all catches up with her in the end. You couldn't expect her to lead you anywhere but on an awesome adventure given you have the energy and commitment to follow. And tomorrow, that's just what she's going to do.
Saturdays come and go. They can be that catch up day or make up day or relax and take a breath from all the hard work day. They can also be the new adventure day, the memory maker day, the get to know you in your heart day, the get to the core of you day. Juliet started the morning with cold cereal and hot tea. Henry was up early and had already eaten. After a long talk, they decide to take Lady to the park in town and let her run off some of her excess steam and a few calories, too. The dog park is fenced in and people friendly. Henry and Juliet want more time as a couple sharing joint interests and Henry is thinking that bonding more closely with the love of his life is past due.
The park is a twenty minute drive from home and there's no traffic to fight or wild drivers to avoid. Just a pleasant country drive in the family van to offload an adventure driven, oversize puppy with a flare for the dramatic. Once behind the fencing, Henry and Juliet can talk and Lady can do what she does best, chase excitement. The two held hands and walked behind Lady - way behind Lady- and avoided the spots missed by other temporary residents not picking up after their puppies, big and small. Lady is so good. When she has business to do, she telegraphs it with circling and pacing and finds just the right place to.......
And this time, Henry is the one there with the bag to ...... And, of course, Juliet and I loved witnessing it all with a grin,too. Henry leaves the bag up against the fence with the plan to retrieve it when they walk by again.
Juliet is not one to take her eyes off Lady, usually. Henry drops her hand and brings her closer with a strong arm around her waist and she responds in kind and they continue walking but not talking. Both pairs of eyes are aimed at the ground, always a few feet ahead just in case there's another obstacle to hurdle with a quick side step. When they're confident there's nothing obstructing their path, they look up for Lady. Where in God's names did she get to? For the most part, the park is flat. But no Lady in sight. The fencing is on all sides and they are the only visitors. Lady loves people but when she's not in the house she's not inclined to approach a stranger. Their slow careful walk turns to a dash to unravel the mystery of their missing family member.
Lady's not used to dodging traffic. She has Juliet to do that for her. And, luckily, the traffic was four playful squirrels that made Lady curious enough to get closer to see what they were up to and see how she could help. Squirrels are hoarders. That's not a bad thing when you're a squirrel. They bury the nuts they find and in the course of 45 seconds forget their buried location. And that's not such a bad thing when you're a squirrel in the company of a lot of other squirrels. The nuts one squirrel buries, another uncovers and so it goes. No one squirrel is the wiser. I suppose they have a good sense of smell. But so does Lady and a bad sense of timing because just as Lady approached with her curiosity in full display, the four squirrels ran her off to the far end of the park. All this just in the time it took Henry to walk to the fence with the bag and back. Juliet, grateful for Henry's initiative, couldn’t take her eyes off him. I could only smile.
Seeing panic in peoples faces isn't pleasant. The natural beauty that we all possess is somehow altered and distorted. However, the character of the person in distress isn't so hard to watch. When a crisis involves children or pets, the norm is to rise to the occasion and not to shrink from it. Henry rose. Clear and level headed, even though a bit annoyed, he remembered Lady's last position in the park and headed straight into a band of laughing squirrels with Juliet in tow. As he neared the site, the squirrels bid farewell and left a winded couple surveying the landscape. No Lady in sight and no sounds to lead the way to her whereabouts. Henry said, " I don't know if we should split up and search or stay together. I don't want to lose you, too". Juliet’s immediate response was, “You won’t lose me. We're a team." They both started talking about what they mean to one another and hugged. Henry was more determined than ever to solve the problem. They headed for the entry gate to find it open and can only suspect their carelessness left it that way. Henry jumped up on the park bench by the entrance gate and then onto the arms for the best view of the entire park and surrounding area, and still no Lady in sight. Henry asked Juliet if she would walk the perimeter of the park and inspect the fence. To look for any other escape points Lady could have taken advantage of. They both checked their phones and said they'd call with news and they shared an incredible kiss as they parted that made an impact on them both.
I was with Juliet checking the fence line and walking at a good clip. She not only inspected the fence, but kept an eye out for any movement beyond it that might hint of Lady in distress or otherwise. If I had spoken, she wouldn’t have heard me. Henry's display of concern for her and Lady touched her deeply and she had thoughts in her mind from the not so distant past. I knew a lot had happened in the last few years and she had handled it with grace and dignity. But she wasn't prepared for sweet Lady to be the next casualty. I was no help and was falling behind on the search looking for answers. Juliet was far ahead and on the last line of fencing and checking her phone to make sure she hadn't missed a call from Henry. At the gate she called out to Henry and he answered back.
Henry checked the two adjacent parking lots and was a little hoarse from calling her name, but kept looking and calling. He looked for signs that might be clues to where a black lab would go. There were no signs of water. No lakes or streams, not even a puddle to leave tracks on the sidewalk. Lady's trail was cold. And for as far as his eyes could see - no Lady. Two cars parked one in front of the other on the street instantly brought back old memories. The cars were the same make and model, but different years and colors. Henry and Juliet drove similar cars their first years together. The years that were the foundation of their friendship and love for one another. The knot in Henry's stomach tightened and he didn't know if it was that old knot from back when he first dated Juliet or a newly acquired one because of Lady. I knew it was both. Henry doubled back running to the start and choosing a new path. He continued calling and watching for tracks keeping his fingers crossed that there might still be a small miracle in store and Juliet would call with good news. He checked his phone, nothing. He thought maybe they should have agreed on a check-in time, but just then.....
Back at the dog park, a man getting out of his car with a wire-haired terrier in his arms turned in the direction of the voice calling his name. He instinctively replied. Juliet realized her mistake and apologized, explaining Lady's disappearance. The man said he has contacts in town and would be happy to make a phone call if it would help. Juliet thanked him and said she and her husband would appreciate it. Inside of eight minutes, local Boy Scout Troop #462 was on hand with water, dog treats and maps to hand out to each of it's members when they arrived. Adult leaders stayed in the parking area, meeting parents of scouts and directing them where they could park and get more information. On occasion, they sent a scout out for needed materials or supplies. The scouts were in charge of the search. The senior scouts plotted an organized quadrant by quadrant search pattern. Another senior scout led his patrol on a phone contact campaign, calling friends and neighbors, asking if they wanted the details over the phone or through the internet. As the lists were compiled, two scouts with iphones were busy sending lost dog alerts by email while the others started new tasks. Juliet was very impressed.
Henry's search had turned up nothing, when the screech of car tires made him turn his head. “Saturday joy riders out for a thrill apparently”, he thought. No sign of Lady for as far as he could see. Strike two. Again Henry doubled back, running to the start and seeing the activities in the parking lot, his eyes were immediately drawn to his mate. She seemed a little fragile to him now. He walked quickly and she turned to see him. Their embrace was tight and long and hopeful. He whispered in her ear and she whispered back. I knew my days of living in Juliet’s head were numbered. She needed me for a short while but her mate was moving back into her heart and slowly crowding me aside. Arm in arm, they heard the commotion and a rally cry and then the troop and it's parents and friends watched a reunion of a family happy to be whole again. I cried a tear. Henry was back on his pedestal and he was not alone on it. A beaming Juliet was right beside and a little above him.
I'll never forger living with Juliet. The hope and the joy of spending the day with her when she awoke. Seeing the look in her eyes while she decorated the Christmas tree, the stair railing and front door. The smile on her face when she turned on the car radio and listened to a song that reminded her of me. But we all move on and her happiness and total fulfillment as a woman is and will always be my fervent prayer.
Bii J Murphy Copyright Sept. 17, 2010