The Day the Dog Got Away

Things can go awry in the space of a moment.

It’s been cold in Seattle, but bright-blue skies without a cloud in sight. Yesterday afternoon I called Louie over, put on his harness and retractable leash, and we set out on a walk.

There’s a road near our house that meanders down a green belt. It’s a long road, but ulimately a dead end, so there’s not a lot of traffic. And Louie loves it. Birds chirping, no cars zooming by, lots of fun forest-y smells. We’ve done this walk… I don’t know how many times. I like it, too — the sunlight filters through madronas and maple trees, there’s a creek bubbling along the side of the road. We’ve seen pileated woodpeckers, and there are always squirrels chattering around. This time of year, fallen years pile on the side of the road, and Louie’s tail starts wagging furiously when he trots through them. In short — yesterday we were headed out on a usual walk, in a usual place.

I noticed a fern off the side of the road, backlit by sunlight, and took out my phone to snap a photo. I knelt down to get the shot, stepped into a pile of fallen leaves — and Louie startled at the sound. The leash jumped out of my hand, and the dog bolted.

Now, Louie is a nervous dog. He always has been, and we do things to try and build up his confidence, but I think he’s just always going to be a nervous dog. However, in this instance, I think he would have startled initially, seen things were ok, then stopped… if it weren’t for the retractable leash. As he ran, it dragged behind him on the cement, creating even more noise. And Louie ran, terrified.

Louie’s built like a whippet, and when he runs, he runs. In a matter of seconds, he was far down the road. I started calling his name and headed after him, hoping to calm him down. Then, as Louie was sprinting down the center of the road, a car came around the corner.

I started running, waving my arms to make sure the car saw the situation. The car stopped. But Louie was still running. Before he reached the car, he made a 180 and started running back up the road towards me. I positioned myself to try and get in front of him, to grab him as he zipped by — but I missed. He sped past my left side, and as he did so, the leash wrapped around my ankle. Louie jerked to a halt, the leash tightened, and I fell, hearing a pop as I went down.

I sat in the middle of the road, holding my leash-wrapped ankle, the dog secured but freaked out. I realized that the car was still down the road. I unwrapped the leash, got up, and hobbled to the side of the road.

The car drove forward and stopped when it reached us. The window rolled down, and a woman came into view. “Are you ok?” she said.

Embarassed? Twisted ankle? Still trying to figure out what the hell just happened?

“I’m ok,” I said.

“Can I give you a ride home?”

Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers.

We got back home, shaken up and slightly worse for wear. Louie had clipped a nail and was bleeding, and my ankle was swollen. We spent the rest of the afternoon in the living room, me RICE-ing my ankle, Louie on his bed, licking his paw.

I’ve had a zillion ankle injuries in my life, and this one doesn’t seem too bad. So while the ankle is frustrating, the most “WTF” part of the whole situation was the suddenness of it — how we could go from a sun-dappled autumn walk, to the sudden panic of running down the road with a car coming towards me and the loose dog. The day turned on a dime in about ten seconds.

Tomorrow will be a-ok. But today calls for licking wounds and curling up.

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