Picture it: Long Island, New York. Summertime. June, to be exact. A warm, but not hot, sunny afternoon. The only sound you can hear is that of the gentle breeze blowing through the trees. My husband and I were visiting his 90-something-year-old grandfather with our four-year-old black lab, Oakley. We were just getting ready to take Oakley out for a nice afternoon walk. My husband opened the door to walk out onto the small deck to tell his grandfather where we were going. Oakley, who was not yet on his leash, snuck out the door with him. My husband has always been very lax about letting Oakley outside off-leash, so he kind of just laughed and made a very minimal effort to get him back into the house.
The three of them just stood there on the deck for a moment and then suddenly, Oakley took off in a flash. He slipped out of my husband’s grip like he was slathered in butter and jumped through the railing of the deck. I immediately took off after him, but it was already too late. Oakley was nowhere in sight. I began to curse and yell at my husband, telling him to get his car keys so we could go look for him. The two of us jumped into the car and started driving around, windows down, desperately calling Oakley’s name at the top of our lungs. He was nowhere to be found. For a dog that absolutely despises running, Oakley had sprinted off at an Olympic pace. He was just gone, as if he had vanished into thin air.
We drove around for at least thirty minutes. I alternated between screaming Oakley’s name out the window and f-bombing my husband for letting him get away. “What the fuck are we going to do if we can’t find him? How are we ever going to drive back home to Delaware? Are we just supposed to fucking leave him here? How the fuck could you let this happen?” Oh, I was so mad. Beyond mad. I was in the midst of a complete mental breakdown.
After driving around for a while longer with no luck, I suggested that we just go back to the house and look around. Once we got back to the house, we split up. I walked all along the property and through the neighbors’ yards, desperately calling Oakley’s name. I began to lose hope. He wasn’t familiar with the area. How could he possibly find his way back to a house that we were just visiting? I began to picture us driving back home without him. I started preparing myself for a life without Oakley. I was imagining my future without him in it. Surely, I would have to divorce my husband over this! How could he possibly have let this happen? I could never forgive him for letting my soulmate get away!
That’s when I saw it. Out of nowhere, a bunny came blazing toward me at lightning speed with the fear of god in its eyes. Then, I heard the unmistakable clinging sound made by dog tags hitting against each other. Suddenly, there he was. Da-doomp da-doomp da-doomp. My four-legged soulmate was charging in my direction at record speed. I’m pretty sure that he didn’t even see me. He was laser-focused on that bunny. I knew I had to act fast. I would never forgive myself if I let him get past me. I planted my feet firmly into the ground, directly in his path. I waited for him to get just close enough without passing me. I lunged forward, thrusting myself into the air, yelling Oakley’s name, and wildly flailing my arms. I jumped right on top of him, practically tackling him and bringing him to a grinding halt. I grabbed onto his collar like it was a million-dollar bill. There was no way I was going to let him go.
My husband must have heard all of the commotion, as he came running over, triumphantly proclaiming, “See! I told you he would come back!” I silently cursed his name and began examining every square inch of Oakley’s body as only an obsessive dog mom would do. I mean, he had been gone for like forty-five minutes! Who knows what could have happened to him! Other than the fact that he was panting uncontrollably and his heart was beating a thousand times per minute, he appeared to be fine. In fact, he appeared to be pretty pleased with himself. He had just been on the craziest adventure of all four years of his life! What a wild ride! He was smiling ear to ear. He didn’t care one bit that he had nearly given me a heart attack. I couldn’t even bring myself to yell at him. I was just so ecstatic and relieved to have him back. Plus, he looked so happy. Young, wild, and free. Having the time of his life. I guess sometimes it’s better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.
P.S. Several years later, my husband and I are still married and Oakley is still pretty pleased with himself. Gray chin and all.