Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lost Dogs and You

Before you contact me to help look for your lost dog, I have to warn you. I get pissy and short-tempered when I'm fliering. I know it, I try to stop it. I cannot. Lost dog hunting is my first circle of hell. My personal existential crisis.

The wandering, in cold and heat, in ever widening circles. The lack of any tangible evidence that anything I am doing matters at all. The solicitation of attention from strangers who, at best, do not wish to talk to me.

Sweet girl Olivia has been lost a ridiculously long time now, but she's out there. We know it. People keep seeing her and calling in to the number indicated on the fliers her loyal foster mom and those helping her hunt for Livvie keep posting around Southwest DC. Sam & Salsa keep finding her scent. She's out there, and we just can't get our hands on her.

It's maddening.

I've been trying to join Livvie's foster mom once a week as she circles Southwest, pasting fliers to utility poles and handing out calling cards to everyone--tired moms pushing baby carriages, seedy, threadbare men just hangin' on street corners--in her quest to bring her girl home. Her foster mom is new to DC, and Livvie was new to her when she bolted that November day. Someone else could very well have said: That's It. I've done my share. I've got to go back to my life now. But foster mom (FM) keeps at it. She says the nightmares have stopped, but it's not much better.

I can't imagine. When it's pouring out, I wonder if Olivia is dry. When it's freezing, I wonder if she's found a warm spot. When I walk the streets with FM, my eyes dart beneath every bush. I just want to call to her and have her trot up. I've had that dream, and FM has too.

Why do I do it? Why does the loss of a dog I've never met hurt me? Why am I such a bitch out there?

Ashley Judd, who I've never thought two minutes about, has a memoir out. The review I read says Judd calls herself a "lost child"--she had a pretty crap childhood, apparently--and lost children, Judd says, love pets.

I can't empathize with any of what Judd's been through--divorced parents, showbiz--and I can't help feeling that how I feel about myself matters little when it comes to how I feel about animals. Do those with fabulous childhood memories not suffer heartbreak when they hear about animal abuse?

My friend Kris and I call it the caring disease. We want to Not Care At All. We want to eat hotdogs at the rodeo and the circus. Not a chance.

Here's a test. If your childhood was all Good Humor trucks whistling into your neighborhood as you played kickball on soft summer nights, read this story.

Didja cry?

If you felt nothing, you are a psychopath. (Test over)

My personal goal is to come to a place where I can look for Olivia once a week and not feel I should be looking every day. And not feel like I should spend other nights looking for other lost dogs, like Sassafras.

Olivia's FM and I fliered for her the other day.

'Paying it forward' is what O's FM called it as we slowly tooled around, me driving and FM hopping out to tape another flier on another utility pole.

'Sometimes I hate fliering, and sometimes I really hate fliering,' she said.

'I don't think you have to pay it forward until your own dog is found,' I decided.

'I don't?' she asked, all excited. We continued a bit longer. (FM's call. She's the big heart.)

Fliering, for the uninitiated, is only mildly less fun than a virus. I exaggerate. It's less vomity, your body doesn't ache and you're not hoping you die, but it is really boring and, for those of us who don't own cars, expensive.

The other day, Olivia's FM got a call from a kid who said he'd found her dog. When she drove to Southwest she saw her, ingeniously 'leashed' to the kid's cell charger. Wasn't Livvie, but she understood why he thought it was. She thanked him profusely, asked him to please keep looking, and, in lieu of the reward she couldn't (yet?!) award him, slipped him some cash from her own wallet.

Then, rather than send another pit to a shelter, she took this very sweet girl home (not forever. Should the shelter--which has been contacted--not find her family, she's going to need a new one. Please spread the word.)

I made the executive decision to take a hunting break and FM, me, my sweet hound, her sweet lab/something and the new girl all went to Shirlington.

New girl had an awesome time. And on the ride back, she stretched out reaaaallly long on FM, so she could be touching me too.

On the way home, we did some fliering.