Tuesday, January 27, 2009

There went a hamstring

(originally published March 5, 2008)

He’ll come back, I thought.

He’ll stop running, turn around and scamper right back. Any second now.


OK. He’s still running. Uh-oh. He’s not stopping.

That can’t be good.

I looked down to see the business end of a long, purple dog leash clutched between my cold fingers.

I looked back up to see the business end of the shelter dog I was fostering for the day flying across my backyard.

Maybe he didn’t like the color purple.

His flight for freedom began when my frozen fingers slipped while trying to secure the leash’s hook to his collar. And in that brief moment of untetheredness he was off like a flash, sensing freedom as only…well…a male canine that still has all his parts can.

“Hey...you…there…!” I stammered and yelled like an idiot because in my panic I’d forgotten the poor dog’s name. Bailey? Buster? Rumpelstiltskin?

Then like a bolt of lightening it came to me. “BANJO!” I screamed and jumped and waved my arms in the air. “BANJO! STOP! COME BACK!”

And…nothing. No response at all. Well, I’d probably ignore people too if my name was Banjo, but that wasn’t the point.

The point was he had already streaked across three more yards and was rapidly closing in on a busy suburban street.

So in a voice as commanding as any four-star general’s, I pointed and ordered, “Go get him!”

Chaser, golden retriever and wonder mutt of West Edwards Street, merely stood at my side and looked up at me with chocolate brown eyes that indicated, “You gotta be kidding me.”

“Are you a retriever or what?” I asked her in a shrill voice. “And your name is Chaser, for the love of God!”

She merely blinked at me. So I yelled again, “Go get him!”

She plopped down on her rear and began gnawing on an old tennis ball she’d found abandoned in the snow.

Apparently breeding didn’t account for much these days. This was something I’d have to do myself.

The chase was on.

I took off in the direction I’d last seen Banjo’s fuzzy brown tail. Two steps into my pursuit, Chaser dropped her ball and trailed at my heels, barking like an idiot to say, “We’re going for a run. How fun!”

I ran through our backyard and into the neighbor’s, snaked around their house and out to the street. I caught a glimpse of Banjo three houses up, sniffing a mail box and hiking his leg in greeting.

I sighed in relief. I’d found him. The nice folks at the animal shelter wouldn’t kill me after all.

But in my excitement I made a rookie mistake. Instead of sneaking up behind him, snagging him with one arm and clipping the leash to his collar in one smooth stroke I went in like a narcotics cop on a drug bust at a meth lab.

“STOP, BANJO! STOP!” I screamed.

He looked up and took one step toward me.

Then the little son-of-a-biscuit turned and ran in the opposite direction.

I took off running with Chaser in my wake. I weaved my way through every yard in the neighborhood, trudging through thick snow, dodging bushes, looking under decks and behind trash cans.

I soon noticed a thunderous, gasping sound roaring in my ears.

Then realized it was me.

Apparently my lungs had stopped functioning about four houses back and my brain was just now getting the message.

I stopped to catch my breath and made the mistake of bending over. Blood rushed to my head, and I keeled over onto the ground like I’d been shot.

I laid there as two neighborhood kids ran over to offer assistance.

“Hey,” I wheezed, “you…see…big dog…run…through…here?”

“Yeah,” one of them answered and pointed down the street. “He took off that way.”

I rolled over to get up and felt something pop. Oh, fabulous. There went a hamstring.

“OK, here’s the deal,” I plopped back down. “You find that dog, there’s $20 in it for you.”

And with the vigor of youth they took off after Banjo. But after a few steps one of them stopped and turned to yell out, “Where will we find you?”

“Don’t worry. I’ll be right here,” I grunted, flat on my back in the snow. “It’s not like I’m going anywhere.”

To protect the innocent, Banjo’s name has been changed. He really is a beautiful animal. Honest. You can e-mail Kelley Baldwin at life-like-mine@hotmail.com.

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