32: Cold Goldie

32: Cold Goldie

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: What I Learned from the Dog

Cold Goldie

What we see depends mainly on what we look for.

~John Lubbock

It was a bitterly cold morning.

When I left the house, I had to think where I had parked the car. The usually empty parking spots in front of the house were taken when I came home the night before, so I parked on a side street half a block away. I tucked my chin low inside the collar of my coat, ineffectively trying to cover what I could of my face against the cheek-numbing air and walked to the car.

Mercifully, the car started.

As was my habit, I let it warm while I tied my tie, which I had draped around my neck under my coat. Then I just sat, listening to the radio, watching two thawed spots appear on the driver and passenger sides of the windshield. Slowly they grew, as heater and defroster overcame the biting cold.

At first the spots were small, and I could see little outside. Out of the small thawed spot in front of me, a bit of the world appeared—the top of the car in front of me, the second story of the apartment building at the end of the block, and a poster on the telephone pole next to the apartment building.

The hand-lettered poster had been there for more than a month. I had stopped to read it weeks ago.

Lost Golden Retriever

We miss him greatly

Reward. Call...

We lived in a busy part of the city with much traffic. Lost dogs and cats seldom fared well here.

As the windshield cleared, more of the outside world became visible. I noticed that at the base of the telephone pole where the sign was posted lay a Golden Retriever.

I squinted and looked harder. “Naaaa... give me a break, no way,” I said out loud to myself.

The dog just lay there, curled up tightly against the cold.

The internal debate began.

“You have to go check out the dog,” said my better half.

“What? Are you crazy? It is below zero. The sign has been there a month. No way could a dog last in this neighborhood, living outdoors for a month,” said my colder and lesser half.

“But you have to check.”

“But staying warm would be so much better.”

“Go on, go check it out.”

“Let’s get to work. Remember, you were going in early to get some extra things done.”

That was the clincher. Who wants to rush to work?

So I got out of the car and walked towards the dog. As I crossed the street, the dog raised its head and watched me warily. As I got within fifteen feet, it stood up and began to move away. I stopped, squatted and held out my hand, calling to the dog.

“Here boy, come on, here boy, here boy. It’s okay....”

I stood up and took several steps towards the dog, holding out my hand, but it kept its distance. So I squatted again and called it, reaching my hand out as I did.

I kept calling, moving towards him, and he would back away, never letting me get within ten feet. The cold began to penetrate even my heavy coat and I imagined the conversation the police would have as they pondered my squatting, hand extended, frozen body. The dog, having more common sense than I, would have been long gone to someplace warm.

The dog had no distinct markings—just a typical, overall golden color. Judging from the near gray on his muzzle, he was an older dog. He did have a collar, and a red rabies tag, but I could not get close enough to see the engraved numbers on it. It looked like there was a shred of blue cloth hanging from the hook that attached the tag to the collar. I wondered if he had once had a bandana around his neck, and had caught it on something, ripping it off in the process.

So I rose, and returned to the car, grabbing the sign from the pole on the way. Fortunately, the car was wonderfully warm at this point.

I decided to call the number on the sign later that morning. “Did you lose a dog a month ago,” I asked the woman who answered.

“Why yes, we did. It was six weeks ago when we were visiting friends in the city,” she said. “Why do you ask?”

I told her my “Golden Retriever under the ‘Lost Golden Retriever’ sign” story. She sounded dubious, especially given the length of time that her dog had been gone. I told her what little there was to tell about the dog—the collar, the red rabies tag, and the shred of blue cloth.

“Oh my God!” she said. “Our dog was wearing a blue bandana around its neck when we lost him.” She said she would drive down and look in the neighborhood.

She called back later that afternoon, and indeed, had found her dog, thinner, but in amazingly good shape for living six weeks outside.

I have often wondered how they taught that dog to read.

~Daniel James

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