Maybe about 6 weeks after Benny moved in with me, I took him with me to San Antonio to stay with my significant other (“E”) for the weekend. I had some meetings Monday morning and I figured we’d drive back after. I thought it would be fun for Benny, having been an only child, to have the company of E’s five dogs. He would learn dog things, hang out with the pack!
Benny did ok, considering his lack of socialization. He learned pretty quickly that he wasn’t the alpha in the pack. For the most part, though, he wasn’t very interested in the other dogs. He just wanted to pee on things and hang out with the people and watch tv.
Monday morning I left for my meeting confident that he would be fine there for a couple hours, and then we’d go home.
About 15 minutes into my meeting I got a text from E:
Benny is gone.
Benny is GONE?!?
— silence —Looking for him now.
Benny is NOT GONE!
I left the meeting — I must have looked crazy! — and raced back home. E had fed all the dogs and put them in the backyard together while he hopped on a conference call upstairs. Within minutes, Benny had dug a hole and disappeared. The next door neighbor saw him digging and tried to call, but E was on his work call and didn’t pick up.
I have never felt panic like that in my whole life. Benny could NOT be GONE! This was NOT how things were supposed to go.
I hadn’t articulated how I thought things were supposed to go. All I knew was, I did NOT LOSE BENNY!
Benny had been Mom’s constant, and pretty much only companion for years as her illness isolated her more and more. It was understood that I was to take care of him and love and protect him like she would. Losing him was NOT part of the plan.
Time stopped. My present, past and future condensed into one single-pointed mission. We were GOING to find Benny. Period.
Of course, it was about a million degrees still. E and the neighbor and I headed out in three directions. Where would Benny go? I still hardly knew him. I knew nothing about dogs in general. Where do dogs go in San Antonio? A cat wouldn’t have gone very far. But this DOG! This DOG could be anywhere.
I searched the gutters and bushes, trash cans in alley ways, up driveways, down sidewalks, into yards. I called his name. I didn’t look high and low, only low, since he’s a short little guy.
We asked everyone we saw if they had seen him. I had a picture on my phone. The mailman finally said he had seen him running some distance down the street towards the school. We got in the car and started driving, still searching every yard for his little polka-dotted body.
Then, suddenly: THERE HE IS!!!
I screamed it!
There was Benny, prancing up the middle of the street, smiling with his tongue hanging out (just like a dog). I scooped him up and we took him home, and it was all over. He said he was thirsty… that was about it!
Benny didn’t go back to San Antonio for another four years! I was taking NO chances with him escaping again.
This episode gave me notice about how fragile I still was. It also made me realize how I had written some kind of story for myself to stave off the sudden, unacceptable certainty of the uncertainty of existence that came from losing Mom. You can’t predict the future. Hell, you can’t even be sure about the past. We tell ourselves comforting, or at least familiar, stories to give life continuity and predictability. The mind is drawn to narratives, we make them all the time, and we make them real. Losing Benny disrupted that illusion completely. At least for a little while.
We do need our stories. But we also need to recognize that’s all they are. I honestly don’t know what would have happened to me had we not found Benny that day. I’m just glad I got him back. And I try to remember, through the incessant noise of his barking, how grateful I am to have him with me now.