Normally, my blog is all about books and writing. But today I’m going to take a little detour from that theme and tell a brief, true and heartwarming story about a lost dog we named Orphan Wells…It’s still technically about writing because I wrote it…I’m going with it.
Minute 1: Lost
He dashed across the road as our car cruised down the hill. It wasn’t a close call. But off-leash, zigzagging dogs could easily lead to one.
“I think that dog is lost,” I said to my daughter, Ella, as I eased my foot off the gas.
I couldn’t be sure, of course. It wasn’t like lost dogs wear signs reading “help me I’m lost.” But it also didn’t seem normal for a dog to freely explore all the lawns on the street with no supervision. And, as I looked around, I didn’t see any humans.
My chest tightened a little. We live in a quiet, but large, neighborhood and this was one of the main roads cars whizzed down so fast the homeowners association voted to add speed bumps. Not that they helped curb the speeding problem. (Dear speed bump makers, if you can still drive your car over that hump in the road at 30 mph, it’s really not doing its job.)
Our car continued cruising forward as I debated if we should turn around. Stopping would make Ella late for dance class, or maybe miss it completely.
Really, it wasn’t much of a debate. We’re a family of dog lovers. Dance class or no dance class, we would never leave a dog running around vulnerable in any situation.
Quickly, I flipped the car around and parked where we’d last seen the dog.
Minute 5: The search
“Here doggy, doggy,” Ella and I called as we walked down the sidewalk and peered into yards.
We found the dog sniffing around a backyard fence a little up the road. He lumbered over to us and amiably rubbed his snout against my leg.
As we both reached out to pet him, the dog wiggled around us in circles, clearly enjoying the attention. He had a sweet face and ducked his head down, leaning into my hand when I scratched him behind the ear. Ella and I were both instantly smitten.
Not wanting to leave the poor dog nameless, I said, “We should name him temporarily. How about Annie since he’s an orphan.”
“Or Orphan Wells,” Ella suggested. (She’s always one-upping me in the clever department!)
Orphan Wells was on the larger side, a setter of some kind, maybe. I don’t really know my dog breeds.
I’m a rather small person, he could have knocked me over easily. With his tail batting, he nudged gently against my leg as I checked for a tag. Nothing.
Ella and I looked at each other. Every minute was another minute making her late for class.
“I think we have to take him back to the house,” I said.
Minute 10: The Nemesis
Ella, who would not only abandon dance class to save a dog but would probably abandon me bleeding in the street to save a dog, rushed back to the car and opened the door. The dog leaped inside and rubbed his adorable drooling snout against Ella, who began to say things like, “Oh he’s such a sweetie.”
And I started to think, “If we don’t find this owner fast, Ella will try to make a case for keeping this dog.” Quickly, I hopped behind the wheel and we returned to our house to figure out what to do next.
Once there, the previously compliant and calm dog made a beeline for the front door while our dog, Cupcake, went wild in the window. Her paws shot up and her shrill bark pierced the glass. (She’s a tiny dog but with a big protective attitude.) Apparently, Cupcake deemed Orphan Wells her new nemesis. We decided it would be best to keep the two dogs separated. This, however, proved difficult as I couldn’t seem to get Orphan Wells to go into the backyard.
Minute 15: Advice
Meanwhile, Ella pulled out her phone and called our friends, we’ll call them the T’s. (The T’s are the family you always go to for advice. Everyone has those friends. Somehow they just always know what to do!)
Mrs. T suggested posting a picture on our neighborhood social media site and Facebook before calling shelters and veterinarians. (It would also have been nice to have this handy little graphic I’ve posted below. Just putting it here for anyone who might find a dog and doesn’t have a family like the T’s for advice!)
While I begged Orphan Wells to follow me into the backyard, my husband lumbered out of the house with a look of great concern on his face.
“What is going on?” he said before he noticed me, bent over in the muddy grass trying to gently coax Orphan Wells away from the front porch window where Cupcake could only be described as “losing it.”
“The sounds Cupcake was making,” my husband said. “I thought she was hurt or someone was dying.”
“Nope, just a dog we found running around the neighborhood and she’s not happy about it,” I told him.
“So what do we do?” he asks.
“Well, first we need to get him in the backyard,” I said.
“Then we need to take a picture and post it on social media,” Ella added, repeating the advice provided by the T’s.
Minute 25: The Picture
After we finally succeeded in convincing Orphan Wells to frolic in our fenced in backyard, it was time to take a picture. Per Mrs. T, the goal was to “make sure you get a shot with the collar.”
This proved rather comical because although Orphan Wells was an extremely sweet dog, he did not like having his picture taken. Even tantalizing treats didn’t seem to help keep him still.
We tried to use our best dog-friendly voices to get his attention, but he kept moving and we kept following him around snapping the camera on all three of our phones. We ended up with mostly pictures of the dog’s hindquarters. (It’s to be noted that Cupcake, during this time was still “losing it” and her barking could probably have been heard from space.)
After chasing Orphan Wells around with a camera like we were taking part in a Benny Hill scene, my husband finally took a fuzzy profile picture with a glimpse of his collar we all deemed sufficient.
Minute 50: The Second Escape
Ella and I returned to the car, the hour getting late and Ella getting anxious, both about the dog and about getting to class. We headed out, hoping Ella might make it in time to squeeze in a few leaps and pirouettes.
Meanwhile, back at home….
My husband monitored social media for any response to the posted picture as the gray sky turned dark. While we were hopeful, we also readied ourselves to keep the dog at least overnight and possibly longer. Although she wouldn’t admit it, I think Ella had already started planning for how she could make Cupcake befriend Orphan Wells.
But it was not to be. A mere 20 minutes after posting the picture a Good Samaritan responded with, “I think I know that dog.” She privately sent my husband contact information for the potential owner.
Of course, what my husband didn’t know at the time was that we’d lost Orphan Wells again! Our fence, a perfectly acceptable height for tiny Cupcake was too short to constrain the long legs of a setter-like dog.
When my husband went to check on Orphan Wells, he found our backyard empty. Panicked he ran out in the street and saw the dog trotting along our cul-de-sac. Grateful to be on a dead end street, he brought Orphan Wells back to our house and kept a closer eye on him.
Minute 90: Found
Soon, thanks to continued social media responses, my husband got in contact with the owner who came to pick up the dog that we would now call Formerly Known As Orphan Wells. When she arrived she profusely thanked us and explained they were having work done on their house and someone left the gate open.
There were cheers and “thanks yous” and “don’t sweat its” all around. But the most amazing part was how we got to experience the sheer power of community and the goodness of people. In less than 2 hours we rescued a lost dog, posted his picture, found his owners and got him back home.
In a world where it can feel like hatred and negativity have an impenetrable foothold, this type of experience underscores how people are essentially good and want to help each other. If it weren’t for our caring community this story may have ended much differently. Apparently, social media can be used for something other than tearing us apart. It can help bring us together!
Minute 120: Goodbye!
Ella and I returned home to a calm Cupcake and a one-dog house. While we were thrilled Orphan Wells returned to his owners, and his original name, we were both a little disappointed we didn’t get to say goodbye. In a very short time, we’d really come to care about the pup. Luckily, he lives close by. Maybe we’ll see him on a walk someday.