Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Land of Missing Pets


The dreaded sound of Mama’s voice beckoned me from my perch in the tree house. The sun was setting gold, yellow, and pink over the horizon, and I knew it was time to go back inside. Still, I pretended that I didn’t hear. I would stay in that tree house as long as possible, eyes scanning our yard, the neighbor’s yard, searching desperately, desperately for Mollie.

It was my fifth afternoon in the tree house; the fifth afternoon I’d spent calling her, watching the woods, watching the driveway, watching everything for any sign of her gray and white coat.

Mama and Daddy had all but given up, but the eight-year-old I was stubbornly held on, keeping vigil on Daddy’s plywood and the limbs of an old oak tree for as long as possible. I don’t remember how many more days I stayed in that tree house from after school until nightfall calling Mollie’s name, but I do remember she never came back.

She wasn’t my only pet that went missing, but she’s the one I remember the most…except for Danny of course. Danny was an escape artist. If there was a hole in a fence, he would find it for you and help himself to the always greener grass on the other side.

Not unlike many of the horses I’ve known, Danny was food motivated. Extremely food motivated. He loved cheese puffs, animal crackers, and apple treats. Not to mention sweet feed, alfalfa, and carrots.

If there was nicer, sweeter, more fragrant grass on the other side of the fence, Danny would find a way through and indulge. Thankfully, he escaped only twice (we think), but both times, he managed to get himself in a whole heck of a lot of trouble.

The first escape resulted in a nasty collision with a car.

Thankfully, the driver of the car escaped with only a few scratches, but Danny wasn’t quite so lucky. The accident tore a nasty gash on his beautiful face. Forty-three stitches and three thousand dollars in vet bills later, we decided it was time to move on to greener—and more secure—pastures. Danny’s new home provided better fencing and a little peace of mind.

Several years passed without incident. We checked the fences religiously, patching where needed and always keeping an eye on our big, flashy blonde Appaloosa, lest he should revert back to his old Houdini ways.

And eventually, he did.

When I came home from school one day, Mama broke the news to me.

“Danny’s missing.” She said with a grim tightness around her lips. “Daddy’s already out looking for him.”

Missing? The word didn’t compute. Danny was huge. Hard to miss. How could a 1500-pound horse possibly be missing?

But he was.

We called the Sherriff’s Department daily, drove up and down the streets calling his name. We did all the things you do when a pet a missing, even though our pet happened to be a horse.

About three days out, we got a lead that Danny was spotted in a church parking lot on a Sunday; I guess he was praying that we’d find him. At the time, I imagined him milling about the church goers, nibbling on the floppy hat of the pastor’s wife, saying his “hi, how are you’s” and nodding his gigantic head.

The church lead never did pan out, but all the praying I'd been doing did finally pay off.

Daddy was the one who found him. On one of dozens of drives down country roads. Like me holding vigil for Mollie in my childhood tree house, Daddy just wasn’t willing to give up.

Danny was pinned in the front yard of a mobile home of a family who claimed they’d tried to find his owners, but I suspect they hadn’t. They had a nice setup going on, new (temporary) fencing, fresh hay. We figured they intended to take him to the livestock sale, make a few extra hundred dollars. 

Thankfully, we found him just in time. Thankfully, he wasn't destined to disappear to the land of missing pets, that elusive place where cats and dogs--yes, I suppose even horses--go when their people can't find them, that place where they all sit and wait patiently until we finally come to take them home.

The Blonde Who Still Has My Heart

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