The thoughts come and go, and they’re vividly terrifying—almost paralyzing—yet highly unlikely to occur, just like nearly all of my worries: What if something happens to my dog, Katniss? What if I can’t be there if she needs me? What if she runs away and doesn’t want to come back? Are we keeping her against her will?
I think the reason I worry so much about her is because she is totally dependent on my wife and me for survival, and we raised Katniss from when she was a baby—well, she’s still a baby; we raised her from an 8-week-old puppy to the needy, clingy, kissy, incessantly whiny, no-boundaries animal she is today. I’m not sure if I should be proud of that.
Some of my aforementioned anxieties have actually come true—twice—when Katniss has gotten loose. The first time took place when my parents came to visit, and for the 0.00008 seconds no one was looking, Katniss ran out the front door once she realized it was open. My mom and dad had her back within a few minutes—so quickly that I didn’t realize she was gone—and no harm was done. I think Katniss even thought it was all a game, like when she wants us to chase her when she steals our socks.
The second time was a little scarier.
Someone kept pounding on the front door on a recent Saturday morning, and we thought it was someone trying to sell us something or neighborhood kids playing a prank.
Turns out it was a guy who lives on our street, and he just happened to have with him a certain over-enthusiastic, whiny, adorable German shepherd mix—and I don’t mean Rin Tin Tin.
Somehow the side gate had come open, and Katniss wound up in front of our house. Fortunately my astute neighbor* found her, and Katniss seemed very eager to come back inside. At least she didn’t run away.
My wife always said that if Katniss—who is so attached to us that she doesn’t even like being in a room by herself and would likely prefer me to carry her like a newborn rather than walk anywhere—did run away, she would miss us after a couple of minutes and want to come home immediately. As usual, my wife was right.
The scary thing to me was that our gate was open. I hadn’t used it in a while, nor had my wife. Why was it open? Was someone sick of Katniss’ barking—she sometimes barks a lot when she plays outside**—and opened the gate in the hope she would run away?
My wife always said that if Katniss did run away, she would miss us after a couple of minutes and want to come home immediately.
Katniss is home now, just as obnoxious, wily and needy as ever, but I’m afraid our neighbors hate us. Sure, she can be a little loud and ornery, but she is well-behaved on walks and we always pick up her poop, which is more than I can say for some dogs and owners around these parts.
If you live near me and you happen to see Katniss trotting down the road without me, she’s probably just trying to figure out how to get back home so she can maximize her absence to milk the most attention possible from her mom and dad. I wouldn’t put it past her.
*This fellow Austinite forever has my respect, as I occasionally see him drinking cans of Natural Light. I should buy him some Natty Lights as a thank-you gesture—in bottles, of course, because bottles are more classy. However, some beer snobs would call bottled Natty Light—basically beer-flavored water—a waste of glass. I, for one, admire my neighbor’s frugal beer of choice. Ain’t no shame in it.
**I won’t let her out in the back yard without a leash if I think it’s too early or too late in the day for her barking to bother anyone, and if she gets too wild while not on a leash, I call her in. Whether she decides to come when she’s called is a different story.