Shaggy dog story

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There is a literary agency directly above me, on the 13th floor of this office building. (And thank god we're in a building that's not afraid to admit it has a 13th floor!) Sometimes when the 12th floor men's room is occupied, I go up to the 13th floor, and inevitably I see, through the glass of the agency's door, a little spaniel of some sort lying on the floor, asleep. I never see any people.

On my most recent visit to the 13th floor, though, I saw people in the office but no spaniel. This is not a story about mysterious happenings on the 13th floor, but it is a story about a runaway spaniel, and I was reminded of it by the absence of the agency dog. This happened this past Saturday night, as Laura and I were on our way to a wedding celebration.

We had just left the house. It was cold and dark and windy and wet out, and when we reached the corner a brown and white adult spaniel of some sort, probably a Cavalier King Charles, was wandering around. Its person was not in evidence.

"Hello, little puppy," said Laura, bending down.

A woman in black was hurrying toward us. "I was just trying to catch it," she said. "I don't see its owner."

"Let's see if it has a tag," I said.

The dog was dragging a sparkly silver leash. Laura reached for the leash, but the dog ran out into the street against the light. A car was coming. I yelled—it wasn't a word, just a loud primal sound. The dog came three feet or less from running right under the tires of an SUV. It got to the far corner before the next car could squash it.

Relieved, Laura and I dashed across the street (when traffic allowed), and she caught the dog half a block down. I turned and flashed the lady in black a thumbs-up. "It has a tag," I shouted.

We walked the dog farther down the block to where we could read the tag in the light from an Eckerd. It was a rabies tag. The only contact info was the phone number of the vet.

"What do we do?" Laura said.

"I'm not sure," I said. Then we realized that we had both left our cell phones home. Not that the vet was likely to be open at that hour.

"Maybe take it to the pet store?" We were on our way to a wedding, remember. "They might be able to keep it until they can contact the vet."

"I wouldn't take it there. Maybe that vet down Steinway is open?"


We started walking. The spaniel was not a quick walker, not like Ella, and it was whimpering and maybe limping a little, so after a bit I picked it up and carried it. We didn't like the vet idea, really, but was also didn't want to leave the dog at our apartment unattended, not unsupervised with a dog of our own. But the farther we walked from where we first saw it, the more the dog began to whine and squirm.

Finally Laura suggested we take the dog back the way we had come. We would see if maybe the owner was somewhere around looking for it. If not, we would close the dog in one of our rooms with the door closed, and with water. It would drive Ella nuts, but we didn't know what else to do.

As we approached the corner where we had first seen the spaniel, we could see about four people. The woman in black was there, as was a long-haired woman in her mid-twenties. The long-haired woman had her back against a wall, and a man in a big black coat was standing very close to her, talking. There was also a kid of about twenty, standing near the entrance of a little store around the corner.

"Here they are!" said the woman in black.

Laura and I both saw that the long-haired woman had tears running down her cheeks. "Is this your dog?" I asked.

The woman burst our sobbing and took the dog from me. "Oh, I thought you were gone!" She clutched the dog to her chest and slid down the wall until she was sitting.

The woman in black said, "I told her the dog almost got runned over, but a nice couple went after it."

Laura had squatted down beside the long-haired woman and was making comforting small talk. I noticed the dog was standing next to the sobbing woman.

"For God's sake!" I told the sobbing woman. "Keep that leash in your hand and don't let go!"

According to Laura, when I yelled, the woman wrapped the leash around her hand several times. Also according to Laura, the woman was on something.

When the long-haired woman had calmed down some and was standing up again, she said, "Where did that man go?"

"What man?" said the woman in black.

"The policeman. He was talking to me right here. He has my wallet."

Indeed, the man in the black coat had somehow slipped away in the confusion of returning the dog.

"Why does he have your wallet?" asked the woman in black.

"He said he was a policeman," said the long-haired woman. "He asked for my wallet."

"Did he show you any I.D.?"

"No, but he said he was a policeman."

"That guy took her wallet," said the woman in black. "Did anyone see where he went?"

The kid near the store said, "I think maybe he lives upstairs?" Another kid had come out of the store by now.

"We need to call the police," said the woman in black. "The real police. Who has a phone?"

We didn't, but the kids outside the store went inside to call.

Laura was already hurrying up the block, trying to see if a man walking up the sidewalk was the same one who had been at the corner. He wasn't, but that didn't keep me from worrying that Laura was going to get herself shot peering into people car windows.

We returned to the group on the corner, reported that the man in the black coat was nowhere in sight, wished the long-hair woman good luck, said goodbye to the spaniel, and rushed off to our wedding. We don't know what happened next.

Moral of the story? Um, if your dog is missing, don't give your wallet to a random stranger?

And for God's sake, don't let go of the leash!

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This page contains a single entry by William Shunn published on February 23, 2007 4:53 PM.

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