Last week, the worst thing that could possibly happen to me happened to me.
Actually, I’m not talking about one of the absolute worst possible things – you know, like death or dismemberment or serious illness or something else that you or your survivors would look back on as a dark day in human history.
No, I’m talking about everyday worst possible things, when you’ve had a long day and you just want to collapse on the couch and then something happens that prevents you from doing so.
You know, like your satellite dish gets struck by lightning, or you have any kind of car trouble, or one of your children drops chocolate ice cream on your new carpet.
For me, the worst thing that could possibly happen to me is our dog getting loose.
Our dog is named Dexter. He’s part golden retriever and part foxhound, so he’s not sure whether to keep his head up or put his nose on the ground.
When we adopted him five years ago from the shelter, his name was Buster, which nobody in the family liked, but he was nearly a year old, which makes him a second-grader in dog years, and we weren’t sure whether we’d psychologically harm a dog in his elementary school years by completely changing his name.
So we kind of changed his name to Dexter McCluster, after the former Ole Miss running back, thinking it wouldn’t be too dramatic because “Buster” rhymes with “McCluster.”
We called him “Dexter McCluster” for maybe 45 minutes before shortening it to “Dexter,” and he still seemed pretty happy.
He’s a great dog, but there’s one problem. We haven’t successfully trained him off-leash. And when he’s off-leash, he makes a break for it and is gone for hours.
The other members of my family don’t seem to mind. Sure, they don’t want Dexter to flee, but that doesn’t stop them from forgetting to shut the door or checking to see if his leash is securely fastened to his collar.
I never forget to do these things. That’s because I like to control the things I can control. Like when my doctor told me in the spring that I’d feel a whole lot better and would probably live longer if I lost 25 pounds, I did what he said, and he was right. My doctor is very convincing.
Anyway, it drives me nuts when Dexter bolts into the woods. I’m like the dad in “A Christmas Story” when the furnace starts belching smoke. I even have a special vocabulary, which may or may not include “Mundane Noodle!”
Once I was sitting down to watch the Kentucky Derby and I’d just made a huge mint julep. I’d been working all Saturday in the newsroom running down some story, and I collapsed on the couch but without spilling my huge mint julep. And then one of my children strolls into the den and says, “Well, Dexter just got loose.”
Some day when my children are grown and are asked what kind of father they had, they’ll probably respond, “Do you mean when Dexter was loose or not loose?
So last Friday evening after an especially long week I called Bess while driving up Second Avenue with the great news that I was actually leaving for the weekend, to which she responded, “That’s great, honey! You’re the greatest!”
Actually, that’s not what she said. She said, “Oh. Well, Dexter’s loose.”
When I got to our street, I see Dexter slinking across the road. I stopped and open the door and said, “Hey, Dex! Jump inside!” Dexter loves riding in the car! This was going to work!
Dexter was trotting over to the car when one of my sons came sprinting down the street, still under the false assumption that something with four legs is slower than something with two legs in my gene pool.
In a flash, Dexter had vanished into the woods. After a couple of hours, he was still gone. I made the command decision that we were going to eat dinner.
As we were sitting down to the table, I said, “We may never catch Dexter again.”
Then we heard a knock on the door. It was my doctor, the one who talked me into losing all that weight. He lives in the neighborhood. We’ll call him “Bob Ross.”
Bob was out on his evening walk, modeling healthy behavior for his patients. He asked if we knew our dog was wandering out in the street. That’s when we told him we have a crazy dog that nobody can control. And that’s when Bob asked if Dexter bites, and we said no. And it’s true. Dexter is very friendly with humans when he’s not running away from them.
At the moment, Dexter was standing in the street preparing to run away from us. But get this: Bob strolls out into the street and calls Dexter’s name, and Dexter walks over and Bob gently takes him by the collar and brings him to us.
I had known Bob is the son of a veterinarian, but I hadn’t know he’s also a dog whisperer.
So the drama is over, for now. And when it heats up again, I know exactly what to do: I’m calling my doctor.