I’m a suspicious character. Yep, it’s true. Just ask Kilmarnock’s finest; and the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office also. They were both patrolling the neighborhood looking for me. My suspicious act? Walking around the block in the street in Kilmarnock on a snowy Sunday evening in 31 degree temperatures looking for a lost dog.
It’s a long sordid tale. I guess you could say it was the proverbial dark and stormy night. You see, it was my birthday. Folks were to be arriving momentarily at our house when the phone rang. My daughter called in a panic, “Winnie is missing! We don’t know how long. The gate got open. She may have been gone for several hours. We need help looking for her.”
So what’s a dad to do? I glanced outside at the snowflakes fluttering down and at the thermometer that was registering something around freezing. Winnie, a wirehaired Jack Russell Terrier outside for hours in this weather? She must be half frozen by now. Probably huddled and shivering under some shrub or vehicle. Must be lost and can’t find her way home. Yep! I had to go search. A man’s gotta go when duty calls. “Put the birthday party on hold”, I called to my wife. I’m outt’a here.
Driving at legal speed limits, I whizzed by the arriving in-laws who had yet to learn of the fiasco a distance short of my driveway. Pulling up at daughter’s house, I parked my 4x4 Off Road Ford Ranger in the front yard and quickly took in the situation. After all I’m a retired career military officer, trained in escape, evasion survival and tracking, etc. and etc. and etc.. Lost dog, no problem. Just tell me where she went and she’s as good as caught. Oh, you don’t know? Well the impossible just takes a little longer. Not to worry.
I pulled the collar on my jacket up a little higher to fend off the snow flurries and tugged my stocking cap down a bit farther over my balding head and ears. Seemed like 31 degrees is a lot colder now in my senior citizen years than I remember it as a kid.
Surveying the lawn, there were no signs of paw prints in the snow. I had on occasion previously witnessed Winnie make a bolt for freedom. Given an open door, she was like a streak of light, only faster, headed diagonally east toward Chase Street every time. Always before she had been stopped in the first 100 yards so anything beyond that was a new world for her. But at least my search would start in an easterly direction toward Chase Street. Reaching the corner of Cedar and Chase, I decided if I was Winnie I would go south along Chase – I rationalized that its warmer the further south you go.
I walked down the middle of Chase street peering into each yard for tale tell signs of recent animal trespassing, but not a single patch of snow appeared disturbed. Reaching Hatton Avenue, I turned right and headed for Main Street. Still no signs of a miserable, freezing, skinny little white dog looking for warmth and safety. At Main Street, I turned right and wandered on the sidewalk toward Waverly Avenue. No dog sightings.
I passed the sad sight of the old Henderson house, sitting deserted this year, forlornly awaiting a buyer to take it off the market and give it a little TLC renovation. Last year at this time, it was all warm and aglow as we rented the first floor while our creek house was rebuilt. Now the house sat dark, cold and lonely…and the yard was barren of dog tracks as well. Moving on, I passed the Bank of Lancaster and approached our store front office next to the Rappahannock Hang Ups.
Since the dog search was obviously going to be fruitless, I decided to pop into the warmth of the store and catch up on my e-mail before resuming the search. This just goes to show you that under Heaven, everything has its time and purpose. My idle in the store provided the necessary time for some concerned citizen on Chase Street or Hatton Avenue to call out the National Guard, the US. Marines, and alert the town and county constables that a “suspicious person” was loose in the neighborhood. I’m disappointed they didn’t also set off the town siren, but maybe it was because I wasn’t exactly searching like a ball of fire.
Presently, I exited the store by the rear door, cut across the parking lot, and turned east down Waverly Avenue. By now reinforcements had arrived at Winnie’s home on Cedar Lane. The wife and the in laws had joined the foot search. As I turned from Waverly on to Chase and headed back to Cedar, I could see at the distant intersection a car stopped in the middle of the street and the driver chatting with a really old guy – the father-in-law.
Suddenly the really old guy backed away, and the car sped toward innocent little ole me. I could see the really old guy stare down the road in my direction and surmised that the car was coming for me. Notwithstanding, I continued to walk toward the car with the nonchalance born of 20 years soldiering.
“Yes, officer. Can I help you?” Maybe he was lost too. “We have a report of a suspicious character walking the neighborhood streets.” “Really? Who?” “They said he was wearing a stocking hat. What are you doing.” Imagine that, its winter, 31 degrees, snowing and I’m outside wearing a stocking cap on my bald head. “I’m looking for a lost dog.” “That would be a white dog that has been missing for several hours?” he asked. “Yes, officer. A Jack Russell that got out about 4 hours ago.” “Okay, that’s what the very old man up the street said also; that there were a bunch of people out looking for a lost dog.” It was comforting that my story was confirmed prior to my explanation. After all they could have said they were out looking for a suspicious character in a stocking cap.
The story could have ended there, but turns out it was only the beginning of a very strange tangle of events. As I approached the amused crowd of relatives, they all wanted to know what the patrol officer said to me. A midst restrained laughter that the birthday boy was now a “suspicious character”, they admitted there were no signs seen of Winnie. My daughter handed me a leash to use if I found the dog, and I turned to resume my search. I hadn’t gone more than 50 feet, when a truck coming down Chase Street pulled up beside me and stopped. The driver asked if I was looking for a lost dog. The dogless leash in my hand was his clue.
Turns out he knew where the dog was….it had wondered around the corner on to Hatton Avenue and was discovered by my daughter’s backyard neighbor (his daughter) cold, wet, and shivering under a bush in the yard. Because the dog rarely got out of the yard, the neighbor had rarely seen the dog before and didn’t immediately recognize Winnie.
Now this wouldn’t seem so strange except for the fact that the neighbors were in a rush to get to the airport in Richmond to catch a flight to Green Bay Wisconsin. Seems the neighbor was a big Packer’s fan and had managed to acquire ticket over the Internet to the NFC Championship game at Lombardi Field. (Temperature in Kilmarnock: 31 degrees. Temperature in Green Bay at game time: ZERO). (My wife is a big Packers fan also. She even owns a share of stock in the Packers – the only publicly traded NFL franchise, but not even she would go sit in the bleachers at this time of the year.) Consequently the neighbors had passed Winnie off to the care of some friends while they hurriedly finished packing and rushed off to catch their plane.
Their friends happened to live on the west edge of town down Irvington Road, near the Back Inn Time Inn and across the street from “the very old guy” – my father-in-law. Winnie had traveled around the block, then down the road only to wind up across the street from the very in-laws who were out looking for her in a different part of town.
Meanwhile back at the truck, the driver was explaining he too was looking for a lost one. His granddaughter had gone to a friend’s birthday party, but had not come home yet and they were getting worried. Unfortunately they did not have the name or phone number of the friend and the granddaughter had not taken her cell phone along. But in a night of coincidences, my daughter was aware of the party, knew the birthday girl and had the phone number, so the lost was also found.
Yes, I may be a suspicious character, but it seems far more suspicious to me as to how all these threads could be woven into a single real life fabric purely by chance. I once read a book by R. C. Spruol called “Not a Chance”. I think I know what he was referring to now.
Lesson Learned: Don’t wear a stocking cap on a balding head in Kilmarnock on a cold, blustery, snowy evening while walking in the street looking for a lost dog unless you too want to be a suspicious character in a series of curious events.