It was late in the evening. Middle of summer. Weeknight. Thunderstorms pounded outside. I just got in from teaching classes, exhausted from a full day of running around the city. No one else was home. Finally, time to chill for an hour or two before bed. I kicked back on my couch with remote in hand, Yankees on the tube. Just as I gulped my first swig of root beer my phone rang. I looked at the time – 10:45 pm. I looked at the phone number. It was a New York City cell, which means client. “This late?” I thought. Better let it go to voice mail. Who knows what could be on the other end of that line.
I let myself drift back into the ballgame. Two balls and a strike. One out, runner on first. “Beep, Beep, Beep.” Oh, that voice mail. It’s waiting for me. I casually pick up the phone and dial in my password while focusing on Jeter at the plate. But then my mind gets pulled into the phone. I hear the sound of distress. It’s a familiar young woman’s voice, she’s crying, worried, desperate.
“David, it’s Monica, your client with Kio the Italian Greyhound, I’m sorry to call you right now but I don’t know what else to do.”
I can tell she is calling from her cell phone and she is outside. I look out my window and it’s pouring. Her high-pitched, scared voice made me sit up and listen as the message continued.
“I was with Kio in the Carl Shurz dog park about a half hour ago. He was having a great time playing like he always does and then suddenly there was a flash of lightning and a VERY loud crack of thunder. Kio got so scared that he shot to the edge of the park and jumped RIGHT over the fence. It happened so fast I had no time to react. I CAN’T FIND HIM. I don’t know what to do. Please call me if you get this. I just don’t know what to do.”
I took a deep breath. I felt so bad for her. I could picture that little dog bound out of the dog run and disappear like a bolt of lightning himself. Another deep breath. Then I thought about the situation and what I could do, if anything. I knew what dog park they were in. Low fence. Close to roads. “Stay away from traffic, Kio,” I thought to myself. There was no way I could help her look for him, I had already driven all the way back to Jersey.
I felt so sorry for Monica who adored her gentle dog beyond all measure. Poor Monica, who was a great client. She practiced everything I taught her and did a good job of it, too. Kio had a great recall, I knew that for a fact. But, he was probably so panicked from the storm that he was ignoring her calls. Or, when he heard that thunder, he ran so far so fast that he was too distant to hear Monica crying out his name. I pictured this sweet, fragile Italian Greyhound huddled under some bushes, shaking, uncertain of what to do next. Then I remembered that Monica was waiting for a voice of reassurance. I picked up the phone and called her back.
“Monica, it’s David Muriello, is Kio still missing?”
“Yes, I’ve been searching all over the park, but I can’t find him anywhere.” Her voice was so sad. I could picture the tears and rain on her face.
“Okay, tell me again what happened,” I said. And she did. She told me she’d been searching all over the park for a half hour. No dog. She moved on to the adjacent streets and was asking strangers if they’d seen an Italian Greyhound running loose. Poor Monica. Calling out her dog’s name at the top of her lungs, in the middle of the night, on the streets of New York. Believe me, when you lose your dog, even though you want to find him more than anything, it’s embarrassing and scary to be wandering about, shouting his name out over and over and over. The longer you do it, the more uncomfortable it gets. The more you think about the worst. Did he get hit by a car? Is he hurt somewhere? Did someone steal him? Is he looking for me?
“Listen,” I told her resolutely, “the one thing I know is that Kio is looking for you. If he hears you or smells you he will come to you. Keep calling his name, loud and clear. And keep asking around to anyone you see, ask if they’ve seen him. Give them all your cell number.”
“Okay,” she said, sounding glad to hear words of support. “That’s what I’ve been doing. No one has seen him yet.”
“Keep going,” I said. I suggested she get at least one friend out there with her and gave her a few more words of reassurance. Then I told her to call me back if she needs help or has an update.
We hung up and I went back to baseball. There was nothing else I could do for now.
Innings went by. The game wasn’t as much fun as it was before. I went from sitting on the couch to laying. My eyes started closing. About an hour later the phone rang and I grabbed it. It was Monica’s cell number on the caller ID.
“Hi,” I said quickly, “Did you find him?”
“Yes, I’ve got him.” I could hear her smile. And I smiled, too. I pictured her clutching him lovingly (and tightly) in one arm while holding the phone in the other.
“Yessss! That’s awesome,” I said, “How did you find him?”
“Well, I started going into all the local bars and restaurants, asking everyone if they’d seen him.”
“Uh, huh,” I said, intrigued.
“And when I got to 1st Avenue some people told me they DID see him.”
“1st Avenue?” I thought to myself, “Whoah, that’s two full avenues away from the park. This dog did some street crossing. Yikes.”
“They told me they saw Kio with another dog and a homeless man.”
“Huuhh,” I sucked in a breath of disbelief. My jaw dropped as I listened to her continue.
“I went back outside to continue searching. Right when I looked down the street I saw a homeless man with a shopping cart and a dog. I ran towards them to ask about Kio, but before I could say a word I saw him sitting next to the other dog, like a happy little prince in the basket of the man’s cart.”
“Did the guy give Kio back to you without a fuss?” I asked, amazed.
“Oh yeah,” she said. “He was as nice as could be.”
“Oh my god,” I exclaimed, “Little Kio saw that street dog and said help me! and he did! What a smart little guy, he ran right to the street wise dog who had the street wise owner and the three of them had everything under control. That homeless guy probably just scooped Kio up in stride, had a few sweet words, and kept on strolling.”
“I know,” Monica said, “I can’t believe it. I’m just so happy I got him back.”
“Me too,” I said, “Sleep tight, Monica.”
“Thanks,” she said, “I will.”