3379, Finding Bailey
Thursday Afternoon, July 12, 2007
Early this week, someone taped a hand-lettered sign on the stop sign post at the end of Happy Hollow Road. It read:
Yellow lab/retriever mix
After I drove past it a few days, it blended into the scenery and I didn’t give it any more thought. Then on Wednesday morning, I was leaving the farmhouse to go check the status of a job on nearby. It was later in the morning than I would have preferred, but there were a lot of phone calls to make before I could get out of the office and I’d knuckled down and done them. As I pulled out of the farmhouse lane, an older woman driving toward me in a beat-up Accord slowed and stuck her hand out as if to flag me down. I slowed and rolled my driver’s side window. When we were next to each other, I could see a little girl about seven sitting in her passenger seat.
“Pardon me” said the old lady. “My granddaughter has lost her dog and we’re driving around looking for it. Have you seen a big yellow lab mix?”
Remembering the sign at the end of Happy Hollow, I shook my head. “I haven’t seen him. What’s his name and what happened to him?”
The little girl leaned forward so that she could see past her grandmother’s belly and spoke determinedly. “His name’s Bailey. He’s really nice but he’s scared of thunder and he ran away when it was storming.”
“That’s so sad. Does he have a collar with his name tag?”
The grandmother spoke as the words were forming in the little girl’s mind. “He HAD a collar with his name and phone number, but the tag fell off and my daughter-in-law never got around to putting it back on. But see he’s only scared of thunder. Otherwise, he hangs around all the time. He couldn’t have gone too far.”
I could see the little girl, clutching her stuffed animal friend. She was worried and I felt so bad for her. “I had a dog who was scared of thunder also. He would hide in a closet during thunderstorms. Once I thought we almost lost him, too. I promise I’ll keep an eye out for Bailey.”
We smiled at each other and I turned right on Happy Hollow. At the end, I glanced at the sign, said a prayer for Bailey, then made a right on Padonia. Three or four miles later, I made right on Falls, and continued toward Chestnut Ridge. I’d been driving my RAV so many days in a row that now I was in the pick-up just to give it some miles. The truck is fun to drive but it’s severely underpowered, and as I started up the first hill on northbound Falls Road, I could see the speedometer needle moving slowly backward despite the increasing pressure on the accelerator. By the time I reached the level part on top of the hill, I was going barely thirty miles an hour, which was the perfect speed, because…
On a little section of fence along the right hand side of the road, a freshly lettered sign caught my eye and since I was going so slowly, there was time to read the whole thing. It said,
Very Gentle and Friendly
I couldn’t believe my eyes. I pulled off right away and called the number on the sign.
“Hello?” A woman’s voice, middle aged.
“Hi. My name is Rick Minogue and I’m calling about the dog that you found.”
“This is great. Is it your dog? He’s very nice and he’s just been living with us the last few days. We give him plenty of food and water, and it’s just like he lives here.”
“He’s not mine, but I’m almost sure I know who he belongs to.” Then I told her briefly about the sign on Happy Hollow and how there are no roads between Falls and Happy Hollow. Since I didn’t have the number off the lost dog sign, I told her I was going back to Happy Hollow right then and find the grandmother and girl if they were still driving around. Would she wait around for a little while? She assured me she would.
Driving back, I remembered the black labs, Sophie and Sadie, who occasionally got lost on the Beaver Dam Run and ended up at the farmhouse by following the spring run up the hill. They’d hang out and I’d call their owner and she would come and get them and we’d all say our goodbyes until next time.
I drove down Happy Hollow searching each driveway to see if the beat-up Accord was there. Then as I approached the farmhouse turnoff, I saw it parked on the side of the road up ahead and pulled even with them. The grandmother didn’t recognize me but the little girl did, and I gave her the thumbs up as I pulled past them and parked. They jumped out and met me at the tailgate.
Looking intently at the girl, I asked “Does Bailey have an orange collar?”
“Yes, yes, yes! You found Bailey!” She was jumping up and down, squeezing her stuffed friend into a tiny ball.
“We’re not totally sure, but we’re pretty sure. You won’t know until you go get him, but I think I know where he is.” As the three of us stood around the tailgate, I drew a map to where the sign was, but Grandma was too befuddled or unfamiliar with the area to understand it and me. She wanted my name and number, which I gave to her, and then I also added the number of the woman who had Bailey. She looked confused and now, feeling a little rushed to be on with my day, I snapped my fingers and regained their attention. “I’ve got an idea! Since I need to go back that direction anyway, how about if I lead you right to the sign?”
“YEEEAAAAYYY. We’re coming, Bailey!” The little girl dashed back to her seat and buckled in while I explained to Grandma what we were going to do. Within minutes, both of us were turned around and heading back out. While I watched them follow me in the rearview mirror, I called the gal who was hosting Bailey and explained what was happening. She told me which house she was and which long driveway they needed to choose.
At the fence on Falls, I pulled off and Grandma pulled up next to me. We read the sign together and the old lady thanked me profusely. Through the little girl’s open window, I explained the driveway and the house, and wished them good luck. For a few minutes after watching them disappear down the lane, I waited, hoping to see them reemerge, joyful and triumphant. But there were things that needed to be done and finally I rolled out.
About an hour later, I was back at the farm. I’d stopped there to see if any mail (checks) had come, which turned out to be a complete waste of time. I tried calling the lady’s number to see if Bailey had been reunited, but there was no answer, and I began to wonder if maybe I might never know if I’d really done a good deed or if I’d just gotten some little girl’s hopes up for nothing. What the hell, I did the best I could. Now there was more work to do and it wasn’t going to happen with me sitting in the farmhouse. I locked up and loaded my briefcase in the truck, then jumped in and headed up the lane. My curiosity continued, and I tried one more time to see if Bailey had been picked up, but there was still no answer. Enough. I had other things to concentrate on.
I slowed as I approached Padonia, looked at the stop sign, and suddenly realized what wasn’t there: The lost dog sign was gone. It had been taken down, though the fresh scraps of tape were still blowing in the breeze where they stuck to the post.
Good job, Grandma. Good job, little girl. Good job, Lady-Who-Gave-Shelter. Good job, Bailey.
Good job, Universe. Sometimes the stars align and things happen just the way they’re meant to. If I’d left on time, I’d have missed Grandma’s search party. And the lady who was keeping Bailey confessed that her family had been enjoying him so much, they’d only gotten around to posting the FOUND, Yellow Lab sign just a little while before I spotted it. So once again, if I’d left on time, I would have missed Grandma and missed the sign on Falls, and its likely that neither the lady who found Bailey nor the family that lost him would have thought to check Happy Hollow or Falls Road respectively.
Bailey’s got good Karma.
When we were standing around my tailgate on Happy Hollow, Grandma intimated that there might be a reward for Bailey. I’d shaken my head emphatically and told her I was not doing this for money. My reaction was so forceful she almost recoiled, but doing the right thing for a lost dog and a little girl was not about dollars and I didn’t want my act of caring to have a price tag attached.
When I got home Wednesday night, I played the messages. Three people wanted to know more about the Isuzu Rodeo I had for sale. How many miles? What color? Is it still for sale? Then this: “Hi Mister Minogue. My name is Laura and we live near you. Our whole family gives you our deepest thanks. We were so worried about Bailey and then you found him and went out of your way to help us get him back. We are so grateful to you. Thank you ever so much. Bye now.”
Good luck, Bailey.
Dude, wear your collar next time it thunders.