Star (or, a tale of two dogs)

Do you want to know what it feels like to be a hero? I’d gone over to my friend Hank’s house in my pickup truck to get a workbench he’d gifted me for helping him out a couple months ago. After we’d had a couple of micro-brews out of a growler from the biker bar we frequent during big sporting events and on karaoke night, we let his black lab Casey out for a bit of fresh air.

Well, he bolted.

It wasn’t the first time, and probably won’t be the last, but he’d been so damn good for the past few months he’d gotten himself off of probation. His case worker will be by early next week to install an ankle monitor. Just kidding.

But Casey was gone so long one time last year that Hank about gave himself ulcers worrying whether he’d ever make it home. He’d asked for suggestions through social media, but I was so tired from a demanding schedule at the time I didn’t do what I should have done and gone to my friend’s aid and help him look. I wasn’t going to make that mistake again.

We’d loaded the workbench into my truck and I announced that I wasn’t going anywhere until Casey was back on the leash. We drove around for about an hour before we found the naughty chow hound woofing down an unknown substance from a knocked over trash can in a neighbor’s yard. We coaxed the unrepentant fop into Hank’s van and celebrated by heading over to the St. Paul Tavern for some perfectly seasoned pollock and creamy slaw. Casey got nary a nibble because of his recent truancy.

So as they say, “I told you all of that so I could tell you this…”

On the way back to Hank’s place, we happened upon a border collie loping along next to the road and I noticed it was dragging a chain.

“Pull over, Hank, I think that’s a stray…”

We stopped half on and half off of the road so we didn’t go tumbling into the drainage ditch and I approached the vagrant with calming words. She was shaking but came to me submissively. It was obvious the poor thing hadn’t eaten recently but her fur was still shiny and well groomed – signs she’d been well cared for and loved. I slipped my hand under her chin hoping for the best and wasn’t disappointed.

Leather collar. Shot tag from the vet dangling from an S-hook. And there it was, a brass plate attached to the collar with the owner’s name and phone number. I thumbed the numbers into my mobile phone and after an anxious but excited exchange, we met up back in St. Paul beside the tavern. I asked them what her name was before I hung up, telling them I would speak it to her and calm her down a bit until they arrived.

“Star. Her name is Star”

The owners lived quite a ways out in the country, so it took them a few minutes to get there. I was walking her around the street corner where we’d parked when they pulled up in an SUV. Star recognized the hum of the engine and the gravel popping under the tires before I even realized they were upon us. She started jumping up and down and whimpering as the owner opened her door and walked toward us. I let all the slack out of the chain with the sprung clasp that was still attached to her collar and they collided in a reunion embrace that was emotional enough to make a lumberjack bawl like a sissy girl.

They were in heaven and I was coiling up the chain to hand to the owner, who was so emotionally involved with the reunion that I didn’t even get her name as she thanked me. They got back in the SUV and spit gravel back toward home where I’m sure a big bowl of water, a bowl of her regular food, and more hugs were waiting.

I watched their tail lights get tiny in the distance, but my heart has remained full.

I think that is what it feels like to be a hero to someone. It feels like doing the right thing. That, and enjoying the buzz when things go right.


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