It wasn’t odd honestly that the entire day had just felt vaguely…..off. It had happened before, yet I still hadn’t gotten used to it. I suppose it wasn’t something you were meant to get used to.
The only way I could describe this was that it felt as though reality had been altered in the most minor of ways. It was the kind of feeling you felt when you think you’ve forgotten something small but not totally insignificant and really can’t remember what or maybe the feeling of walking into a department store or grocery store at 3am. It was just the feeling of a slightly altered and off putting reality.
But, when I came home to a dog roaming in my front yard, it surely didn’t help that feeling.
I knew people in the neighborhood had dogs, in fact I knew just about all the dogs in the neighborhood. But, I also knew that none of those people let their dogs loose. Not even to mention that the dog, that was now sniffing at the base of the tree in my front yard, wasn’t a dog I recognized from the neighborhood.
It looked like it may have just escaped from a gate that was by chance left open by a small child or maybe slipped out the front door during a large family event. It looked like a pretty mixed Border Collie from my door. It had shaggy black fur mostly, but a splotch of white on its chest stood out rather boldly. It looked groomed and it looked like a family’s dog, not just some stray.
The stray dogs I had seen in the city when I was down there always looked extremely frail and thin, most of which had matted fur if it had any in the first place. But the dog, who had taken significant interest to my tree, had no bones jutting out in odd places that I could tell through it’s fur that mostly just looked tousled and maybe like it had been through a few bushes containing burrs. I personally found to be strange — it’s fur was rather long and oddly smoothed out for a dog that was just a stray.
I pulled into my drive trying not to scare this mysterious dog that had showed up at my house. After hitting the edge of the drive and driving down it the short distance, looking back at the dog, it suddenly looked at my car with lightning speed.
I stopped my car and quickly killed the engine, turning my lights off after turning the key. I assumed my tires probably hit a particularly crunchy leaf that caught it’s attention. I slowly opened my car door and locked the car twice from the inside before fully standing up. The dog seemed to go back to whatever it had found at the base of my tree as I quietly shut my car door and continued up the walkway to my front door.
After entering the house with my head still over my shoulder watching the dog, the quietness of my house returned and settled quickly after the storm door closed. The realization of just how lonely and quiet life was after I started living on my own was soul shattering. The entire house was dead quiet to the point that ringing would fill my hearing just to having something there other than just dead silence a lot of times. Others, I would just play music for background noise.
After getting a job in high school at a pet resort for, ironically enough, dogs, I ended up sticking with it and moving about two miles from my childhood home where my mum had lived. I inherited her house, that was really her parents’ house she inherited, but got rid of it as quick as I could because of how empty it felt. My mum constantly said how it wasn’t her house anyhow, it was her parents and would always be theirs. So, I suppose I picked up my urge to get rid of the house from her early on.
I had thought moving might help. I always liked interior design and hated cleaning. So thinking that I would have to actually clean all the old stuff out of the house before I got to do the fun bits sounded like a lot of work. Not to mention how the thought of getting an absolutely clean slate to work off of sounded like an oasis in the middle of the Sahara.
But, somehow after I moved, that oasis slowly faded away and became just another dead area in the middle of a desert.
I had planned to get a dog to help with it, something that would just make it feel like a home, not just a house. But, I planned a lot of things that never happened. I guess like all kids, I had my own dreams that were wildly unrealistic. Looking back though, I realized mine weren’t honestly unreachable. But, I still needed food, water, and also electricity, so I just kinda let the idea of extras and things that weren’t 100% fully necessary fade away just like the oasis in my make believe desert.
I looked back out into the yard before closing my actual door. The dog was still there, slowly coming back to where it began sniffing at the base of the tree.
I sighed. I always seemed to have more compassion for animals than people. They were innocent and didn’t know better. Even when I was a kid, I seemed to care more about animals. My mum told me as a kid, I got angry at someone for saying a specific breed of dog was dangerous and that specific breed should be fully banned. Apparently I turned around told the person that, “Maybe we should start banning bad people who force dogs to be like them.” My mum never ceased to quote it either in a mocking tone like a small child’s.
A collar looked like it was leaving a small indentation in the dog’s neck. It didn’t look too tight, but it also was still there, so it probably wasn’t too loose.
I decided to keep my front door open so I could keep an eye on the dog, but I went ahead and locked my storm door just in case someone got the wrong idea.
After considering it for a moment, I remembered that after a friend had gone on vacation and left their dog with me, I still had about half of a bag full of kibble I thought I’d never use.
I quickly walked into the kitchen and opened the pantry and squatted down. I could see the food in the back of the very bottom shelf. I plunged my hand into the back and grabbed the bag at the top where I had rolled it down and taped it to preserve it.
After a bit of struggle and a lot of things falling out of the bottom of the cabinet, I got it free and stood up. My knees protested from straightening for a moment but quickly complied.
A random bowl that I had quickly became the dog’s — it within the day would probably have used it more than me honestly.
The dog didn’t seem to be there anymore when I went back to the door. I looked at the tree and then both ways down the street, leaning from one side of the door to the other, pressing my cheek to the cool glass. I blew a slightly forceful breath of air out my nose after realizing I took too long.
The racoons and possums had already knocked over my garbage bin twice that month, and setting a bowl of food out seemed more like a personal invitation engraved with gold that would be RSVPed and accepted nearly immediately. As much as I really did want to find out more about the dog, this was probably not the right time.
My shoulders sagged. It was a cute dog. A dog that, in my head, seemed to fit perfectly into everything I do in my daily life snuggly.
Slowly, without realizing it, the feeling of an altered reality faded.
After returning from work the following week, a familiar guest seemed to show up more with the coming days. It nearly seemed like this dog managed to figure out about what time I came home so it could get food from me.
After the first few days, I ended up going out and buying a full bag of dog food. I felt like I was planning for something that wasn’t even going to happen, a fully packed suitcase for a trip never planned. But, I lived spontaneously, my “plans” seemed to rarely have warning in advance.
After a while, I had started sitting on the stairs with the food a little ways away from me. After a while, it came up to me and let me pet it. I took that opportunity to look at the collar around it’s neck.
It had a phone number, which I had called and left a message. But, after two days, a response was not something I had. A name was also listed, Moonchalk, which at first I thought to be odd since she was black, but eventually it seemed fitting and it didn’t seem like any other name could fit her. An ID tag with what I assumed, was a chip number hopefully containing a bit more info, was also dangling from her collar.
The next day, I ended up grabbing one of my leashes from work. I had also gone to the liberty of looking up vets that checked chips. I didn’t want to take her to the pound in fear they might quarantine her basically, but I wanted and needed to know if she had a family worried sick about her back home.
I almost hoped that she didn’t have one at this point. I was about 100% sure she did though after taking a look at her collar a bit more. The tag with only a number was definitely an ID number; there was no way it could be anything else. She seemed relatively happy around me and didn’t seem to be coming less often. But, I know that if I lost a dog as well trained and loving as her, I’d be devastated.
When I got home, she was there, waiting for food. This time though, I didn’t sit on the stairs with the food close to me. I instead opened my front door and propped my screen door open with the food sitting just inside the door. I went ahead and put a bowl of water down also since I could take an educated guess and say she probably didn’t have a good source of water.
This worked almost too well.
She walked in like she owned the place and immediately stuck her head in what was now her bowl. I had set the food far enough away from the door so I could close the door behind her and basically trap her in my house.
“Was this what dognapping was? Did I just steal someone’s dog and am now holding it hostage?” was somehow all that could come to my head for a moment.
I put those thoughts aside though because I was feeding her and giving her a roof over her little fuzzy head, which was apparently more than her actual owners were doing, if they even existed.
After Moonchalk was done eating, she drank some water, then got up and began wandering around the house, sniffing at absolutely everything she could get her nose close enough to to sniff.
While she sniffed around, keeping a close eye on her, I went ahead and rang the vet I found to see if they had any space available. Somehow, my luck was on a really nice roll since they had had an open space in about an hour and to just come on in.
I sat on the sofa watching Moonchalk sniff at my entire house. I laughed after she sniffed at a jar of large glass stones that I think were meant for a fish tank, and tipped it over onto the carpeting, scaring her enough to back away from it completely.
She trotted over to me, ears back and tail down a bit lower than normal. She sat in front of me looking like a small child who just got caught getting a cookie from the cookie jar without permission.
I smiled and scratched her behind her ears, telling her it was okay. Her ears went back up and her tail loosened when I reassured her I wasn’t mad at her for knocking a cheap vase with even cheaper rocks in it.
I leaned back in the sofa and patted the space next to me on the sofa. She hesitated for a moment, looking at me carefully as though asking for permission before I patted the space again, said her name, and told her to get up here. She looked at me skeptically before she put her front paws up on the front of the sofa and then again while she slowly took one back paw at a time and placed them on the edge of the sofa.
Once she was finally up on the sofa, I praised her and scratched behind her ears, laughing at how careful she seemed to be. Like a very anxious person in a store with a few too many expensive and fragile things waiting to be broken.
I rubbed her head playfully as she tried to get me back by swinging her head back and forth, jaw agape, playful growls coming from her chest. I slapped my hands down onto the sofa on either side of her and she immediately jumped into my lap, licking my face, and her entire butt moving to wag her tail.
I put my arms around her neck and then squeezed her tight. I rested my chin on her shoulder blades, my jaw surely digging into her from smiling.
I felt a soft weight on my own shoulder and back after a second and my heart sped up a bit. It took me a moment to realize that it was Moonchalk and she was doing the exact same thing to me that I was doing to her to return the love I was giving her.
I drove down the road with the windows open about 6 inches, enough for Moonchalk, who was riding shotgun, to stick her nose out but not enough to let her jump out. I opened the back door to let her jump in when we left, but Moonchalk seemed to have much different intentions and wouldn’t get in. Instead she sat outside the front passenger door with her head tilted and ear forward. I gave in immediately.
It turned out that it really didn’t take long to scan a chip. She did have one and I was also told that the second tag was an ID number too it.
Fortunately, there was an address attached to the chip that was rather close to my house that I planned on stopped by on the way home.
It didn’t really hit me that this would probably be the end of Moonchalk’s and my adventure until we were halfway there with me singing to some song on the radio and Moonchalk with her nose stuck out the cracked window.
It really hit me that when I got to this address, it would be the end of all this. I had come to find that in the last year, Moonchalk was probably just about the closest thing I had to a best friend. And hell, she was a dog who happened to show up at my doorstep one day and I decided to feed because I just really like dogs.
As we got closer to this address, my heart sunk more and more. I considered just not taking her back and just keeping her, but I knew that there was a family missing her, probably sitting in their living room watching TV with an empty spot on the floor where she probably lied.
I turned onto the street with the address name and drove down until I saw the house with the bold number across the mailbox and next to the doorway.
I pulled up across from the house on the street and squinted, checking the address again and looking back and forth from my phone to the house. At first I thought I got turned around somewhere or maybe I copied the address wrong from the vet, but after double and triple checking everything, nothing was adding up. I know I wrote the correct address, I put it into Google Maps when I acquired it, bookmarked it, and checked the screen with the chips information at least 3 times.
A small house with white panelling on the sides and light blue shutters on either side of the windows stood there. A large tree, about the size of mine, also stood in the front yard. I noticed a fence that enclosed the backyard also thats gate was open.
But none of this was the most prominent or concerning as the large “FOR SALE” sign smack in the middle of the yard.
The feeling of an altered reality suddenly hit me all over again. After things had been going so well, I expected it, and yet I still felt the feeling of the askew universe.
My eyebrows furrowed. Moonchalk was next to me chopping at the bit to get out. Surely this was right, she clearly recognized this place, there was no doubt about that.
I grabbed the leash loop and opened by driver door. After I got out, Moonchalk hopped across my center consol, over the emergency brake and gear shift, and out of the car. I closed the door as she dragged me to the front door of this mysterious house. When she got to the door, she stopped, pawed at the door, and then sat there.
I realized the doorbell button and hit that also, but from the looks of it, the door wasn’t going to open anytime soon.
I started walking away from the door with Moonchalk’s leash in my hand. She protested by trying to tug me back, but I knew there was no point in staying here. I dragged Moonchalk with me to the window where I looked in hoping to see at least some form of life. I pressed my face against the glass, hands cupped around my temples, one of which was holding Moonchalk’s leash, for what seemed like 10 minutes. Finally, I removed my face from the window and dropped my hands to my sides. There was no point in standing there, looking into a desolate house hoping that suddenly furniture, a family, and life would show up. Just as opening your fridge every 5 minutes hoping there will be something good to eat doesn’t work, neither did staring into an empty home.
Moonchalk had put her front paws up against the side of the house, just below the window. As she looked in, her expression became more and more disheartened. I could tell that she hadn’t expected to see her home completely empty and void of all life. I swear that I could see the gears turning in her head, putting all of the pieces together, and coming to the conclusion that was put in front of her.