Belle, a little whisker-faced house dog, moved in with us, along with our oldest son, Kelly, in the fall of 2006.
My outside dog, Danny Jo, a 13-year-old beagle, stood on the front porch and watched, flabbergasted, as Belle went in the house on Kelly’s heels.
The beagle had a big question mark hanging over her head, and could be heard mumbling, “Was that a %#&**%# dog I just saw go in the house?”
In her youth, Danny Jo had been one of the best rabbit hounds in Greenup County. Now she was crippled with arthritis and totally deaf. She still made her rounds every day, making a gallant effort to guard her territory. Backyard rabbits thumbed their noses at her.
She was chained to a doghouse under the dogwood in the backyard the first two years of her life. She begged for freedom so pitifully that one day I untied her and never tied her back.
I went to all the neighbors and told them that if they had any complaints about the dog running free to contact me and I would find her a home in the country.
In the 11 years that followed she seldom left the yard, except to accompany me in the pickup.
She turned out to be gun-shy and so I never again put any hunting demands on her. I did take her rabbit hunting from time to time, for the pure pleasure of hearing that music a beagle makes on the trail of a rabbit. But on those occasions, I carried only a walking stick.
Late one evening, just as darkness fell on our dead-end street, Danny Jo walked out from behind my parked truck and right into the path of a car. She was killed instantly, without a whimper.
My wife and I were driving home from a visit when Kelly called on the cell phone to tell us Danny Jo was dead.
And Belle was missing.
He had let Belle out to use the bathroom just prior to the accident. She usually never went out of the front yard.
Now she was gone.
The thought of losing Belle made me realize how much the little blonde, whisker-faced dog, who slept with me at night, had gotten into my heart. Had she been run over too? Had she climbed into someone’s car? She loves riding in a car with her head out the widow, biting at the wind.
Upon arriving home in our Sand Hill neighborhood, Bonnie and I drove up and down the streets checking for Belle’s body in the car lights. Later, Kelly and I walked the neighborhood, searching the ditches with flashlights, calling for her.
Gone. Not a trace.
I imagined the worst. Maybe one of those trucks that sell dogs to laboratories came through the neighborhood? Maybe somebody who wasn’t a dog lover talked her into their car?
I don’t mind admitting I was at the point of tears when I fell to my knees to pray for that little dog. “Wherever she is, Lord, whoever took her, let them be kind to her.”
Then, out of frustration, I added, “Please, Lord, bring that little dog back to me!”
I wouldn’t sleep that night in the bed Belle and I had shared. Twice I awakened in the lounge chair from a dream where someone had carried Belle to the door, dead. Each time I went to the front door, calling.
Next morning at 5, I went out at the paper tube to get the newspaper. I had given up on calling for Belle. “Oh, ye of little faith” was a label that fit me well at that point. I had convinced myself I would never see that little dog again.
But I decided to walk down the hill to where my street meets the main street. There I met Shorty, the little dog who lived on the corner.
“Shorty, what happened to Belle?” I said aloud.
From behind the house across the street, in the dim light of a streetlamp, I detected movement.
And then here came Belle, scampering across that yard to me!
The Lord might as well have set her down in a spaceship.
I scooped her up in my arms and headed for home.
My theory is that Belle saw Danny Jo get killed, fled the scene in fear for her own life, and, frightened and confused, remained hid-out throughout the night.
I carried her into the house and sit her down. In the dining room, she emptied her water dish twice. She usually eats dog food, but she got two slices of honey ham.
And while I read the morning paper in the lounge chair in my bedroom, she snuggled up in my lap for a nap.
She’s still with us today.
Reach G. SAM PIATT at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 932-3619.