The Day We Lost Reilly

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Don’t it always seem to go

That you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.

(Big Yellow Taxi – Joni Mitchell)


That’s right, I am drawing inspiration from that chain-smokin’ diva (Joni Mitchell’s a diva to me anyway) who immortalized those words in a song. Of course she was referring to the time they “paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Instead, I’m just going to talk about the day we lost Reilly.


It was actually a beautiful day in Southampton, Ontario. We had driven up to visit our friends Lola and Claude. The north wind coming off of Lake Huron made for a very comfortable temperature and the sun was shining steadily, except for the odd  interruption by a puffy cloud.


Everyone was feeling great – energized by the late spring day – hopeful for what the day had to offer. But then it happened…


Someone had left the back door open and Reilly, normally a stay-close-to-home-dog, had snuck out and was no doubt peeing on everything in the neighbourhood. We weren’t really sure how long he had been gone when Lola asked, “Where’s the dog?” We all got up and performed a preliminary search of the house only to determine that we were definitely down a canine.


We organized a search party: Claude would establish a wide perimeter on his bike, Sharon would head north, and I would head south. Lola would stay at the house in case Reilly made his way back. We agreed to reconvene on the front steps of the house in about twelve minutes and then re-establish the search if necessary. We all took our searching jobs very seriously and made off in our separate directions.


I can only speak for myself when I say the first wave of the search was a pretty anxious one. With my heart beating rapidly and my mind racing through all kinds of awful scenarios, I went through this foreign neighbourhood shouting the name of my dog, appealing to the odd stranger to let me know if they found him. Those were dark times my friend – dark times indeed.


When we got back to the house, there was a break in the case. While Claude, Sharon and I came up empty, Lola picked up a call on my cell (you know, I like the British expression “mobile” for what we call a cell phone. ‘Call me on my cell’ makes me feel like I’m part of some covert anti-government organization. ‘Call me on my mobile’ means that I’m mobile. See what I’m getting at. But you probably just want me to get back to the story). Fortunately, like many paranoid pet owners, I had my vet insert a tracking chip into Reilly. I also put a tag on his collar that lists an ID number and an 800 number to call if someone were to find my wayward Westie. When my mobile rang (see what I did there. People are going to stop calling it a cell – I swear!), Lola wound up talking to the company whose tracking chip we jammed into my dog’s neck. Apparently, Reilly had been found.


How far had he gotten? The person who found him probably saw my forlorn, lost dog wandering aimlessly, knowing he was detached from his pack. In my mind, Reilly probably listened to the call of nature, fled out the back door of my friend’s house and made his way into the forest. He was reconnecting with his ancestral roots, probably finding some wild wolf pack, establishing himself as the pack leader before finding his way to an isolated hermitage many kilometers away. I pictured a disheveled monk (with a phone) breaking his vow of silence to report that he had found a lost dog.


I quickly learned that this is not what happened. The dispatcher shared the address of the people who found Reilly with Lola. In astonishment, Lola replied, “That’s right next door.” Sure enough, we knocked on the neighbour’s door and a very nice man opened the door. Before we could ask if he found our dog, Reilly came tearing toward us with a dog toy in his mouth. A clearly confused Shih Tzu followed him, stopping at his master’s side, looking up at him as if to say, “You’re gonna let him take my toy?!”


The man explained that he saw Reilly sniffing around on his front lawn. He opened the door to see if there was anyone with the dog. Reilly ran right past him into his house. He started eating out of the Shih Tzu’s bowl and then ran around the house, raiding the dog toy basket enroute. They finally got him to settle down by bribing him with a treat. That’s when they checked the collar, called the 800 number, and reported they had found a West Highland White Terrior. They left out their psychological assessment that the little white dog had some serious boundary issues.


I later determined that the entire episode lasted about twenty minutes. I didn’t reminisce about the silly idea of Reilly escaping into nature and leading a wolf pack. Instead I focused on that Joni Mitchell song, realizing that, for twenty minutes, I thought I had lost my dog. I really didn’t know what I had lost until he was gone. Fortunately we found him pretty quickly.


Then we paved paradise and put up a parking lot.




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