The little beagle had been missing for 12 days. And it was breaking our hearts.
On May 25, a contractor was working at his grandfather's house, just around the corner from our home. He had brought along his new beagle to keep him company. But then the dog vanished. No one could find him anywhere in the neighborhood, and it's surrounded by acres of dense woods.
The owner of the beagle was horrified. He put up Lost Dog posters all over our neighborhood, but the chances weren't good – he said the beagle was a very timid dog and afraid of strangers.
My wife was particularly devastated by the disappearance from the beagle. She had just met him a little while before he vanished. She went searching for him in the neighborhood, even trying to track him in the woods. Nothing. I then went out with our dog Brady, as if somehow an 130-lb Newfoundland would be capable of sniffing him out without scaring the poor thing to death. No luck.
Days passed. The weather hit close to 90 degrees for a while, and plummeted into the 50s on certain nights. A massive storm slammed the area, leaving behind several inches of rain and half a dozen tornados. And all the while, the beagle remained missing. We didn't know if he was even alive at this point. There were reportedly sightings of a beagle in a neighborhood over two miles west of us, but a lot of people around here own beagles. It just didn't seem very likely that it was him, especially given all the busy roads he would have had to have crossed.
Last Wednesday, rather than leaving for work my usual time, I stayed home for a bit to walk my daughter to her bus stop and take my son to pre-school. Because my wife and I went to his school rather than directly to my subway station, we drove a different route to the station than we usually would.
We continued down the main road, jammed with other commuters. I was gazing out the window, staring into space, when I spotted a small dog trotting up a church driveway, heading straight towards us and the ontoint traffic.
A small dog. No leash. It was a beagle.
"BEAGLE!!!" I yelled instinctively. My wife slammed on the brakes, nearly causing an accident. As other vehicles honked and drove around us, I grabbed our dog's leash from the back seat and jumped outside. Thankfully the beagle had veered away from the road, but was now behind some bushes adjacent to the church parking lot. It occurred to me I didn't know the dog's name, so I couldn't call out for him. I tried to approach him as carefully as possible.
Then I heard an angry voice in the distance.
"Stay away from my dog!!!!"
Just behind the church parking lot, I saw a man exiting a dense thicket of trees. He was middle-aged, dressed in camouflage and looked like he was living in the woods.
"Go away!!!" he yelled. "Stay away from my dog!!!"
Apparently I had stumbled upon a man taking his beagle for a walk, until it got away from him towards the traffic. And here I was, jumping out of a car with a leash to grab the dog. He must've thought I was trying to kidnap him.
I tried to explain the situation to him. "I'm sorry, but there's a lost beagle -"
"Shut up! Get out of here! You're scaring my dog!"
"I'm really sorry, I was only trying to-"
"I said shut up! You're scaring him. Get away from my dog!!!"
This angry, utterly distressed man continued to yell at me, and the beagle had gone around the corner behind the other side of the church. I didn't want to confront the man directly. There was nothing else I could do, so I got back in the car. The intense adrenaline rush of spotting wayward beagle quickly turned to confusion and disappointment. I'd almost kidnapped some guy's dog. And meanwhile, the beagle from our neighborhood was still missing.
My wife and I continued to the subway, pondering the irony of what had just transpired. Here we'd been looking for a lost beagle, and as soon as we thought we had found him, it turned out to be another dog. And I kept wondering what the hell that man must've thought I was doing.
Near the end of the day, my wife sent me a text message. They had found the dog. And it turned out to be the one I tried to catch in front of the church.
Little did we know that the young contractor who owned the dog was the business partner of the actual owner. His partner, so desperate to find his beagle, had taken to living in the woods near where he was reportedly sighted, setting up traps and barely sleeping for days on end. And when he finally spotted his dog and tried to approach him, there I was - some stranger jumping out of a car with a leash in hand to nap the dog.
No wonder he screamed at me.
After I'd gotten back in the car, the beagle apparently veered back into the woods until eventually wandering into one of the traps his owner had set up for him. Somehow the dog had survived in the woods for almost two weeks, living off whatever food he could find, and crossing two very busy roads until he was nearly three miles away from where he had started.
That night, as we drove home from the subway, I saw the "lost dog" signs plastered all over neighborhood. We pulled over, and I stepped outside to look at the sign.
"Lost Dog – Luke."
Luke. I didn't know that was his name.
Welcome home, Luke.