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Path of Least Resistance

Why couldn’t we just get her a damn collar that was stylish AND functional?! Tawny’s collar was loose. It had slipped right off her tiny neck.

She simply would not come back to me. I was calling and screaming as I chased her, with tears and sweat running down my face. Every few yards gained was only matched by her distancing more from me. Was this some sort of game to her? Clearly it was. Her tail wagged ferociously and if dogs could smile, she was quickly mastering it.

She was Golden Retriever, but in this moment, ”retrieving” her was becoming a joke.

Fear and exhaustion volleyed back and forth inside me. It was getting dark, and this little game of ‘boy vs. pup’ didn’t seem to be ending anytime soon. She was having too much fun.

I began to accept that I may not be able to catch her. No one knew where we were. Hell, I didn’t even know where we were. And our new puppy; losing her this early in her pup hood {and so early in our family’s tenure} would be a travesty. It was my fault. All I could hear was my dad’s voice, “We can’t afford a puppy, and no one will take care of it!” Guilt started to marinate with my sweat and tears.

It took all my energy to keep up with her as she darted and sprinted ahead of me. If she got out of my sight, there would be no telling where she’d end up, and the likelihood of her finding her way back home was slim. Worse yet, the terrible things that could happen to her way out here swirled in my head. There was no telling what could happen to ME if I didn’t get back home before total darkness descended.

My shirt was soaked, and I was getting to get cold. Springtime in New England was unpredictable, with above-average temps during the day, and deceptively-chilly temperatures in the evening.

My breathing was labored. Even few minutes, Tawny and I would stop to share intense stare-downs whenever one of us needed a break from her fun. She would wait for me at a distance just far enough for me to grab her. The second I would sprint towards her, my thighs would ignite, my ribs pierced in pain, and my mouth would dry. My speed was no match.

As the sun faded, and shadows encroached the path, my emotional distress heightened. I had no idea where I was. No one had any idea where either of us were. My mother was probably sick with worry.

I stopped. Falling to my knees, I pressed my face to the ground, and began to cry harder. Acknowledging defeat, I screamed for help, praying for a return call. This was an increasingly-dire situation, which was entirely out of my control. My worries morphed. “If I lose the dog, I will be the one who is totally alone in the unknown, slowly suffocating by the raw woodland.

Just when hope was lost, a whimper in my ear, followed by a collection of rapid licks upon the back of my neck. Her puppy breath was almost insufferable, but in this moment, in my moment of despair, it was a welcomed blessing. My newest friend, in seeing my suffering, had ended her game and had come back to me. I wrapped my arms around her, and let her continue her onslaught of kisses; her tail whipping back and forth frantically.

I stood up, turning to face the same trail that had delivered us here. We both stepped in the direction of home. She walked close by my side the entire way, occasionally peering up to check that I was okay.

We entered the front door with the evening as our backdrop and the spring peepers as our soundtrack. Inside the house, all was quiet.

Worn out, dirty, and emotionless, I picked her up and carried her upstairs. No one seemed to notice our absence. I quietly shut my bedroom door and climbed into bed, making a point to graze the top of young Tawny’s head before I laid down.

This would be the beginning of a long and loyal friendship. “Goodnight Pup”, I whispered.

Written by Chad Zingales on 4/11/23 while clipping coupons from The Union Leader.

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