The urge to rescue is sometimes irresistibly strong. It was a bright December day, early. Winston and I walked to the end of Ogden Road, where it joins the parkway at a right angle, as do many of the side streets in the neighborhood. Across the two lanes, which were busy with morning rush-hour traffic, I saw a big dog, black, pushing its nose into leaves in the ribbon of soft grass and dirt between the sidewalk and road. The dog was so deliberate and calm, staying in place, that it took me a few moments to realize it was alone. No leash, no owner.
I stood where I was, and I looked up the parkway and down. Winston seemed to look in unison with me, but really it was the motion of the passing cars that fascinated him. I don’t know if he really looks.
“No, Jane,” I said to myself inside of my head. “You don’t have to save this dog. Keep going.” I am aware of my desire to help even when it is pathological. I can resist, I thought.
“Well, what’s a reasonable thing I can do?” More internal dialog. I thought of calling Grace, at home in bed. “Bring me an extra leash,” I would say to her. “We have to save a dog today.” She’s like me and would get excited by such a mission. Still, I didn’t call. I mustered my self-restraint.
Down in front of the library, I saw a man looking up the parkway in our direction, shading his eyes. I started walking then trotting in his direction. “Sir! Sir!” I was waving my free arm. Winston on leash trotted beside me. A big man in a blue tshirt (no coat!), with a full head of gray hair and black-rimmed glasses, he started walking toward me. We were the only people outside not in cars; we had to walk toward each other.
“Sir, is that your dog?” I kept yelling as I walked closer. He walked in my direction and didn’t answer. I was confused, not only by his lack of response but also by my own fervor to solve the unaccompanied dog problem. Why couldn’t I just walk away and go home? The dog had at least one other potential rescuer. It didn’t have to be me.
“Hi,” he bellowed as I approached. One hand hooded his eyes from the sun; the fingers of the other hand were half in his jeans pocket up to the second knuckle, so the hand and wrist canted away from his body, you know? He looked beyond me in the direction of the dog, so I turned. Now a third person was involved: a woman, kneeling by it with her hand around its collar holding on.
He told me his name, Michael, and occupation, janitor at the library. I had never seen him before. He was calm and unhurried, and even though there was clearly no emergency — the dog was gently apprehended and restrained — I wanted to yell, “Come on! Let’s save the dog.” Michael told me he had called Animal Control already, and he was simply waiting outside, keeping an eye on the dog, until the officer and wagon arrived.
“I could carry my dog — he’s little — and use my leash to tie up the other dog.” I was still trying to intervene, perhaps redundantly.
Michael was easy. He didn’t say, “No, ma’am. It’s under control.” Instead, he said, “Why don’t you leave your dog with me? He can run around in the library while we wait for the officer.”
Suddenly I was HAPPY. Winston was going to finally get to enter the library. “Yes!” I replied. “He would love that.” This rescue was becoming enjoyable. I wondered if my motivation was guided or misguided. Michael unlocked the library’s front door. It was 8 o’clock in the morning and we were in the library before hours. I felt as though I were behind the scenes, though of what I’m not quite sure. It looked simply like the library without people, and maybe that’s the point. Only books, tables, chairs, shelves, and the long table with PCs lined up for catalog and Google searching. It’s like the children’s book of the toy bear caught in the department store at night after it had closed.
I unleashed Winston, he ran down a long aisle and out of sight. I said to Michael, “I’ll get the dog,” and jogged up the street. The woman there had found the phone number for the dog’s owner on its collar and dialed it. We exchanged a few words, and she handed me the phone. A female voice told me that she lived down the parkway about a mile. Somehow her dog had “gotten out,” and they hadn’t even noticed. “Where are you?” I told her to come to the library.
I leashed her dog, and jogged back, tying the no-longer-lost dog to the bench in front of the library. I knocked on the front door, and Michael let me in. I told him the owner was on the way. I called for Winston, and I heard the tinkle tinkle of the tags on his collar before we saw him, trotting delicately down the aisle with the Large Print books and the DVDs. He was delighted, or at least I was projecting my delight onto him. I carried him home.
Later, I sat on the edge of Grace’s bed and told her the story. I heightened key parts: worry for the lost dog, relief in the connection with the janitor and woman on the sidewalk, and humor about Winston preferring Large Type books to make it easier to read his favorite mysteries and romances. I don’t recall who said it, Grace or I, but one of us remarked that Jimmy would have loved to know that Winston made it into the library and had some pretty defined reading tastes.
I imagined too the lost dog being reunited with an owner I would never meet. I felt as though some disturbance in the universe had been righted. I did wonder about my sanity: what am I trying to save or repair? It’s impossible. But it wasn’t. Three people at the right spot on the map at the same time, and we did it.
And Winston had a few minutes on the loose in the library. Lucky dog.