WHAT A DAY
My teenage daughter, Cindy, and her friend Molly, were only pretending to be interested in their cell phones. I could tell they were eyeing me with their peripheral vision as I sipped my coffee and picked at the remainder of my breakfast. I would occasionally glance at the wall clock and resume coffee sipping, slowly, ever so slowly and leisurely. They were definitely having difficulties restraining themselves from leaping out of their chairs at the slightest indication that I was ready to go....go to the Clear the Shelters event at the pound where Molly was hoping to adopt a ...anything, cat, dog, potbellied pig. Anything in need of rescuing and unlimited love. I was the authorized, "competent" adult along for the ride with Molly's mother's list of acceptable animals and cell number for verification in case Molly fell in love with some odd exotic absolutely-out-of the-question fur baby, though in my thinking those kind of babies didn't exit.
I pushed my chair back and stood up. Bing! Bing! So did Cindy and Molly, only to re-sit themselves when they saw me refill my coffee cup. My terrier Scruffy, who was pretending to nap at my feet, raised his head and pointed his ears up then collapsed his head back down on top of his paws, just as disappointed.
Raising the coffee cup to my lips I paused and lowered it to the counter top. "Everyone ready?" The girls sprang into action and raced out the door to the car, followed by Scruffy. "Hey, I just asked, didn't mean I was ready!" I yelled after them. Oh well, I guess it's time, if I postponed this any longer I would be turned in on some kind of cruelty to minors charge.
Parking at the pound was at a premium. Why was today so busy? All these prospective pets have been here for months, why was the public so interested in them today? Oh yeah, to help project Clear the Shelters pet adoption fees were reduced tremendously to a more affordable rate. I hope this didn't allow individuals with limited income to adopt something on a whim they couldn't afford to maintain. That's me, always looking at the opposite pole of good. Gosh sometimes I really need an attitude tune up.
As we wriggled through the diverse horde, a guy bounced into Cindy when a child on rolling tennis shoes who was only looking where he was going careened into him. This contact with Cindy caused Scruffy’s neck hair to flare up like a porcupine as he emitted a low menacing growl, showing a row of sharp pointed teeth. Very odd. Scruffy was usually the most amiable of terriers. Guy apologized to Cindy, lowered his head and angled his course a bit more out of Scruffy's reach, and continued onward through the throng. “That man touched me,” Cindy exclaimed, indicating her breast. “I don’t think that was an accident.”
“Now Cindy, it’s crowded in here and I saw the whole thing, I don’t think it was intentional,” I responded, not entirely convinced she was wrong. Scruffy looked up at me, shook his head in disagreement, growled again and inched up closer to Cindy in his protector’s armor. He may be a small package, but so is dynamite. Well he was way out of our personal space now anyway.
This event really seduced a horde of pet hungry humans; people were bumping, shoving and pushing into each other afraid they’d lose a chance to own the perfect companion. Kids (the anthropoid kind as well as the furry kind) were running about without obvious adult supervision oohing at all the animals.
One little girl of about three ran from kennel to kennel thrusting her hands in to grab excited dogs or cats by their collars then attempted to pull them out through the narrow bars while her mother tried to keep up with her, admonishing her to behave before she went to find her dad, to no avail. I don’t think that little girl is ready for a pet yet, but I know something she is ready for…. Oops, can’t print that information. The volunteers gave the mother scathing looks, the animals were better behaved.
After an hour of viewing and dismissing numerous options from cats to Guinea pigs to miniature goats Molly froze at one of the hundreds of kennels containing a dog that was a shy looking mix of…God knows what. A tan and black short haired medium sized dog with soulful eyes, (Yeah, I know, they all have soulful eyes). Eyes that had also apparently seen a lot of disappointment since the attached card mentioned it had been fostered many times and was nearing its last few days. Scruffy bellied up to the kennel and laid his head down. Dog reached a paw out and stroked Scruffy’s noggin, an action that sent Scruffy’s tail into overdrive, then he met Molly’s eyes and nodded acquiescence. Awe. I believe we found Dog’s and Molly’s forever friend. The price was right, the size was right, the age was right, the temperament was right, and to top it all off, Scruffy approved. That was important as Molly and Cindy spent a lot of time together.
Paper work filled out, money handed over, Dog, whose real name, we learned, is Duke, was hooked up to the leash we’d brought and handed to a thrilled Molly. Released from his cage Duke perked up even more as he and Scruffy did the happy dance together. I mean I’m talking a very HAPPY HAPPY dance. Yes, they were going to be good chums. Our phone cameras were clicking away to record the first day of forever event. Remember when you could only take so many pictures before you ran out of film? No. Hmmm.
As we went back to our car amid hundreds of other new pet owners, Guy zipped passed us to his engine red pick-up truck carrying over his shoulder the disorderly three year old we’d encountered earlier who was now hollering up a storm and wailing for mom. Mom must have carried through with her threat of handing her over to Dad. Scruffy immediately started barking viciously at the man, then ran at him snipping at Guy’s heels. Scruffy was not acting himself. Something was off with him today. I caught up with Scruffy, grabbed him by scruff of his neck, sternly admonished him, and found it was my turn to apologize to Guy who accepted my apologies hastily before climbing into his truck and revving up the motor for takeoff. I guess he and mom came in separate vehicles.
I dropped Molly and Duke off at their home and just pulled into my drive way when my phone and Cindy’s went off on an Amber alert. Man that alarm always shakes me up, it’s so loud and insistent. I turned it off and plunked my phone in my purse as I opened the car door.
“Hey mom, look at this,” Cindy said, holding her phone up in my face. She actually read the alerts.
I looked. And looked. The more I looked my stomach sank. A little girl named Shay had been taken from the Clear the Shelters event about thirty minutes ago. Could it have been….? The details all added up. It was the disorderly three year old. Guy was not her father, Clear the Shelters had been loaded with tiny tykes, it had been a virtual candy store for predators. Scruffy whined at me with an “I knew it, you should have trusted my instincts” tone.
I retrieved my phone and dialed the police station, gave them what information I could, and was invited down to the station, along with Cindy, to examine mug shots and/or create a composite picture of Guy. I closed my car door but not before Rocky, Scruffy’s pet squirrel, sailed in. I didn’t have time to make him leave I just hit the gas, I’m sure if I got caught for speeding I’d get a get out of jail free card with my excuse.
Before I turned off towards the Police station a red pick-up passed us, wait, not a red pick-up, the red pick-up! It was Guy going the speed limit and I saw Shay in the passenger side, without a car seat. Man, Guy was breaking all the rules today.
“Cindy, call the police and tell them we’re in pursuit of the suspect,” I ordered as I pulled up behind him going sixty-seventy miles per hour. Did I sound police-y? “Give them the license plate number.”
Up ahead, pass three cars, my suspect turned off the freeway onto a dirt road. Shoot, he’ll notice me now, only two cars on a deserted road in the woods, what are the chances he doesn’t use his rear view mirror.
“Mom, they’re telling us to not follow him, he could be dangerous.”
Are you kidding? Really? He kidnapped a three year old, that’s more like a coward to me, yet I pulled over into the bushes by the freeway to wait for the police when thirty minutes later Guy drove back out and returned to the expressway. Passenger’s seat was now empty. I turned into the woods and drove down the gravel road over branches and rocks until I came to a cabin. A secluded cabin fairly deep in the woods, now how menacing does that sound? I’m thinking chain saws and….now I’m going to stop thinking.
“Stay in the car,” I said, ignoring my own orders, as did Scruffy and Rocky; naturally. They were well trained but they chose which rules to follow and beat me to the porch. Cindy however was very content to remain behind.
I checked the door. Locked, of course. I walked around the sides peering in windows. There Shay was, tied to a rickety old wooden kitchen chair, crying her little eyes out. The windows had bars on them, what on earth for, don’t folks trust anyone anymore? I tried unsuccessfully to bang the door on the front porch open with my shoulders. What I needed was some muscle.
I heard a resonating clomp, clomp, clomp and looked towards the woods on the left. What on earth is that? I panicked, was Guy coming back? And if so what was he doing?
“Cindy, get out of here,” I yelled, she was too far away for me to get to before whatever was charging loudly in my direction through the trees became visible.
Cindy backed the car up just as a moose pierced the parameters and charged right towards me. Scruffy dived into the open car window and the car jerked to a stop so fast Cindy’s head flew forward and the air bag popped then deflated.
“Scruffy hit the brakes!” Cindy hollered, and irately tried to restart the car.
The moose kept on coming full speed, (I’m guessing, what’s full speed for a moose?) right towards me.Moose leapt onto the porch and careened into the door smashing it to splinters. I peeled myself off the outside wall and was about to run towards the car when I saw him…Rocky was sitting on Moose’s back, vibrating from the impact and chattering wildly at me. Again I’m guessing as my squirrel-ese is limited, but I translated Rocky’s words into, “Get the kid and let’s roll, NOW!”
I ran inside, tripping over splintered wood, untied the little girl, grabbed her, bolted to the car behind Rocky, pushed Cindy out of the way, and after taking a head count took off followed by Moose close behind. Just as I reached the freeway Guy returned. We exchanged glances briefly and I could see the amazement on his face right before he spun his truck around. It took him a few minutes to circumvent around Moose who was blocking the road with his head down ready to go head to grill. Luckily I managed to get a five minute lead.
I was half way to the police station with Guy in pursuit at last, who had somehow sustained considerable damage to his grill, when a mess of squad cars caught up to us (finally, might I add) from all directions lights and sirens blaring. Touchdown… Homerun…. Whatever! The game was now over for Mr. Guy.
At home, again, I collapsed into a chair exhausted after all the day’s excitement while adrenalin driven Cindy called Molly to give a full account of all that happened after she was dropped off at her house. I heard all the details repeated by Cindy. How Little Shay was back home with a grateful mother and Guy was in jail and would be for a very long time. How the moose had been claimed by his owner, a man who had a small wild life preserve nearby. He was utterly mystified on how Bullwinkle had gotten lose. There were no breaks in the perimeter’s fence. (Wait a minute, Bullwinkle and Rocky? Realy, i didn't make that up) On the down side, the police crime investigators had found loads of evidence at the cabin of Guy’s past activities involving other not so lucky children. My heart cried for the parents that were being called probably at this moment with the devastating news they had been waiting for and dreading, some for years, while I sat at home with my daughter, alive and well. Unfortunately not all stories have a happy ending, but thank heaven, this one did.
The exhausted duo of Scruffy and Rocky were on the patio being praised by two wispy figures, the guardian angels assigned to Cindy and her mom.
“You guys did a great job without us today.” One tall wisp said.
“Yeah, guys, a great job.” The second wisp affirmed with a slight hesitation with a sideways glance at his companion.
Scruffy and Rocky curled up side by side into two co-joined balls of fur, way too whacked to care about their celestial applauses and were asleep in Nano seconds. The angels levitated them gently onto their shared soft sleeping mat. They wouldn’t realize till morning the risks they had taken with the assumption the angels, their constant source of help, had had their backs.
Wisp number two confronted his partner, “Why did you tell them they did all this on their own, you know I let out the moose for Rocky to appropriate, and you tossed Scruffy into the car to hit the brakes so Cindy wouldn’t get away and leave her mom and Shay behind when that pervert returned? We so totally had their backs!”
“Come on, we don’t need all the credit every time, do we?”
“I guess not,” Wisp number two answered reluctantly as he spread his wings and headed home, followed by his more humble colleague.