Monday, May 02, 2011

When Ronnie Went Home

His name is Ronnie. An eight-year old white (with streaks of golden) Irish terrier. He is afraid of storms. So, Friday, he ran away. His owners, Mark and Angela came back from work to find him gone. They searched frantically, going from house to house, talking to some of their neighbours for the first time trying to find any clue as to what had happened to their precious pooch.

To no avail. They managed to trace his path to the drug centre. And no further.

Saturday was dismal. There was no sign of the dog. None at all. They drove around going further and further afield. But not far enough. Angela was in tears. She prayed: "Lord, please save our little Ronnie. And bring him back safely."

They left word with their favourite petrol station. "See this picture? This is our dog. He's lost. Please tell us if you hear anything."

And then Angela broke down and wept. Because that's what you do when your baby is missing. When he's wet and cold and alone and hungry somewhere and you don't know where and you can't get to him and you can only imagine. When God seems so far away, a concept, a silence at the other end of the line, and all your prayers rise up and disappear into the ether.

Please, please, please, please, please.

No answer.

Sunday evening, a customer visits the petrol station to fill 'er up, a man. He lives around there and the nice lady asks him what she's has asked a hundred others. "Have you seen a white dog around? He's lost. His owners were here looking for him. They left a number."

And Gilbert said: "Yes, I saw one just yesterday. There is this woman who lives at the bottom of the hill. And she came over yesterday with this white dog and asked if it was mine. I told her no, but I would ask around."

And the lady was silent for a few seconds.

Gilbert wrote down the address. He wrote down directions. And then he drove to the house in question. The two large dogs outside greeted him with a perfect fussilade of barks. That was their way. Guard dogs. Good guard dogs. The tv was blaring. Supernatural. B-list pseudo horror.

And I came out, wondering what it was all about. When I saw him, I knew he could only be there about the dog. The one I had just surrendered to the owner of a shelter. The little dog looked at me, heartbreak in his eyes, as Joseph had coaxed him into the cage. I was to learn later that he had never been in a cage before.

"I trusted you. Are you abandoning me too?"

And I had curled up on the sofa after Mum had gone to church and started to cry. This was the second time in two weeks. Was there truly no hope left?

He landed on our doorstep late Friday. Thinking he had come from up the hill where there were people who kept fluffy white dogs, I slipped a collar over his head with much difficulty and headed up there. But the dogs were safely inside the homes to which they belonged. And this little fellow, he seemed uninterested. He did not pull towards any of the houses. If anything, he only started to get excited when we were heading back downhill. He pulled then. All the way back to our house.

And once I slipped off the collar and released him from the lead, he headed straight for our gate to our dogs who were going crazy. He was cold, wet and hungry. I thought I'd offer him some milk. But when I got out, there he was, heading uphill again.

Oh well. That was that.

I came in, locked the doors and headed upstairs to watch the rest of a Hercule Poirot movie on youtube.

But that night Maggot barked. And continued to bark. Short sharp ones like gunshots. He rarely paused. Elliot, on the other hand, went to sleep.

And early that morning, nerves shot to hell, we discovered why. The little dog from yesterday had found his way into our compound. Later we would see that he had climbed on a ledge on the verge, and vaulted over the gate, hurting himself in the process. There was one broken pot to show the path he had traveled.

There he lay, just out of Maggot's reach, curled up. Maggot was going insane. Elliot decided to wait quietly for developments. We towelled him down. Offered him some bread. Figured that he must have been abandoned as he had no collar or identification of any sort. And yet, there was evidence of some care. He was well-fed. His fur was only newly matted with leaves he had picked up from yesterday's storm.

I convinced Mum to let us take him inside, away from the snarling Maggot. I called a cousin (the only other serious doglover in the clan) to see if she wanted a dog. She didn't. I texted an aunt who said she wanted a dog. She was asleep. Said she would text me back when she woke up. She didn't. I called Chubs who has rich friends in JB. Asked if any of them would take in the little fellow. Chubs called me back to say one of them would come to the house later to check out the doggie. He never did.

I gave him a rough and ready shower, dried him and brought him inside. He lay at my feet and went to sleep. He was a loving little dog and liked to lie with his whole body pressed against me. He needed human touch. Lots of it.

Now who did that remind me of?

That day, we fed him along with the other two. He ate with good appetite. He was obviously used to rice and chicken legs. And then, he went to sleep again. In the evening I took him for another walk up the hill. This time, it being a less ungodly hour, there were people in the garden. And I showed the dog to them and said, is he yours? Do you have any idea where he came from?

Gilbert and his mother stared at him. "Who would throw that dog away? He's so cute. But no, he's not from around here. Don't worry, we'll ask around."

And that was that. Later that night when I tried to cut the mats out of his hair, I got a taste of teeth. He snarled a little and then bit. And as I, being obtuse, continued to cut out the mats, he bit me again. Hair, as I was to later learn, was a very sensitive subject. He didn't even let Mark and Angela near him with a scissors. Only Angie's mother.

Bites notwithstanding, he continued close. And when I went up to bed, he scrambled up the stairs after me. Since the walk his limp had become more pronounced. So I slept downstairs so he could sleep close to me, keeping an eye.

And in the morning, after two nights of bad sleep I was washed out. Convinced by now that someone had abandoned him (maybe because of his little biting problem) I didn't go looking any further for an owner. I prayed real hard but without any hope. I prayed that he had not been abandoned. I prayed that his owners would show up. Failing that, that he would get a really rich new one who would love him and send him for grooming twice a week. But no one returned my calls. And I was heading back to KL tomorrow. Time was running out.

So I made the call to Joseph at the animal shelter. Have you ever left a dog at an animal shelter? Have you ever left a plaintive dog with soulful heartbroken eyes at a dog shelter? Have you ever seen the look they gave you as you walk away?

If you haven't, this is one experience you probably don't want to have. Trust me on this.

Which is why, I was curled up on the sofa, bawling my eyes out, cursing God, with Supernatural flickering on the screen as background music when Gilbert showed up. And there was a space. And despair (coupled with a few wild plans to get the dog back) receded and hope opened up.

It takes an instant. But no matter how many times it happens you forget to trust the next time around.

I called Joseph to say we had found the owners and could he bring the dog back. He said, ask the owners to call me. (I think he had already found a buyer)

Jackie called. As I was on the phone to her, a van came hurtling into the compound. A hysterical woman fell out of the car: "My dog, my dog, do you have my dog?"

I told her I had given him up to the shelter and she fell back against the van. "Oh my God!" The word shelter had conjured up her worst fears. Of dogs being mistreated and then put to sleep. But I said, the shelter guy wants you to call him.

Yes, she said frantically, yes. Call him now. I told Jackie I'd call her back. Dialled Joseph and said hold on, the owners are here and they want to speak to you.

"Hi Joseph? That's our dog and we want him back. No, no we did't abandon him. We wouldn't do something like that. He ran away. And we've been out looking for him. Please, please bring him back. What time? 9 or 10? OK. Um, we live behind Jalan Yahya Awal. You know that road in front of the Convent?"

He didn't. So I chipped in. "Why don't you just all meet here? He knows my house."

So they did. And sometime after 10, Joseph showed up. Mark and Angela had been circling the area for more than an hour, coming in and sitting down for a while. They were on tenterhooks. As was I. Until I saw that little dog in their arms I wouldn't believe in the happy ending.

After all, anything could happen.

But he arrived. And headed for his boot to take out the cage. And there was little Ronnie. Both Mark and Angela were beside themselves.

"Say thank you to Auntie. Thank you to Auntie," said Mark, the hitherto silent one.

"Thank you for taking care of my baby. Thank you. Thank you."

And little Ronnie ran madly around the car, cavorting like a puppy. Gone was his gravity of the past few days. Angela hugged him, laying her head against his furry little body. Mark carried him to the car. Ronnie scrambled to the co-driver's seat.

"What's he doing there?" I asked, as Angela paid Joseph for his trouble.

"That's his place. He likes riding up front. Best view," Mark grinned.

"Where do you sit then?" I asked Angie who had just come up.

"I sit at the back," she replied, laughing.

Truly, this was a loved doggie.

Angie handed me a pretty little pink packet.

"That's not necessary. It's really OK."

"No, please take it. You'll make us happy if you do."

So I did. And she had written a little note on it:

Dear Jennifer,

We sincerely believe that God used you in answer to our prayers.

Thank you so much for looking after Ronnie and giving him 2 days of comfort, security & happiness.

This is just a token of our appreciation. Please accept it.

Best regards
Angela & Mark
1 May 2011

And Ronnie went home.


Anonymous said...

That has to be one of the best stories ever. I was so afraid the call would arrive too late...

(huge sigh of relief)

Jenn said...

You know, by the time it had happened I had given up hope. And now it seems that miracles do come true. It opens up a tiny space inside for it to happen.