It was a dark and stormy night. The car was packed with chew bones, rawhides, treats, and a two-week supply of food. All that was left was to grab the blanket and leash Maggie. “Damn,” I thought, “why did it have to rain tonight of all nights?” Maggie was due to be dropped off at the training facility by 8:30 p.m., and it was already pitch-black outside.
Jamie took the red blanket, jagged with chewing at the corners, while I hooked Maggie to her prong collar. Jamie carefully and tenderly placed the soft blanket in the trunk of the Fiat, as though it was fine china that he was afraid of breaking. Maggie didn’t need much coaxing and jumped into the back seat of the little car, anticipating going for a ride with a wide smile and a tail-wag.
As I backed Zeus out of the garage, the rain began to fall in earnest; bucketing down from the inky sky so hard I thought the car would get dented for sure. A few makeshift clouds scrabbled to take their place in front of the misty moon.
Jamie cut the music off as I tensed behind the wheel, gripping it firmly at the 10-and-2 position, trying to keep from getting washed into the empty lots that were, at one time, going to be a pasture for rescued horses. Slipping unsteadily out onto the “busy street,” I drove through the rapidly-puddling water and tried to see where I was going. Zeus’ wipers beat steadily as Jamie and I tried to remain cheerful. “This is for the best,” I reassured Jamie halfheartedly. “Maggie is going to socialize with other dogs, and re-learn her commands. When she comes home, everything should be fine.” In the bluish-green light of the streetlamps, my son’s face gleamed an upset pale. He nodded, but I could tell he didn’t believe me.
We white-knuckled it all the way to the facility. Maggie remained unconcerned, looking out the window at the torrent of water running down. Even with the wipers going full-blast, I was only able to see where we were going by the rear lights of the SUV in front of us and the “cats eyes” that lined the sloppy thoroughfare. By the time we pulled into the lot, I felt like I needed a drink, some migraine medicine, and a Xanax, not necessarily in that order.
We walked into the office and the overpowering smell of wet dog hair immediately hit us like a wave at the beach. Jamie ran in the steady downpour back and forth to the car, unloading supplies, while I held on to Maggie (who was behaving nicely) and filled out paperwork. I was notified of which trainer would be taking Maggie home and given a cell number. Then, all too soon, capable hands took the lead out of mine and Maggie walked away to be with the other dogs. Maggie was excited and hardly gave us a backwards glance. I was glad it seemed easy on her for now.
We squelched back to the car, not really caring about the rain anymore, and sat down dejectedly. Jamie didn’t exactly cry, but he did sniffle once or twice. I reached over and squeezed his hand. He squeezed back. Hard.
The ride home was much the same, except for the gnawing, burning, acidic pain in my stomach, and the stone-silence of my sad-faced son.
Jim took the events of the evening in stride when he came home from work. “She’ll come back and be a better-behaved dog,” he told us, with assurance. I looked at him. Jamie looked down at his plate and didn’t say a word.
I went to bed, patting my mattress, looking for the white dog snuggled beneath the down comforter. But she wasn’t there. My hands reached out automatically, looking for her this morning; patting, patting, patting the emptiness.
In my heart, I know that Maggie is in the best of hands, receiving the best of care, and this was the right thing to do. But still, we grieve at her absence, and hope and pray that bootcamp works.