I woke up New Year's Eve morning at 5:15 to meet up at 6 with a dozen people I didn't know to look for a greyhound that few (if any) of us had ever seen. In one hand, we held flashlights to shine across fields and behind bushes. In one pocket, we'd put treats our own dogs liked, hoping the missing girl would as well.
In another pocket or around our necks, we each had an extra leash. Because when you're looking for a scared and skittish dog -- one who had been mistreated in the past by the antithesis of the two-legged beings who were looking for her -- you have to believe in the mightiest of outcomes.
Most of us had our own dogs with us, too. We reasoned that Shadow, the moniker given this black, zipper-thin beauty, would be more comfortable seeing her own kind than thinking she was being pursued by the very creatures who had been so cruel.
I brought Newman, one of our foster dogs. Because he had once been a stray, I thought of him as a talisman of sorts, a magnet that would somehow lure Shadow out; a soul mate who would know what she was thinking, and could sense where she might hide. Plus, I may have harbored the hope that his presence would somehow show her that life can be more the life she had known.
The morning was beautiful. When I'd walked out the front door, the rain had just begun pouring down. But by the time we fanned out onto the area where Shadow had last been spotted, we could see the moon, the clouds, the waning stars. We were told to be quiet, and if we saw her to sit down, to avoid eye contact, to act bored. Then as she came closer, we could very gently put the leash on her.
But we didn't see her. So Newman and I got back in the car. We drove through the neighborhoods a bit, and I was overwhelmed at all the places she could be. When we got home, I gave Newman one of the bones I'd intended for Shadow. Then I went for a run, all the while looking looking looking.
My best friend was in town for a rare visit, and called when I'd finished running. I picked her up at her parents' house. We went for coffee, got manicures, walked through a few stores. At our last stop before lunch, I checked my email and saw the news about Shadow. She had run into traffic, miles from her foster home. She had been hit by a car, and she died. Even hours later -- even now -- every time I think of how scared she was and what she endured and what she never knew, I start to cry.
Yet when I listen closely, I hear whisperings -- not only of sorrow, but of lessons gleaned from Shadow. Lessons that came with a horrible price, and that I would trade in an instant for her to be alive, and loved, and safe. Yet lessons that, for me at least, are good to think about for the year ahead. They're very simple, really, and I will honor the brevity of her life by keeping them brief as well.
They are these:
To try not to be afraid.
To believe -- even though and especially when it seems ridiculous to do so -- that somebody believes in you.
Godspeed, sweet Shadow. May warm arms engulf you, tasty treats fill your stomach, and flashlights and stars be guiding you home.