I had been sick for almost a week and this was the first day in that long that I walked Tildy to the park instead of driving there. I was moving slowly because I was exhausted and my legs felt like tree trunks. Matilda tends to understand when I don’t feel well and will act accordingly when we are in the house, but once we get outside, it’s a completely different story. She forgets that I need a little t.l.c. and starts running after squirrels and birds as if she’s not attached to me by a leash.
It was a beautiful summer afternoon. The park was filled with people. Kids playing on the jungle gym. Teenagers hanging out on the beach despite the “No Beach Access” sign. Women walking the boardwalk for exercise and couples walking it for pleasure.
I bent down to pick up poop and when I stood up, I realized that I didn’t feel any tension on the end of the leash. I looked down at Matilda, and it seemed that she realized it at the same time I did. She was free. Somehow the leash had become disconnected from her harness. And in that moment of realization, Matilda seized her chance and took off.
My heart stopped.
I watched as she galloped away in glee. She zigzagged across the field. As I yelled her name, she looked back at me, her tongue wagging with a smile on her face, and she continued to run.
I couldn’t breath.
I ran after her and after about 150 yards, my lungs began to burn. She was as fast as a bullet. She acted as if she didn’t hear me yelling her name. There was no way I was going to catch her. She was too far in front of me. I couldn’t push my body anymore.
I began to cry.
And then she stopped to make friends with someone fishing off the pier. Thank the Lord! Surely that person will keep her there until I get there. Nope. Matilda saw me coming and took off.
Was this a game to her? Or did she just not want to be with me anymore? The tears began to pour.
She turned a corner and I couldn’t see her anymore. And with that I gave up. I stopped running. My constant companion was gone.
Maybe she had decided to go back to her previous owner. Maybe she just didn’t like living with me. Maybe she was accustomed to being able to run free before she came to live with me.
And as I turned the corner to take the long way home, there she was! She had run into a gated area and was trying to find her way around it. When she saw me, she started running again. Damn dog. Just at that moment, a woman that I had run past in the park pulled up. She got out of her truck and started coaxing Matilda with a piece of chicken. Matilda ran right to her, tail wagging, and stopped about 10 feet in front of her. Suddenly, she turned her attention to me. She crawled over to me on her belly with her head down and laid down at my feet.
She knew she was wrong.
I was livid. How could she do something like this to me?! Why would she do something like this to me?! I picked her out of all the dogs on the internet, even though she looked scruffy and old. Didn’t I love her enough? Didn’t I take care of her when she was sick? I took her into my home and spoiled her rotten. What in the world would make her run from me like that?
I wanted to scream at her and beat her bottom until she understood how much she had hurt me, but the Rescue Chicken Lady was there telling me about a dog she used to have. I hardly heard a word she was saying. I thanked her profusely for her help, scooped up Matilda, and left.
Since she enjoyed going for walks so much, I carried her the whole way home. Squirrels would cross our path and she would try to wiggle free. Nope. Don’t think so. You had your time. Now you gotta look like a punk being carried home. I hope the squirrels, the birds, and the other dogs in the neighborhood are laughing at you because you can’t even walk home. You can’t be trusted. You have to be carried.
When we got back to the house, I let loose. I screamed at her like I’ve never screamed at anyone. I put her in a room and closed the door. She tried to apologize, but I wouldn’t let her. I had never been so hurt, so angry, so relieved.