And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the Lord.”
1 Samuel 1: 20
Chapter Three-Chloe has layers
Chloe quickly became an integral part of her new “finders” family. As time went on, several interesting things became apparent about her. First of all, she was accident prone, both of her own accord and as a result of the unintentional actions of others. In the first year the family had her she fell off the thirty-foot high back porch and broke one of her legs. On another occasion, Karen ran over Chloe as she ran to greet her car resulting in a broken shoulder on the same side as the previously broken leg. It seemed that Chloe was perpetually in a lampshade, (that loathsome device devised by vets to keep dogs from licking and picking at the injured part of their body). Chloe was in one of these lampshades so often that John thought he might save them to use in a business venture featuring used animal lampshades (rescued lampshades so to speak) with cute little designs on them which Karen, an artist, would draw. About the time they decided to throw away a lampshade, Chloe would re-injure herself again, and the couple found themselves having to buy yet again something they had just thrown away. Trips to the vet and the resultant lampshades were quickly making Chloe a lovable, but expensive pet. This however was only the start of it.
“I am afraid to throw away this lampshade contraption, Karen; it might be a bad luck thing to do. The minute I do she gets hurt or something, and we’ll have to buy another one.”
In about the same spot where Karen ran over Chloe, one year later Karen then ran into a child in the neighborhood driving a golf cart. Chloe was with Karen, the car totaled and the accident was consequentially blamed on Chloe’s bad karma. More than the fact that the child did not look both ways and pulled out in front of Karen’s car, John and Karen were slowly getting the gist of Chloe.
Being accident prone, however, was not Chloe’s biggest issue. She was an unusual animal in many ways and often behaved more like a person than a dog.
“Chloe has layers,” Karen would say adding, “She is complex.”
Chloe was a pensive dog for certain and had a major problem with loud noises, particularly thunder. Thunder brought out unknown demons (they thought) in Chloe and made her very anxious. This fear of thunder resulted in her running away from home. It became a major and reoccurring problem for Chloe and consequently for her family. Chloe’s fear of thunder was complicated by the fact that John and Karen, and for that matter Chloe, were not good at making sure Chloe had her collar on at all times. For various reasons, the collar would be taken off for a bath, and it would just happen that a major storm would occur the same day. The collar came off in mysterious ways as well. On one occasion it blew off Chloe’s neck while she had her head out John’s truck’s window on the way to the Chattahoochee River some thirty miles from home. The collar was received in the mail about two weeks later. If it happened that Chloe was outside when the thunder occurred, she defaulted by running away. She ran away to various destinations. For a time she would end up at their next-door neighbor’s house. The reason she went next door was because she was accustomed to going there on Sundays. Their next-door neighbor always cooked out steaks on Sunday night. Unbeknownst to her owners, Chloe disappeared on Sunday about the time these neighbors started cooking the meat. It took a while, but John and Karen began to note that during the same two-hour period each Sunday, they could not find Chloe. Chloe’s absence every Sunday evening was not a point of concern. In this instance and during this particular time, they did not know where she was, but they knew she’d be back. She always resurfaced on Sunday evenings. At a neighborhood party, John and Karen finally confirmed the location of where Chloe went on Sunday evenings.
“John, guess who came over for steaks this past Sunday?” asked his next-door neighbor.
“I don’t know, Wayne, who?”
“Chloe, she loves to come over for steak. She comes in after eating and watches a few shows on the couch with my wife and me. She is so sweet. We don’t need our own dog with Chloe as our neighbor. A couple of hours with Chloe on Sunday are just right for us and all we need. I’ll put a couple of cute pictures in your mailbox of her watching a game with us on our couch.”
The fact that Chloe was at peace with everyone she met and “took up with,” did not give John and Karen any solace. In time this trait, in addition to her penchant to flee, became very problematic for the couple and complicated their ability to recover her when she ran away.
If it was raining and Karen and John heard thunder, they simultaneously thought, “Uh oh…where’s Chloe?” The searching again then began in earnest. First stop would be the neighbors who cooked out the steaks on Sunday. The next stop would be the neighbors up the street who had a Beagle that Chloe played with from time to time.
“Karen, this is Neal. Chloe is up here in our garage. Do you want me to bring her down there to you?”
“Thanks Neal. No, that won’t be necessary. We’ll be up in a minute.”
In time, the places she’d run to became more distant, and very much more complicated by the fact that at times she would not have on her collar. The primary place to which she gravitated outside the neighborhood was the grocery store about a mile from John and Karen’s home. To get to this store Chloe went up the street from the couple’s house to the main road, a very busy and potentially dog-lethal road, take a right, and then go about another half a mile to cross yet another busy street to end up in front of the grocery store, Ingles. The couple had no clue why she chose that place to go when it thundered. As it had happened on many occasions in the past, the phone rang at John and Karen’s home at three in the morning.
“Hi, this is Bill up at Ingles. I think we have your dog up here.”
“Thank you. I’ll be up there in a few minutes,” John replied.
John arrived and just outside the door of the store on the curb is a girl sitting and petting Chloe. Chloe seemed surprised that she was John’s dog and that he was there to pick her up. As usual she had taken to the person she had ended up with and vice versa. John got out of the car, opened the passenger side door and simply said quietly, “Chloe, let’s go home.” She jumped up in the car seat as if it were part of the original plan. Chloe looked at John as if to say, “What’s the big deal. I was fine here, leave me alone.”
“She is one sweet dog,” would be the obligatory remark of the Ingles employee.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” John would think. He had heard it too many times before. It wasn’t funny or cute any more. Chloe’s internal mental issues and the effect they were having on her family’s lives were beginning to “grate.”
One of John’s Saturday rituals involved going to various stores to get the things he needed for a particular project at the lake that day. After John and Chloe took the trash to the compacter, the next stop on their route was Home Depot. John found a shady parking spot a bit away from the other cars, carefully adjusted the windows for just the right ventilation, and then made it a point not to be in the store longer than fifteen minutes. One episode pertaining to a “Chloe disappearance,” happened in the parking lot of a Home Depot. Chloe somehow had gotten out of the truck while John was shopping. After having looked all over the parking lot and the area around the store, a lady pulled up in a car. John saw Chloe sitting up in the passenger side of the car as if she were a family member. She looked like she was the one who owned the car, and the lady driving the car was Chloe’s chauffeur. Chloe looked at John as if John was the stranger or as if he was the one who was lost and she had come to claim him. He was slowly catching on to Chloe’s ways, and began to wonder, “Is there more to this dog than he or Karen realized? Could it be that Chloe had found them and not the other way around? Had she done to John and Karen what she was doing to all these other people who kept finding her?”
“Is this your dog? She followed me as I was leaving the store and got in my car. She is the sweetest dog,” the finder said.
“Yes she’s mine. She doesn’t know a stranger. Thanks so much. Come on Chomplex,” John said reluctantly recalling all the other episodes in which Chloe’s friendliness made him look like an irresponsible master. He thought to himself, “This lady is probably thinking I was wrong to leave her in the car unattended. That poor dog was hot and I should have known you don’t leave a dog in a car alone. I know exactly what she’s thinking. Thanks a lot Chloe. You are as bad as Tootsie.”
A variation of the above scenario easily happened twenty times over the course of the fourteen years the family lived with Chloe. Mixed in with her runaways with a collar-on, were at least ten or so runaways without a collar. The no-collar Chloe episodes were more troubling and accompanied by a larger degree of anxiety on the part of John and Karen, but the with-collar episodes were problematic as well. Not the least of these was when she followed John or Karen’s car as they left on their daily affairs. John in particular worried about this type of following maneuver. John and Karen’s first dog, a cockapoodle named Fancy, (named after a Rod Stewart album they had called “Footloose and Fancy Free”). Fancy was hit and killed by a car after following John, unbeknownst to him, on a bike ride. He did not know she had been killed until he and Karen missed her and then he backtracked his bike route and found her on a busy road he routinely crossed on his ride. He had never forgotten her death and blamed himself for it.
Chloe’s habit of following the car when John or Karen left home became almost as much a frustrating issue for them as her disappearing because of thunder. If they did not make a point to let her go to the restroom, and then put her back into the house before they left, particularly if it were a rainy day, she followed the car. Dealing with this was not only time consuming, but very aggravating because it almost always occurred when either John or Karen was in a hurry or late for something. The other problem with this bad habit of Chloe’s was the potential negative consequence of John or Karen not noticing that she was following them. Chloe had figured out a clever way to follow their cars by cutting through the woods adjacent to their house and then begin following their car further up the street. This was a problem because John or Karen, not seeing Chloe follow them out of the driveway, assumed she was not following. Then it was possible for her to continue following their car out of the neighborhood without their knowledge and expose herself to the busy main road. This put Chloe in danger of getting hit or began the whole running away routine all over again. “Ingles here I come,” Chloe must have thought as she followed John or Karen’s car out of the neighborhood.
Could it have been that she was yearning for something different in her life or to be somewhere else? Was this family just a stopping point on the journey to another more important destination for Chloe? Could it be that running away and being with others who happened to “find her” had been the very thing she wanted and yearned for all along? It was becoming very clear to John and Karen that Chloe was indeed complex, and she may have in her head another purpose in her life other than being part of theirs.
As a matter of habit John and Karen would pull out of the driveway and instinctively look into the rearview mirror to be sure that Chloe was not following. If she was, they turned around, went back to the house and then enticed her to go inside the house before either could leave. This could take several minutes. With each successive episode she became more suspicious and wise to their diversionary tactics, and this made getting her in the house more difficult. In time she suspected the ploy and would not follow the car down the drive to the house, but rather wait where the driveway met the street. This too made leaving home without Chloe, if she wanted to follow, harder to do. If this happened and her “owners” were late, they were forced to let her in the car at the street and take her with them, which was most probably Chloe’s original intention.
“If you are going to act this way then you can go, but you are going to have sit in the car a long time Chloe. You are going to need that basketball bladder of yours today; I have a lot to do. You are going to have to stop doing this.”
It is noted, however, that she did get her way. For the most part Chloe always got her way. She “owned” John and Karen. She did not own them in a pompous or pious way; she owned them in a sweet and unrequited way. John, Karen, and their children were all right with it. They loved and adored Chloe. Thinking of Chloe reminded John of a phrase his mother was fond of using to describe a person to whom everyone gave a pass and treated as if they were “entitled.” “She’s a prima donna, and they think she can do no wrong,” his mother would say in a somewhat condescending way. It fit Chloe to a tee.
For John the most frustrating time Chloe would pull the “I’ll follow your car out of the driveway trick” was on the mornings he had surgery. Perpetually tardy by nature and cutting it close time-wise on one such “surgery morning,” John saw Chloe in the rear view mirror of the car as he pulled out of the driveway.
Chloe’s following the car was a fifteen-minute ordeal regardless of the mechanism used to deal with it. Over time John developed a technique that worked well at first, improved as Chloe got older and became increasingly afflicted by arthritis. If it were determined that he was being followed, John turned the car around and drove past his house in the opposite direction. He went very slowly to be sure that Chloe was on the safe side of the street as she followed the car. After about six or so houses beyond his home, he’d slowly turn around and then gradually gain speed and leave her. What usually happened was that about the time she got to their driveway John’s car was out of sight. She gave up the chase, as it was all up hill beyond the driveway, and exhaustion trumped her desire to follow. On many occasions however, John waited at the stop sign at the junction with the main street to be sure she did make the entire journey to follow his car, which occasionally happened. She followed John’s car all the way to the stop sign on many occasions, but as she got older she’d more often than not she gave up when she reached the house.
Losing Chloe because of her following John or Karen’s car without their knowledge only happened a few times. When it did occur she was found either in the neighborhood or at Ingles the majority of the time. This was not as major a problem as losing her because of a storm in the middle of the night. The worst-case scenario occurred when there was a storm with thunder, her collar was off, and they were either asleep or not home.
Then there was the time that John had taken Chloe in his truck with him to make Saturday rounds at the hospital. He purposely left one of the windows down a distance to ventilate, but not enough to allow for Chloe’s escape. Somehow, while John was in the hospital checking on his patients, Chloe jumped out of the truck window. It probably occurred because a dog walked by and Chloe’s habit of going berserk in the confines of a car if a dog happened by. She was found by a couple of nursing students. The nurses in turn called the number on her tag and consequently John’s oldest son Clay came to the hospital to get her. Clay came so promptly to pick Chloe up that John always thought it had more to do with seeing the nurses than recovering Chloe. Anyway, John came out of the hospital about thirty minutes later to an empty truck with no Chloe. While he was trying to figure out what had happened to Chloe, since the opening in the window did not look like it would permit Chloe’s squeezing out, he got a phone call on his cell.
“Dad, this is Clay. I’ve got Chloe. She jumped out of your truck and some nurses called me to come get her. Dad, you have got to be more careful with Chloe. She is very important to us. You can’t keep losing her like this,” he says.
John responded, “Thanks Clay, I’ll try to do better.”
These near misses with Chloe being lost then serendipitously found made John and Karen’s family begin to again wonder, “Does Chloe’s getting lost so often and then being found in the oddest ways have some purpose or meaning? Why does this keep happening?”