I Think Her Name Is Noel

The day was December 24, 2018. I was on Winter Break from school and Irene took vacation days to match my time off. This time off was always called Christmas Vacation while I was growing up, unfortunately time and societal norms has a way of homogenizing much of the things that we knew in our younger years.

I remember we were in the morning hours of our day and I was standing at the breakfast bar finishing my breakfast. Irene was in and out of the kitchen/dining room when she realized there was unfinished business that needed to be completed for work. Unfortunately this unfinished business needed to be accomplished by noon…today! The temporary employees at her workplace, who were filling in for those who were on strike, would be affected if she ignored the situation.

No biggie, at least it seemed, because she could do the necessary work on her work laptop and all would be good. Only on this day, was different. This day was the very first time that she forgot her laptop power cable at work. And to make matters worse, there was less than 10 percent battery power left on the laptop. We knew that making a trip to her work would be necessary in order to do the job that needed to get done.

Irene wasn’t happy, in fact she was clearly distraught. Since I was on ‘Winter Break’ and inherently in a relaxed mode, I told Irene to not worry about it, and that we could drive together to her work so that she could pick-up the necessary laptop cable and then do what she needed to do. Irene was still not happy with the current situation, but agreed since there really was no choice for her, and I said that we would stop at Starbucks beforehand to get ourselves a treat.

Needless to say our ‘first stop’ was a long one. The line at Starbucks was long and it took the shorter end of 1/2 hour to get through the line from coffee-drink order to actual pick-up. Ok, I thought. Everyone is on ‘break’ of some kind so this is the typical situation at Starbucks on December 24. I knew I needed to hold personal composure as I don’t like to wait in lines.

Coffee and tea in hand, and back in the car, Irene said ‘Oh, we also need to go to the post office to pick up a delivery that we were notified on a couple days ago’. The delivery notice came from USPS, one of those ‘We’re sorry we missed you…’ notices. Alright I said, but this time, I decided to wait in the car while Irene went inside to get the package.

At the post office, I waited in the car for Irene at least another half hour. There was only so much nebulous and non-important information that I could search for on my phone and now I was becoming very impatient. Internally, I was going bananas because we had now been on our trek to Irene’s work for over an hour and hadn’t even left the confines of our home town. Really? It’s been over an hour and we have not even travelled more than five miles from our home? This is where I really become frustrated. I do not like ANY situation that I find myself in when I realize that there has been little to zero progress in task completion. Talk about a test in patience!

Once we are FINALLY on the freeway, and on route to her workplace, I am clearly irritated and therefore silent. I am not talking, and do not involve myself in any dialog other than a firm answer of yes or no. I had no place to go, and nothing that I needed to get done, but I was irritated with the whole nonsense of using so much time to do what at the time had been nothing. I had accomplished nothing! Sigh.

Along a rather speedy drive to Irene’s workplace, because I was definitely speeding, we approached and exited at the the offramp. This is point where everything changed. This is where any previous emotion or sentiment had been put in perspective and the reality of what was really important came into being.

Clear view in front of us was a very filthy dog, walking along on a very busy street, heading for an equally busy intersection. The dog was medium sized and was walking with a literal hung-dog posture as it dragged a 6′ chain that was attached at the neck. In seconds we witnessed multiple near hits as cars swerved around this dog that was sure to meet it’s end on these streets. It was only a matter of time.

Cars sometimes drove slowly past this dog and at one point the dog was meandering through the intersection as a line of cars were making a left turn onto the perpendicular street. A very large semi-truck was part of the caravan of vehicles that drove in front of, behind, and around the dog. Clearly the dog was scared, disoriented, and no doubt frightened.

There was no way that we could continue our drive and ignore the most certain fate of this poor dog. We instantly knew that we needed to save this dog. The slow walking hung-dog movement of this animal certainly was not the case once we were on it’s trail.

Irene jumped out of the car and I made a u-turn. We figured she could entice the dog over to her and I would then pick them up. Unfortunately for all involved, once the dog saw that it was being sought after, it ran. The dog ran and ran, and it ran fast. I was not even sure where Irene was at this point but I knew I needed to catch up to it and try to at least make it run in the same direction that it shot from.

I chased the dog one one direction then quickly got out of the car to try and capture. Unsuccessful, I hopped back into the car and headed in the new direction the dog led me into. The busy area that we were in was surrounded by many industrial buildings, which ultimately helped us. Irene eventually caught up to me and after just about an hour, we were able to corner and capture the dog.

Fortunately for us the dog had run in front of a parked car that was parked face close to the side of the building. Irene got one one side of the car’s front, and I on the other. Slowly we moved in. When Irene said that she was able to step on the dog’s long chain I felt some relief, but was still worried that the dog was not yet in-hand. I didn’t move while Irene inched closer toward the dog and was finally able to pick it up.

The dog was now safe, and had instantly become a new member to our family. We didn’t know how this new animal would fit in with our already two canine and one feline family, but we were confident that Bonnie and Clyde, and Athena would adapt to the new situation. For everyone’s safety, we decided that I would sit in the back seat of the car with the dog. The idea was to provide comfort for this poor animal that was clearly exhausted from the long chase. The dog laid willingly next to me, heavily panting from exhaustion.

I’m not sure at this point if the dogs’ anxiety had lowered, but our’s surely had. We knew what we needed to do, and we embraced the chance to save this dogs life. Our journey to capture this poor animal was tough. At this point we didn’t know if the dog was male or female, but our new Benji look-alike was sure to have all that he or she needed for the rest of it’s life.

While driving home, we called our vet and told them we were coming in with a newly found dog. The receptionist on the other end of the line said there were no available appointments, as this day was Christmas Eve. Irene asked the receptionist which doctor was on duty for the day, and we were glad to hear it was Dr. Johnson, whom we had already work with quite a bit. Irene told the receptionist to let Dr. Johnson know that were coming in and then ended the call.

The dog was filthy, complete with a strong stench of dirt and road grease. We were fortunate that the dog allowed us to use the chain to lead it out of the car and follow us into the vet. Once inside, the dog laid quietly on the floor, still panting.

When Dr. Johnson came out she sat on the floor with all of us. She was compassionate and listened to our story and told us that ‘at this point, this dog is considered stolen property’. She explained that what we were supposed to do was take the dog to a shelter, and that legally the dog cannot be treated. The idea here is that the owner would have an opportunity to look and find their missing dog. Irene wept as Dr. Johnson relayed her message, but assured Irene with a hand on her shoulder, ‘it’s ok’.

Our goal was to get this dog checked out, given all necessary shots, and also to get her cleaned up in the grooming area. This poor dog needed to be loved and cared for. I said to Dr. Johnson, “So now that you have conveyed your disclaimer, because I know you needed to, will you treat this dog for us?” Dr. Johnson said that it is very obvious this dog had not been cared for, ever. The chain imbedded in the neck fur, the heavy matting of fur over it’s entire body, were classic signs of an uncared for dog. ‘Care’ for this dog wasn’t care at all. This dog was clearly just tied up somewhere, somewhere. Inhumane. But then she told us that we looked like very nice fugitives, and that she would see, and treat the dog. This was such a wonderful gesture!

Dr. Johnson was lightly checking the dog’s body and talking very sweetly to it. Then with a smile on her face, she looked up to us and said, “I think her name is Noel.” We smiled, and I said, “I think you’re right.”

Two days ago marked Noel’s first year with us and she couldn’t be happier. She is well cared for, enjoys the company and companionship of Bonnie, Clyde, and Athena, and she has a warm cozy forever home. We love her, and she loves us. The stars were aligned on December 24, 2018 and we are forever grateful.