Between last night and this morning I was shown how delicate, fragile and precious the web of life actually is. Irma (the hurricane) is hurdling towards Florida where two of my grandsons live, one with his girlfriend and the other in college (they are in Tampa now in the house of a friend which is supposed to be very safe). Mexico City, where my daughter and two more grandchildren live, was shaken out of its sleep by an 8.4 earthquake (oscillatory) in the middle of the night (the 1985 earthquake was 8.1 and claimed over 10,000 lives). My son and his wife (in Los Angeles where wildfires raged a few days ago) had to rush their dog to the hospital yesterday to have melon-sized tumor removed and waited most of the night to see if 1) she survived the operation and, 2) if there were metastasis in which case the dog would not be woken up from the anesthetic (fortunately the big black labradoodle survived the operation and showed no metastasis). And last night I lost Salomé in the dark. I’ll start with that.
It was 8:30 and it had just gotten dark… I mean dark. The full moon would not come up for a couple of hours and the blackness was left to a couple of feeble stars that managed to shine in spite of the clouds. We left the house and –as usual- I allowed Salomé to pick our evening route. She decided on the ‘around the corner and out towards the vineyards’ way, so I took her leash off. There are very few cars on that route at night and only one street to cross so she goes on her own.
We’d had a very nice walk –lots of smells for Salomé; a gentle breeze and peaceful quiet for me-, had turned around to come back home and were just arriving at the far end of the vineyards when Salomé decided to go into the 2-3 meter wide grassy patch between the grape vines and the corn field. As she often does this and then catches up with me, I continued walking slowly. When I had almost gotten to where the vineyard ends (about 20-30 meters on) I turned to look for Salomé and saw that she was just coming round the last row of grape vines and heading in my direction along the grassy strip between the vines and the road. I continued walking slowly waiting for her to catch up. About a minute or two later I turned again to see how she was progressing and she wasn’t there. My gaze swept the whole grassy strip up to where I was standing and the street down to where we had separated and the sidewalk on the other side of the road. Nothing. The area was well lit, so it was obvious she wasn’t there. I began to walk back calling her name, something that generally gets zero response from her but that I hoped might work this one time. Nothing. I got all the way back to where our ways had separated. Nothing. I walked into the grassy space a bit turning on my phone flashlight in order to see between the rows of vines. Nothing. I knew she wouldn’t go into the corn field because the stalks are too close together, so I walked back up the whole length of the vineyard. Nothing. Thinking that perhaps she had crossed over and gone around the other way which sometimes we take to go home, I walked back and around. Nothing. I repeated these now desperate steps another three times, calling all the while with a voice every moment more pleading and desperate. Nothing.
The moon was coming up, but it wasn’t the lack of light that was causing the problem; the problem was that Salomé was nowhere to be found. ‘Maybe I missed her when I was going around the other way and she is waiting for me in front of the house’ I thought, trying to give myself hope. I walked all the way back to our building. Nothing. I did the whole tour twice more and then scoured one of the streets leading into town that we take sometimes at night when I need to put the extra steps on my phone’s Health App. Nothing. I was beginning to feel panicky: my little dog doesn’t just disappear into thin air! But she had.
I was becoming quite tired from walking as quickly as possible back and forth, and there was a hollow feeling in my chest and stomach. How could she have just vanished? By this time I had been searching for over an hour. I went back to the house and took out the car. Now I drove, slowly, going down the wrong way on the one way street we had been on, searching both sides and the middle. Nothing. She was gone. My mind kept saying over and over: ‘How could she have just disappeared like that?’
I kept telling myself that everyone in town and nearby areas knew her and would definitely bring her back if they found her, but the thought of little Salomé spending the night alone wandering around and me spending the night alone looking for her with all the terrible images my mind could produce weighed like lead in my chest. It was getting near 11 o’clock. I decided to do another round with the car.
Just as I was entering the one way stretch of road the wrong way again, I saw her. She was trotting rather rapidly (she probably noticed I was nowhere to be seen) in the direction of home so it seemed that she knew where she was even if I didn’t and it was a relief to see that she would have gone to the front gate of the building where we live if I hadn’t found her.
I stopped the car, opened the door and said her name as if we had just spent months apart. She came towards me as I unbuckled the seat belt and I just scooped her up into my arms. I don’t know if she was trembling or it was just my own trembling but in order to not add insult to injury, I imagined that she had been just as frightened as I had been and held her tightly for the next ten minutes.
When we got home, she went straight to the cupboard asking for a treat. I couldn’t help myself rewarding her despite my hour and a half of emotional torture, so she got her treat. On the positive side, however, thanks to her I racked up over 14,000 steps on my health App (around 9 kms) for the day instead of my usual 9-10,000. Salomé went to bed immediately and fell fast asleep; I took a while to finally put the dread of loss to rest and find my own path to dream world.
And all the rest… well, that was this morning. I awoke to find 42 messages on the family WhatsApp group. My daughter-in-law wrote about Zuka’s tumor and operation; pictures and lamentations went back and forth until Zuka came successfully out of surgery. Everyone relieved. Then my eldest grandson announced that he and his brother (both actually living on the Atlantic coast of Florida) were in Tampa to wait out the storm; again messages back and forth urging them to stay safe and sending lots of love. Then my grandson in Mexico informing everyone that they had just had an earthquake and everyone was fine, although he had been very scared. Apparently it was oscillatory (side to side) and not trepidatory (up and down) which was why damage in Mexico City was at a minimum. I found my daughter still awake and we messaged back and forth a couple of times more (it was past 2am in Mexico City and she gets up at 5) and then I sent her a goodnight kiss.
Sooo, now it is past midday and I am wondering at life which can produce so many near disasters in one night without anything really serious happening. For the moment, my world seems to have survived lost dogs, dogs with tumors, hurricanes and earthquakes and –as the song goes- the sun is shining/ oh happy day/ no skies are cloudy/ and no skies are grey/ oh happy day/ oh, oh, oh, oh lucky me.