This morning prior to my psychiatrist appointment, I walked Fletcher down to 108th and Riverside toward the park. A woman came running up to me, asking if I'd seen a black Labrador retriever. It wasn't her dog; she'd seen it running, panicked, across Broadway to Riverside Drive. I told her if the dog knew the area, he'd know to go down the stairs into the park.
We both went down the stairs and spotted the dog at the bottom, running like hell, tail down. It's a multileveled park.
She ran parallel on the upper level. I went to ground level, where we'd seen the dog, dragging Fletcher at a brisk run that turned into fast walk, with associated gasping. Nobody I passed had seen the dog.
After a VERY long distance, we both arrived at the tennis courts,which mark the end of the park. There was a man with his black lab, Toby, not the missing dog. He'd seen the dog run around the outer side of the tennis courts, which is essentially the end of the park. The other woman had gone around, because there's no fences to the highway over there. Since she didn't see the dog, she went up the stairs to the upper level and the street stairs.
Somehow, I knew I could find this dog. I've walked above there countless times, where there is a nature preserve above the tennis courts.
(highway to the left, nature preserve around and above)
On the other end of the tennis court, the nature preserve ends in a large brown grassy field that serves as a homeless campground. You never see anyone during the day, but there are carts and liquor bottles. Fletcher and I went along the path through the nature preserve, got to the homeless field at the end-
This isn't him, but the face is almost identical.
He was also heavier, with a thick black coat and no collar. He was panting. I crouched down, talking in a low soothing voice and held out my hand. He approached, sniffed, then hopped away when I tried to get his neck. Fletcher went over and they sniffed each other. I again held out my hand, this time in a fist. He let me pet his head. It was obvious that he was a beloved pet.
I wanted to find something to make a slipknot with (Fletcher's leash was NOT an option). So I went over to two shopping carts on their sides, and pulled open the bags. It was mostly sopping wet bedding. There wasn't anything around I could use. (Yes, I boiled my hands later. In fact, since I was dripping with sweat, a shower.)
There were a lot of tennis balls. He picked one up in his mouth and dropped it at my feet. I threw it a few times--he could catch it in mid-air. Then it came to me--I could get him the 30 blocks to the dog run by throwing the ball in the right direction.
He knew the path through the preserve, so I threw the ball over and over. When he brought it back, I threw it farther in the right direction (I am a lousy thrower). I got to the ground level road, Fletcher trotting alongside, and kept throwing the ball.
I called the dog "Good Big Boy", praising him and petting him. I looked up to see if my search companion was there, but she wasn't. I called 311, but they put me in touch with Animal Care and Control, a kill shelter. Whoever owned this dog would never see him again. Since the ball trick was still working, I said no, I'd call back if anything went south.
When we had gone about 23 blocks, a young woman stopped to exclaim over both dogs. I was exhausted and told her what happened. She immediately slipped off a long polka dot black and white scarf. Big Boy flopped down on the ground as I tied it around his neck. Then she and I burst into tears. She texted me her number and I was able to walk him to the dog park. No one knew him, but Big Boy still wanted to play with the goddamn ball! I took off my coat and let my heart/body temperature get to normal. One friend who has a bloodhound said if I couldn't manage, she could take him in for a bit.
Our dog park--suburbanites, I hear you laughing.
Somebody suggested I call the vet to see if the dog was micro-chipped. I called; they're on 108th Street and had freaked out by seeing this dog streak by outside!
I must have looked like the world's worst dog walker, Fletcher on a leash and Big Boy on a polka dot scarf. A number of passersby gave me disapproving looks (but it did match him very well).
I went around on 107 Street in case he would be spooked. When I got to the vet's office, they were all hysterical with relief--he was microchipped, and they found the owners! His name is Kodak. When the vet tech went to take him to the back, he put his big head on my lap and didn't want to budge. So I walked with him and the vet tech to the back. Poor Fletcher was cowering under a chair. The staff hugged me, and cried, and called me a hero...it felt great.