He's back, he's fine, he was only gone for 15 minutes, but it affected my mental health far more than I care to admit.
It happened last week when I took him for a night hike on a busy trail. We've been on night hikes before, but generally not with eXtreme cyclists, halogen headlamp hikers, and jingly LED blinky dogs. (Actually, LED blinky dogs are more common than you might imagine -- this was a narrow trail, though.)
About a mile and a half down the trail, we met with a couple of growly dogs and their double headlamp owners. I managed to talk the dogs down, but Sequoia high-tailed it back in the direction we came from. (Thanks, pal, you really had my back.) I called and called, I whistled our little private whistle -- but nothing. I couldn't believe he'd run all the way back to the trailhead, so I finally doubled back to see if he was huddled shivering under a bush next to the path. The women whose dogs scared him off said they'd shout if they saw him.
As it turns out, they found him sitting next to our car, barking at anyone who came near. The women sent one of the cyclists back to get me (some super polite Irish guy who not only made sure I'd lost a dog, but checked to see if it was the correct dog. "Is his name Sequoia?" he asked, like there was some kind of lost dog epidemic on the mountain).
When we reunited, Sequoia was sitting with the woman's grip firmly on his collar. "He was edging dangerously close to the road," She said. This freaked me out. Sequoia sitting obediently by the car was in character. Sequoia being scared and timid was in character. Sequoia flipping out, letting panic take over, and going on some suicidal rampage...well, that had never occurred to me before.
I thanked everyone profusely (see "Instructions for Holiday Hikers") and left with my unrepentant dog in tow. On the drive home, I went through a few of the Elizabeth Kubler-Ross stages of his near-death experience. I was PTSDing bad.
The first thing I flashed on was the call I got two years ago from the Berkeley pound, telling me Himalaya had been hit by a car. I was about to ask which vet she was at, about to pay any kind of money to get her well, when the lady told me she had been killed instantly.
That moment of irrevocable loss always feels the same, whether it's a person you love or a stupid pet too crazy to dodge cars. That sort of, "No, just let me push reset." Just a tiny backward twist of the time knob, just a one-second do-over. Your heart stops, and time refuses to rewind. In that moment, your world changes.
I felt all that about Sequoia, who showed no signs of remorse and in fact, clearly thought he'd cleverly escaped hungry predators. I tried to push my feelings aside. He was safe. He was home. Everything was okay.
Two nights later I dreamt that we were taking a walk through London (the subconscious mind terrifies me somewhat) and he loped ahead. I called him back, but he had disappeared behind a corner. When I turned the corner, he was gone. A man told me he had run away, but it quickly dawned on me (in dream realization mode) that the man was actually an evil scientist who had drugged Sequoia so that he dropped alseep. When he awoke later in the laboratory facility, he would have no memory of me or how to get home.
But behold! Just as I realized this, the evil scientist realized I realized this. So he drugged me, too. I started screaming, "You took my dog! You took my dog!" as a sort of mnemonic, so that when I awoke at the lab I would remember to look for Sequoia. When I woke up (in real life), I had to admit that I required some kind of counseling. Perhaps a support group.
Anyway, I managed to recuperate. Until. This morning, when he tried to run away again.
I dropped him off at his sister's house, as I do every Monday morning. But this morning Shasta and Biscotti were leashed to the front porch. I leashed Sequoia there, too, knowing that Irene would come out for them in a few minutes and put them in the backyard. I gave him our code phrase ("Wait here please") and drove off. I noticed he gave me an unusually panicky look as I left.
Ten minutes later I got a phone call. Irene said she came outside in her bathrobe, unlatched Sequoia first, "Because, you know, he's the perfect dog," thinking he would just automatically go inside. Which he started to do. Then he realized he was free and went running down the street -- Irene theorizes after my car. He was halfway out to College Avenue before he let her call him back.
I have two words for him: liver treats. A package of liver treats paired with a refresher training course in coming when called and, oh, yes, he will succumb.
London nightmare guy isn't the only evil scientist in this world.