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By Kathryn Shay

I never wanted a dog. I have allergies and also didn't need the responsibility in my already crowded life. But when my son came home to live with us after he graduated from college, he begged for a puppy.

So, Hattie, a hypoallergenic Yorkie with brown and gold hair, came to live with us when she was still weeks old. She cuddled, licked and slept a lot. Had I known that 13 years later that she'd cause me gut-wrenching pain, I wouldn't have gotten close to her.

She ran away. Spooked by a storm, she went out to pee, bolted through the electric fence, and was just…gone! March in upstate brought us bitter cold weather and she was out there not even wearing one of her usual winter sweaters.  

And I fell apart. I burst into tears at intervals for three days and nights. I was immobilized, my stomach in constant state of nausea. I lay awake at midnight, three a.m. and got up at five. I did drag myself out with my husband to put up posters and went with him to drive in our nearby neighborhoods looking for her. We had only one lead, which later we learned was a different dog, but we'd unfortunately focused our hunt in that area. Rescue Treasures, a local pet adoption place, was invaluable in helping with the search, but on the third morning, I decided my delicate little darling couldn't have survived the biting wind, the laser-like snow and sleet.

My five-year-old granddaughter talked to me about her. "Hattie's going to meet a snake, Nana, and get bit and die." Ah, children. My best friend came over frequently to cheer me up and all I could do was sob. My husband went out periodically to search for her for that day and the next, but I couldn't bring myself to accompany him again.

Then, in the afternoon of the fourth day, my cell phone rang. A church member about two miles down the road sounded excited. "Our son was riding his bike and a woman stopped him, asked if he was looking for a little dog with a pink collar."

We all jumped in cars—me, my friend, her husband and my husband with my granddaughter in the back car seat. We were told Hattie crossed the busy street of Chili Avenue and had been spotted at a garage. When we stopped there, the employees said all six of them tried to corral her, but she darted away. Just to be sure, I showed them a picture on my phone. Yep, she was alive. And down the busy street she went. We saw a guy walking on the side of the road. "Yes, he said, "She's over on Sequoia Dr."  

Oh, my God, were we really going to find her?

Sequoia attaches to many other side streets. Everyone converged in that area—the rescue people, the four of us. Again, church people showed up and my son drove over from Penfield to help. Around and around we went.

No Hattie.

So, after hours of fruitless searching, most of the group went home, but my husband and I kept driving through the streets. I was angry at the world for the false hope and finally decided to give up. But, at Sequoia again, I thought, one more pass through.

And halfway down the street, there she was, crossing the road. She stopped on the other side on grass. The rescue people told me not to call out to her, or chase her because she'd be too terrified to recognize me. Just calmly get out of the car and open the door. So I circled the vehicle and said, "Come on, sweetie, get in the car with Mommy."

She stared hard at me for a long time, then bolted away. Into a yard, that had a gate open, but was fenced in. I told myself there was NO WAY she wasn't coming home with me. "If it's the last thing I do…"

Armed with her blanket, treat and toys—thank you Rescue Treasures—I ran after her and found her boxed in on the far side of house. I dropped to the ground, took out her treat and toy and put them on her favorite blanket.  "Come on, baby. Want a treat? Here's your blanket."

Again, the doggie stare. Again, she leapt to the left. And despite the three hip surgeries I endured last summer, I dive-bombed for her, covering her body with mine. Once in my arms, she clawed and growled to get out. But I hung on.

I struggled to hold her as I walked to the car where, once inside, she frantically scratched at the windows and the seats, whimpering. When I slid behind the wheel, I called my husband. Usually unflappable, he was stunned when I said, "I got her!"

I settled her on the passenger side, covered her with a blanket and gave her a treat. Still, I had to stop several times on the short way home because she started door at the window and growling. Finally, I pulled in our driveway. 

To say there was rejoicing in Chili and beyond is an understatement. So many people were involved in her rescue. I was worried about PTSD, for her and me, both of which happened and still does on occasion. I get that same awful feeling in my stomach when I think about where she slept, how she stayed warm, what did she eat. The next day, my vet told me she was in perfect health—no bites, scratches, wounds, and she was the same fourteen-pound weight. "I like what I'm seeing in this little dog. She might have enjoyed herself and probably had adventures you'll never know about."

I often think about how dysfunctional I became during that time. I'm a strong person, but could not deal with her loss. Apparently, I was right when I said I never wanted a dog. But I didn't know it was because she'd become so much a part of my life, bring me so much joy and then break my heart.





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