After three years in California, we moved back to Nashville, Tennessee. This was not a choice taken lightly. We never fully acclimated to California. We never felt “at home” there. We missed our friends. We missed our families. Surprisingly, I missed Nashville. When we made the choice to relocate, I did not appreciate how much Nashville had grown on us. I did not appreciate how much Nashville felt like “home”.
Ashley and I weighed our options carefully. We finally made our choice. We spoke with our employers and came to an agreement. We planned the move. We bought a house in Nashville. We sold our house in Aptos (selling a house within two years of buying it is pretty difficult and not much fun; I wish that we had been renting instead, but we did not plan on moving back so soon). I scheduled movers to pack our belongings onto a truck and ship them to Nashville. I scheduled a vehicle transportation service to load our automobiles onto a trailer and haul them to the Volunteer State. I scheduled a pet moving service to assist in moving our pets as well.
There was never a question as to whether or not our two dogs would be coming with us. Our miniature Dachshund, Millie, was thirteen years old at the time. My wife brought her home as a puppy before beginning college. She had lived at her parents house through college and had lived in our home since our wedding. Our Beagle, Porter, was a little over a year old. We had just adopted him earlier that year as a rescue. Interestingly, he was taken in by a Beagle rescue from a research facility.
We used a pet relocation service on our move out to California. I knew we needed one on the way back. I can’t imagine taken two crated dogs through an airport with a four year old and luggage holding enough clothes to last a few weeks for three people. This service would pick up our dogs from our home in Aptos and drive them to the airport in San Francisco. They would ensure they were boarded onto their plane. At the destination, they would have someone pick them up from the airport in Nashville who would then board the dogs for us until we arrived in Nashville.
It’s easy, at this point, to suggest that I knew something was wrong when my phone started ringing and the caller ID revealed the boarder’s phone number. After answering the call, my heart began to sink. It continued to sink until I hung up. Porter began to get scared and anxious during the thunderstorm. I’m not sure if he had ever been in a thunderstorm before. Someone opened the front door to enter. Porter bolted through temporarily open door. They searched, but Beagles are fast. I would surmise that a scared Beagle is even faster.
The helplessness I felt at that moment was devastating. It felt like I had taken an unexpected punch to the stomach. I quietly explained what had happened to Ashley. I was scared to tell Max. I tried to remain as optimistic as possible. I wanted to get to Nashville as quickly as possible. I wanted to search and drive around; to call all shelters. He was chipped, surely there was something we could do. Except there wasn’t. Microchips are only useful if the animal is found. They are not much help if the animal is on the lam.
We arrived a few days later in Nashville. After the boarders brought our one remaining dog to us, we drove to the neighborhood Porter was last seen. Looking around at the suburb and seeing the vast farmland just beyond those houses, the hopelessness became deeper. We called around. Ashley started following lost and found pet sites and Facebook groups dedicated to reporting seen dogs. She still checks these sites every day. When I see her checking these sites on her phone, it just reopens the wound. I can’t ask her to stop though; I still hold out hope for a miracle even though it seems improbable.
It’s been hard on us. It’s been hard on Max. If the topic of our pets comes up in conversation (which it does, frequently, with other families), Max happily explains that we have two dogs: Millie and Porter. The latter is followed up with an explanation about how he is lost. Occasionally he tells us that a park ranger or farmer is going to find Porter and bring him back to us. I hope he’s right, but I don’t have the heart to tell him he might not be.
After much deliberation, we visited the Nashville Humane Association last week. We had narrowed down our selection and ended up adopting another Beagle. Her name is Brie. Max was adamant that we could not adopt more than one. More than three would be too many dogs. He seems to have really taken an interest in Brie and the interest seems mutual.
I still hope we get that call. Every time my phone rings, I look at the caller ID. If it’s a local number, I get hopeful; the automated voice on the other end devastates me every time. Part of me will always hope that we get that call. The worst part is not knowing a definitive. He could be out, enjoying ultimate freedom (which is what Ashley and I like to believe). I just want to know he’s okay.