"There's a puppy down the street who's similar, but you're a bit more...distinguished," I decided, smoothing the grey on the dog's snout. "Where are you from, love?" I asked, noting the wagging of tail and friendly curiosity and lack of a collar.
"Should I call the shelter?" the girl asked and I frowned, thinking.
"No, I'll handle it," I offered and stood aside before inviting the strange dog inside.
"This is Chienne," I introduced my own wagging, curious pup. "She can't see." But she could hear, so she made her way over to the food dishes our guest was emptying. Once cat and dog kibble were gone, she sniffed around the floor, nibbling at the bits that Chienne scatters and leaves.
"Thanks," I offered with a rub of his/her head. (I don't look - I find it's impolite.) "I usually have to vacuum." So Strange Dog explored both basement and upstairs and ran circles around my main floor, frustrating poor Chienne to no end. I finally coaxed my hound next to me on the loveseat while looking up the number for our local humane society.
"I don't know what to do," I confessed. "We took a walk in search of home. Nobody was looking. And I don't know this dog." Feeling miserably guilty, I gave my address and waited for someone to come fetch Strange Dog.
"I'm sorry," I whispered and smiled sadly and tossed the tennis ball our guest had found.
Strange Dog ran from the woman who came for her, struggling in the leash she slipped on and beginning to drool in distress. My eyes filled with tears as I went to get the check so I could make a donation.
"They'll take care of you," I promised through tears and closed the door so I couldn't torture myself by watching them leave.
"I sent a dog to the pound," I confessed to my father moments later by phone. "I'm a terrible person."
"I am not watching another animal while you go to some foreign country," he replied. "You can't keep another dog - you did the right thing." When I continued to sigh shakily, he offered me Mom.
"I'm sorry," she soothed, more sympathetic, and told me stories about walks on beaches and collecting shells and befriending a pelican who lived near their rented house. "Think positive! The family will come home and find the dog gone and go to the shelter. Until then, it's in a safe, warm place."
"But I sent a dog to the pound," I cried. "I feel terrible." And I thought about that dog - nails clipped, well-mannered, obviously loved - all night and into the next morning.
"Ready?" I asked Chienne and she pranced to the door in preparation for our morning walk. "Careful," I warned her against tripping when I nudged the plastic ball out of the sidewalk and into the neighbor's perfectly-manicured yard.
Friend sometimes makes fun of me when I would pause and think my very hardest to puzzle together details. It's like when I'm looking for the toothpaste and getting increasingly frustrated and then blinking in shock when it's been in some obvious place in plain sight all along.
"Oh, no," I said as the pieces fit together. And older, brown dog who barked when the delivery woman knocked - a bark I'd heard multiple times before. Her perfect manicure that matched her perfect yard. Her affection for a tennis ball when her beloved plastic one rested next door. Her refusal to get on furniture - exactly as she displayed when I visited for dinner last year. "Oh, no, no, no..."
Realizing it was too early to knock and ask about Neighbor Dog, we finished our walk - Chienne remarkably unconcerned with my debilitating guilt and stupidity.
"It was Neighbor Dog," I told Dad - for it's never really too early to call him. "I sent my neighbor's dog to the pound! What kind of person sends her neighbor's dog to the pound?!"
He immediately gave me to Mom.
"I'm surprised you didn't realize it was her," she offered gently.
"Well, she never runs away!" I said. "And I thought she belonged on the court, not on the main street! I'm a terrible person," I concluded glumly.
I repeated that when I went next door later in the day, greeting Neighbor Dog and my neighbors with relief.
"We think she's having trouble seeing," Neighbor said and I wondered if I should just slither home like a snake. "So she must have been confused."
"I'm so sorry," I repeated. "I didn't realize. I would have kept her. I'm a terrible neighbor."
But she was safe - wagging her tail and trotting out to her yard to potty, bright collar and silver tag shining brightly in the sunshine. So all's well that ends well.