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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Oh where oh where has my little dog gone?

A little over a week ago my parents came to Efrat to join us for shabbat.  Luckily their apartment in Jerusalem is less than a 30 minute drive from our place, making it easy for me to pick them (and their two dogs) up before shabbat, and drop them back off Saturday night.

A nice restful shabbat was enjoyed by all, and even the dogs - theirs and ours - got along famously, as usual.

When it came time to pack up the car for the trip back into Jerusalem, my dad and I loaded everything up, put the dogs in the back of our station wagon, and my mom took her usual place in the shotgun seat.

However as we were passing a traffic circle north of Efrat near the entrance to Al Khadar (a suburb of Bethlehem), I noticed that the light in the way back was on... indicating that the rear hatch was not closed completely.  

Humphrey, my parent's little border terrier, had already jumped into the back seat with my dad.   But Adelaide, their big shepherd lab mix was still in the cargo area in the back, and I didn't want to risk her falling out.  So I pulled over next to the traffic circle and parked across from an IDF pillbox.

I was about to jump out to re-shut the rear hatch, but my dad beat me to it.  Once he'd gotten back in the car and I'd checked to make sure the light was out, I turned the car around, did a quick loop around the traffic circle, and got onto the main road heading north toward Jerusalem.

As we drove towards our destination, we chatted about what a good thing it had been that we'd noticed the back door was ajar.  Stories of canine tragedies were exchanged, and the cavalier attitude of some pet owners about safety was mentioned.

When we pulled into the small parking area next to my parent's apartment building, I got out and went around back to let Adelaide out.  As I was helping her out, my mother saw that my father was standing with his door open and reminded him to make sure little Humphrey didn't jump out on his own (he has a habit of lighting off after cats and other small prey if given the chance).

Something about my dad's posture caught my eye, and I could see from where I stood that he didn't have Humphrey.  My mom must have sensed something wrong as well, because she asked - a bit more pointedly than usual - if we had Humphrey.

I ran around the side of the car and did a quick scan of the parking lot.  He couldn't have gotten away that quickly.  Then I dove into the car and looked around for the missing dog.  As I came up empty, I got a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach... Humphrey must have slipped out unnoticed when my dad had gotten out to re-close the rear hatch.

By now my mom was beside herself, but I didn't have time for hand holding.  I literally yanked her out of the car, tossed their suitcase onto the asphalt, and fired up the engine.  Through the open window I explained where I thought Humphrey had jumped out, and told them I had to get back there fast before the dog had time to wander away or be hit by a car.

While I did the 30 minute drive back to the rural traffic circle (it actually took me 15), I called Zahava and asked her to have a friend drive her out of the northern entrance of Efrat so she could start looking for Humphrey.  We arrived within a minute of one another.  But Humphrey was gone.  He'd still had his leash attached to his collar, so I was doubly worried that he might get caught on something and not be able to free himself.

I called up to the soldiers in the pillbox to ask if they'd seen the dog.  After a short consultation they yelled back down that they'd seen a small brown dog walking across the traffic circle perhaps 30 minutes earlier, but hadn't seen it since.  When I asked what direction he'd been heading they couldn't agree on a direction.  I thanked them and continued the search.

I drove around the area where the dog had been left for several hours calling his name, while Zahava looked inside Efrat (in case the dog had somehow caught a whiff of our house on the wind and was heading back to the last place he'd been.  

The only direction I couldn't check was the road leading down into the Arab areas of Al Khadar and Bethlehem.  Actually I did go part way down that road (even though it is illegal for me to have done so), but turned back when I got close to where houses and businesses began.

By 1:30 in the morning I had to call it a night.  Humphrey's terrier genes, and the proximity of feral and domestic felines, made him a flight risk under the best of circumstances.  But having been unceremoniously dumped in a rural area rich with the scent of rodents and other potential prey, his breeding must have taken over and led him happily in pursuit over hill and dale.

For the next few days I spent early mornings and late evenings driving around looking for Humphrey, and checked in frequently during the day to see how my parents were dealing with the loss (not well).

There was never a question of blame.  Humphrey often came up front to sit on my mom's lap on the drives to and from Jerusalem, so it was perfectly reasonable for my dad not to have missed him when he got back in the car from closing the back hatch.  And the dog just as often stayed in the back with my dad, so my mom wouldn't have found it strange not to have seen him during the drive.  

The only one who felt any guilt was me.  If I hadn't noticed the light on, or if I had noticed it before we even pulled away from my house, we would never have stopped in that remote setting.

Every day that passed without finding Humphrey, our hopes dimmed.  And by Thursday morning I had decided that at best, he was far away living off the abundance of the land... and at worst, he was dead on the side of some road.

It wasn't until Thursday afternoon that the strangest thing happened: A stranger left a message on my parent's answering machine saying they'd found their dog.  They were calling from Ramallah (the administrative capital of the Palestinian Authority).

[to be continued...]

Posted by David Bogner on April 17, 2011 | Permalink

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Fergoodnessakes, David! A cliffhanger right before Pesah? Please... tell us how it ended! Did you get Humphrey back? Is he OK?

Posted by: Rahel | Apr 17, 2011 4:27:26 PM

No! No! Can't wait!

Where's Humphrey?

I HAVE TO KNOW!!!!!

Posted by: chairwoman | Apr 17, 2011 4:53:40 PM

Omygosh, really? You leave us hanging in the midst of frantic last-minute pesach cleaning? Really?

Posted by: Alissa | Apr 17, 2011 5:12:48 PM

I don't do pesach, what happened ... Tell me... Don't be so cruel

Posted by: Wendy Terenzio | Apr 17, 2011 5:19:45 PM

OMG what happened ... I don't do pesach ... Tell me the rest of this story... Please

Posted by: Wendy Terenzio | Apr 17, 2011 5:21:20 PM

Oh boy, I don't like where this story is headed. Hopefully you didn't have to pay an exorbitant ransom...

Posted by: alex | Apr 17, 2011 6:39:29 PM

I sure hope this story doesn't go the same place that your lost cell phone story went.

Posted by: orieyenta | Apr 17, 2011 6:49:08 PM

You didn`t mention if he had a locator chip,a must for most dogs.

Posted by: ED | Apr 17, 2011 7:28:09 PM

oooooh, I love a good cliffhanger...

Posted by: QuietusLeo | Apr 17, 2011 7:36:03 PM

This reminds of your story of a lost cellphone almost exactly a year ago.

http://www.treppenwitz.com/2010/03/i-dont-know-whats-worse.html

Hope you followed your advice then and have a copy of the dog!!

Posted by: Skaj | Apr 17, 2011 10:14:49 PM

Drat, you expect me to go to work now and concentrate???????

Chag Sameach to all your family.

Posted by: Kiwi Noa | Apr 17, 2011 10:22:55 PM

If you don't post the end of this story before the chag starts tomorrow, I'll.....I'll....well I won't check in for at least a few days!

That post is just plain rude to your loyal audience!


**please??**

Posted by: Baila | Apr 17, 2011 10:24:39 PM

Oy! This story is making me anxious!
‎!חג כשר ושמח! לשנה הבאה בירושלים

Posted by: SaraK | Apr 17, 2011 10:41:12 PM

You are a cruel, cruel man leaving us in suspense at such a high point of anxiety!!

Posted by: Esther | Apr 18, 2011 6:36:31 AM

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