I clicked the flood lights on, and let the dog outside for his last pee of the night. I kept the door open (screen door closed) so I could hear him walking on the old, crunchy snow in the backyard, which normally lets me know when I need to let him back inside. After a few minutes, I called for Rodney, thinking he peed right away, and was spending some extra time sniffing an old toy, or the corpse of a vole who met his demise when the warm confines of an engine bay suddenly became whirling and violent.

*crunch crunch crunch*

It wasn’t the crunch of the snow, but the distinct sound of frozen leaves being trampled through. Hearing this made me think he was on the outskirts of the yard where it meets the woods; his favorite place to poop. That would explain his delay, right? One look out the kitchen window put that theory to bed. He was nowhere to be seen. Where the heck was he?

*crunch crunch crunch*

I called for Rodney again. Nothing. This time the crunching seemed closer to the house. I waited a minute, and then called for Rodney again. He never came to the door.

*crunch crunch crunch*

The way my mind is wired, it tends to go to the dark places before the logical ones, especially when I’m exhausted. It’s basically a perverse, reverse Occam’s Razor. I envisioned a matted coyote dragging the corpse of my dog through a patch of decaying leaves. I opened the screen door, and walked into my driveway to find my dog and lead him inside, wearing nothing on my feet but a pair of socks.

“ROOOODDDNNNEYYYYYY! ROOODDDNNEYYYYYYY!”

*crunch crunch crunch*

Close. Very close. I rounded the corner to the backyard, and that’s where I found the dog. Not sniffing a frozen poop, not being tugged into the darkness by the plaque glazed fangs of a wild creature.

Rodney was staring at me with his big embarrassed eyes from a wooden prison of his own design. He’d crawled under our picnic table to investigate one of his long forgotten toys which was nestled in an old pile of leaves that collected there before the first snow fell, and by the time he was ready to come inside, had forgotten how to crawl back out from under it. Every time I called him, he walked around in a circle looking for a secret exit, crunching the leaves under his feet as he went.

I lifted the picnic table up so he could escape, and the two of us walked back to the house. As I opened the door for him, he looked at me, almost as if to say “please don’t tell your friends on the Internet about this”, and I looked back at him, almost as if to say “I love you more than anything, but consider my retelling of this story as a tax on stupidity.”

Written by Mike