Somewhere just after midnight the first thunder shook the house. It woke a man, a woman, a four year old child, and a medium sized dog. The baby slept.
The whip crack of lightning lit up the room for a split second. The dog paced nervously. She was a sweet soul. A happy whippet. She was made of gentleness, with a teensy weensy bit of silliness thrown in for good measure. But as dogs go, she was a worrier.
The storm brewed on. The rain was pouring. The dog began to jump and pace. And scratch and whimper. The baby slept.
The man was tired. The woman was annoyed. The man got up. The woman reached over to the four year old. And the dog was placed outside.
It was like a replay of two nights before. Though the storm was milder then. The dog seemed to want to be outside then. But this storm was different. It packed a punch. And the woman only realised this as soon as the dog was out. The sting of regret was sharp.
Within minutes they could hear the dog jumping outside the bedroom window. A hard scratching was heard with every leap.
The man got up. The woman followed a few minutes later. Just bring her inside, she thought.
She found the man out in the garden in the rain with his torch. She’s not here, he said. And it was then that she knew the dog had not been jumping at the bedroom window at all. She had leapt the adjoining fence, and ran out to the street.
They rushed to the front yard. The street seemed emptier in the dead of night. It felt even emptier without the sight of a bewildered dog. Their torches were drowned by the rain. Their calls fell short against the bellows of thunder. Rosie! Rosie! But it was too late. The spooked whippet had run.
The man got in the car. The woman came inside, changed into dry clothes, and curled up with the four year old. She lay there in silent panic. She knew the dog had no road smarts. The dog didn’t even have the smarts to steer herself home. She knew she worried too much about the dog, about her children, about everything. If you receive bad news once, it’s so easy to believe bad news can happen again. So she closed her eyes and called upon angels. Surely there were angels. Even for lost whippets in a storm.
The four year old patted her. Don’t worry, Mum. Rosie will come home in the morning after the storm. The child’s sweet innocence was almost enough to cheer her up.
They were at the front window when the headlights beamed through the rain and into the driveway. Even before the man got out, they could see no dog in the front seat. The woman grabbed her keys. She’d drive the streets. She’d search the whole town. She’d drive all night if she had to. She didn’t think her heart could bear another loss this year. Not before Christmas. Why do these things happen just before Christmas?
She was about to jump in the car when she remembered the laneway. The one that led to the parklands and the creek behind the house. The one they strolled down every time they took the dog for a walk. No sooner had she mentioned it when the man grabbed his torch and walked out into the rain. She’d forgotten how much he loved that frazzled dog too.
Somewhere in the rainy shadows of the creek at half past two in the morning a scared drenched dog walked up quietly to the familiar figure of a man. The same man that fed her every morning. The same man that she followed like glue around the house. The same man that held her as a pup.
When he opened the bedroom door with the dog at his side the woman buckled to the floor. She grabbed the wet dog and sobbed. Oh Rosie, you’re home. Oh Rosie, you’re home.
She held the dog so tightly she didn’t think it was possible for the dog to ever escape from her grip again. Eventually, as she caught her breath, she let the dog slip out of her lap and sink into the carpet.
Outstretched, exhausted and limp, the dog did not move. She just stared blankly with a mixture of shock and sadness. The lure of her cosy bed only inches away was not enough to unpin her from the floor. The woman covered the wet dog with a towel and placed a blanket under her head.
Somewhere in the early hours of the morning the big storm eased. A man, a woman, a four year old, a baby, and a medium sized dog slept deeply. Safe. Where they belonged.