Author’s note: None of this story is embellished in any way, because it needs no embellishment.
I have a dog. One of the world’s foremost dogs, in many ways. His name is Frank. Frank is a champion athlete, a charmer in the truest sense, a hunter (foreshadowing!), an empath. Also something of a quiet lunatic.
Every morning at 8am, Frank and I take a two to three mile off-leash walk into the nearby nature preserve—80 acres with one trail and mostly deep, brush-heavy woods. It’s fantastic for beating up boots.
Two days ago I lace up my boots—some beautiful new Nicks Urban Loggers in color 8 CXL, Vibram 100 sole ready to tackle the morning after an historic hurricane passed through—head out, and unclip Frank’s leash.
Pretty quickly Frank chases something off the trail and into the woods. Like he always does. No problem. But he also always comes back. This time, I call him for five minutes, my anxiety rising with each “FRANK!!!!!” Nothing. Very abnormal. Consider me quite panicked.
I run back home and check the house. Not there. I proceed to cover (quite seriously*) every square inch of 80 wooded acres for five hours straight—all absurdly muddy hills that my Nicks boots just plunged into, and come out making that kinda “BLUUUUURRRRP” sound. There’s literally a “pond” where there’s normally just…ground. My voice is going hoarse.
Nothing. No Frank.
I hang up over 100 “LOST DOG” signs all around the preserve and town, and probably talk to 50 people (including two police officers who momentarily ignored the hurricane-induced car crash they were attending to) and numerous truly lovely older folks who really wanted to keep telling me about THEIR dogs. I get animal control on the case. No sign whatsoever (except for those signs I hung; there were a lot of those).
Six hours of sheer panic later, I head back into the woods, hellbent on not giving up until I find Frank, whatever state he’s in. The places your head goes when you lose your dog are not exactly the most enjoyable places. If you’ve ever been in this situation, you know. If you haven’t, let me just tell you—they’re bad, man. A very dark hole indeed.
I finally walk into a place only a crazy person (or dog) would ever walk, telling myself that it’s time to risk my own life to confirm that Frank’s had sadly ended on the bad side of a giant cliff. The brush is absolutely as thick as brush can be, with gigantic rocks (and often dangerously loose smaller ones) everywhere. Endless thorns savaged my pants and arms—and Nicks boots—left and right. The ground is at a 45 degree incline; I’m basically walking sideways.
My father in law calls to see if I found Frank yet (no), and I ask if I hear his dog Charlie whining in the background. No, he said. Charlie’s not in the house. Um, holy SHIT.
I hang up and listen; more really faint whimpering. It’s Frank. It’s Frank!!! He’s stuck up on a cliff ledge about 30 feet** above me, which is an outcropping of the, um, main cliff I guess maybe five feet taller. It’s far too high for him to jump down or climb up. He might’ve been there for days if I didn’t hear his faint cries, and, well…yeah.
The ledge is maybe two feet deep and four feet long, and all sorts of slick from moss and the hurricane rain. If I try to go down from the top there’s a very serious chance we fall 35 feet. Frank is fucking terrified. Poor guy’s been up there six and a half hours at this point; probably chased a squirrel off the edge and then was somehow lucky enough to land on the ledge below, and screech to a stop.
My wife calls back animal control, who tells us they’re dealing with too many storm-related emergencies to come any time soon. I’m terrified Frank’s going to jump.
I run home and carry a ten foot ladder (a very heavy*** one—I believe in overbuilt everything) about a half mile uphill and somehow get it down to the bottom of the cliff without killing myself. I set it up—luckily there was a tiny area to do this about 10 feet down the cliff—and prop a bunch of very large rocks under one of the legs to get it close to stable, and hold it as my wife climbs up to the top rung. She calls Frank over, he gets juuuuust close enough, and she clips his leash on his collar and carries him down as he’s freaking out the whole time, kicking and just generally losing his mind.
My Nicks did literally anything I asked them to—and I’m telling you some of it was pretty damned crazy!—and were damned comfortable doing nine**** miles over the seven hour ordeal. On the second day! Not bad, Nicks. Not bad at all. And they certainly look better for the wear.
Frank will never go off leash again, anywhere, ever. Maybe even our yard.
*How could this possibly be literal
**Once you get over like 23 feet it might as well be 30 feet and I’m telling you it was bare minimum 22 feet. It was tall.
***That thing was legit heavy this is definitely not an embellishment
****Ok fine the fitness tracker said 7.2 miles but at least some of the time while I was hanging up the signs I left my phone in the car