Who couldn’t love both of these faces? Four years ago, Jeff graduated from college with a degree in history and communication. After a great internship in digital media, this excellent company that he hoped to work for, closed its doors. Our economy was tanking and recent graduates were wondering what was next. Jeff was among then. We did what any loving parents would do, we bought him a beagle puppy. She was the sweetest girl, but after about six months of struggling, Jeff decided to leave the state…head west to Colorado to go back to school. So Niia, his puppy moved in with us. We had an older beagle that we loved and Niia… spent about a year of her puppyhood with us.
The second year Jeff was in Denver, he was able to rent a house that allowed dogs. He wanted his snuggle puppy back. I gave her back grudgingly, hoping that he’d take care of her, and I’m pretty sure he did!
I didn’t get to see her again until I went out for his graduation. I loved when she jumped all over me, howling with excitement. I don’t care what anyone says, dogs have a great memory for their best friends! The first day I was there, Jeff went to work and I just took Niia for a walk, read and enjoyed my peace after just finishing a crazy school year…I had to save some energy for the late afternoon hike that we were going to take in the foothills outside of Denver.
When Jeff got home, all three of us hopped in the car. I had my day pack and my new hikers on. They were so comfortable and I’m so glad I had splurged on them before leaving Illinois. We didn’t bring a leash, Jeff said, that Niia always stayed with him when they hiked together. To my self I thought,
“Well, I had never let Niia, off leash, not once in the year I had her. She was just too curious.” Of, course I didn’t say anything.
We got up to the park. I saw a sign that said ‘dogs must be leashed’. Jeff said,
“Oh good, look at all these dogs up here off leash, we’ll be fine.”
Well, true to form, she really did hike like a Colorado dog, off leash, trotting a bit ahead of us and then waiting for us to catch up. We were talking about Jeff’s job at United Way and about how much he loved being out west. The sun dipped lower in the sky as we hiked up to a clearing where we could see Jeff and Niia’s new city in the valley the end of the day. Sitting somewhat spent on a rock, I suddenly noticed Niia wasn’t in view. Jeff started whistling for her and no puppy came bounding of the forest. We heard this baying and crashing through the brush. Jeff said quickly to me,
“This isn’t good, she’s after something. Mom, you stay here.”
Now in Denver they call the mountains foothills. I’m from Illinois and I tell you, we were not on a hill….it was a mountain. The side of this mountain was filled with scree , boulders, short pines, parts where there were major drops and gouges in the earth. We were not in the flat cornfields and I had this sick feeling deep in my gut. But because Niia continued to bay, I knew that she was okay…maybe hurt but alive. Jeff was yelling her name as he quickly made his way towards her. Suddenly all went quiet. I was nervously waiting at the top. I started yelling….
“Jeff, Jeff, is she okay?”
He didn’t answer….so I did what any mother of dog and boy would do…it’s something that just wells up inside of us, it is our instinct. I felt it, something is definitely wrong, and I’m going to go down the mountain too… I started to make my way down the to try to find my boy and my pup. I am not exactly the most sure-footed person east of the Mississippi, that is something everyone knows about me. I was sliding, hitting my eyes with pine branches all the while I’m hearing in the back of my mind Jeff’s words to me, “Stay here, mom“.
My stomach started to churn and I thought, “Why do I always have a loose bowel attack when I get bad news? So I did what any mountain woman would do. I dropped my drawers, I didn’t have any other choice. When the episode ended. I thought… gross…now what, nothing to wipe with. So I reach in my backpack and grab the Reader’s Digest that I had just read on the airplane and I crazily remember the story that I has so recently read. It said in disastrous situations people often do the exact opposite of what they should and they get into even a bigger jam. So I believe in signs, and after I tried wiping with the glossy paper I stopped making my way down the mountain and headed back up. It turns out that I was pretty lost and no idea where I really was…I just kept going up. I heard Jeff’s voice at the top as I came up over a boulder. He still didn’t have the puppy. I thought at least I had my son and he was safe. However, our puppy friend was still missing.
At this point darkness surrounded us and it was starting to rain along with crashing thunder. We hiked back to the car, drove around the mountain near the base, talked to people, went up the mountain again, went down the trail in the darkness calling her name. Five hours after we started we were about to give up. Jeff started crying then and mumbled,
” I just can’t leave her out here alone, mom.”
We prayed, we called everyone.
Jeff is so much like his Dad in situations that are tough…he just doesn’t give up. It is never his instinct to give up. He had one last idea. He took our 4 runner and backed it up near these metal posts at the base of the trail. They were there for a reason and we both knew it, but we got the car through with just about a half an inch leeway on either side. He did a three-point turn and started driving up the trail.
I couldn’t believe my eyes, down the trail I thought I saw Niia’s green eyes shining through the raindrops on the windshield! She was limping down the trail. Leaping out of the car we sprinted about fifty yards. She fell into our arms, completely dehydrated, but alive! I fed her bottle caps of water as we made our way back to Denver.
Jeff looked at me, “I know, I know, I promise I’ll always keep her leashed. Thanks for not giving up, Mama. I think I need a pizza.”