Where, oh where, had my little dog gone?

The Thursday before Thanksgiving, I took my three dogs for their morning walk and then to my house on Akron’s near west side, where I worked. At 4 o’clock, I told the dogs we were heading home, but the eldest one, Lily, didn’t join us at the door.

Lyra walking Lily in 2018

I checked the house to see if she was stuck behind a closed door or on a landing, afraid to descend a flight of stairs. But she was nowhere to be found. My best guess is that she didn’t come inside with the rest of us earlier that day.

Lily, whom I adopted more than 10 years ago from a breeder, is different from all the other shelties I’ve owned over 35 years. A bi-black, or black and white, she’s perfect in size and structure because she was bred to be a show dog.

However, Lily has too much white in her coat for American Kennel Club standards and, thus, was rejected from her would-be career.

Typically, shelties are unbelievably easy to train, particularly if an older dog is in the home. But Lily, who was over 3 months old when I adopted her, first stepped outdoors on the day I picked her up. She took so long to house train a friend began calling her “Betsy Wetsy.”

Eventually she learned to go outside and became the dear companion to our other sheltie, Hoover, who was 9 when we brought Lily home. As his faculties diminished over the next six years, Hoover increasingly relied on Lily. After he lost his hearing, she’d let him know when I was calling them inside or for dinner.

The relationship was good for both dogs as Hoover’s mildest of manners never intimidated Lily, who is rather anxious. I suspect she spent most of her early life isolated in a crate because playful dogs and people who approach her directly both make her nervous.

And yet, she desires affection. Like a butterfly, Lily approaches only when someone quietly minds their own business. She likes to sleep by my partner Max’s feet when he’s in his office and sidles up to me when I’m working at the dining room table. She doesn’t come to my office because it’s on the second floor and Lily’s no fan of stairs.

Any other dog I’ve owned would have gone to the door and barked if I’d accidentally left them outside. But instead, fretful Lily went on a walkabout.

We searched the neighborhood and I texted the neighbors for whom I have phone numbers, which they forwarded on to other neighbors. I also posted on multiple social media sites, including the Facebook page, “Akron Summit County Lost and Found Pets.”

On Friday, a neighbor spied Lily in the driveway of another neighbor who puts food out for feral cats. Lily presumably stopped by for a bite, but when we arrived, she was gone.

We again walked the neighborhood, with no luck.

Meanwhile, several friends also searched for her on their own. Joy, who drove around with fried chicken to lure Lily into her car, asked anyone she saw if they’d seen a black-and-white dog. A few streets from my house people told her Lily had been seen heading toward Krispy Kreme.

On Saturday, Maureen Foley and her husband, Steve, who regularly help find the lost pets listed on “Akron Summit County Lost and Found Pets,” offered to help us. They set up a feeding station with a motion-activated camera near the Krispy Kreme on Saturday evening, but only cats visited.

Then, at 3 in the morning on Sunday, a man called and said he was “100% certain” he’d seen our dog. She’d been on West Market Street near St. Vincent’s church when he followed her down Walnut Street and the grand Glendale Steps into the adjacent cemetery, where he lost her.

Like Mount Auburn Cemetery near Boston or Lakeview Cemetery in Cleveland, Akron’s

Glendale Cemetery, with its Civil War Chapel, avenue of distinctive mausoleums and newly restored bell tower, is an iconic 19th century memorial park that invites visitation, which at its inception was a departure from church graveyards.

Our family enjoys strolling the hilly grounds where the names on many gravestones match those of area streets, buildings and schools. In the predawn hours that Sunday, Max and I walked every section of Glendale, streetlight peacefully reflecting on polished granite obelisks and orbs the size of my exercise ball.

But Lily was not there. Sunday evening a freezing rain poured and I prayed our dog had found shelter.

On Monday, I spent $40 to laminate several missing-dog posters. That afternoon, Leif and Lyra, my two youngest children, were helping me staple them to telephone poles when my phone rang.

“I think we have your missing dog,” said a man. Tim Hite’s wife, Meg, found Lily crossing

Front Street in Cuyahoga Falls. In just one day, our little 10-year-old dog had walked roughly 13 busy miles.

The Hites posted a photo of Lily on Facebook and within minutes someone shared with them my Facebook post about our missing girl. In less than an hour after they’d found her, Lily was in our van, headed home. Fortunately, other than bleeding paws, she was perfectly fine.

That day the internet, assisted by our community, was a tool for goodness.

While I wish she’d never been lost, curiously, Lily’s solo journey seems to have affected her personality for the better. She’s been more animated and less anxious since her return. If only she could tell us about her four-day adventure.

There are many who helped in our search for Lily, prayers included. We thank you all from the bottom of our dog-loving hearts.

This was first published in the Akron Beacon Journal on Sunday, January 10, 2021.


Seeking a holiday refresh after a year when nothing was usual

Viking duo Leif and Lyra on October 31, 2020

I recently read that after nearly a year of pandemic life, many are finding a renewed sense of holiday spirit this year.

I am not one of them. Perhaps it’s because for the past 10 months home has also become office and school. It’s hard enough keeping everyone’s work stations in multiple rooms organized without adding seasonal stuff.

This fall whenever I pulled into our driveway, I thought, we really must get our Halloween decorations out. But we never did. Had our 10-year-old son, Leif, asked us to, I imagine we would have, but he didn’t.

On Halloween, we put our life-size plastic skeleton named X-ray on the porch and took two little Vikings trick-or-treating. And that, apparently, was sufficient.

Thanksgiving, unlike other years, was a small affair with no travel and far less cooking. It felt little different than Sunday dinner any week of the year.

And then the year-end biggies: Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Let’s dispatch with New Year’s Eve first. With no Pride Ball at the Akron Civic, we’re staying home. Whether we remain awake to toss out this doozy of a year or pay it no mind and go to bed early hasn’t been decided.

As for Christmas, I spent little on presents. The big boys each received four pairs of Bombas socks and a WKSU T-shirt. Leif and Lyra get gifts from relatives, so their haul was on par with most years, which, frankly, is too much.

The truth is, I’ve never spent much on Christmas as I believe less really is more. But the last-minute urge to buy additional gifts, which I admittedly often fall prey to, never arose this month. I didn’t want to charge headlong into stores. Besides, 2020 provided an adamant reminder that what we most need is our health and hearth.

Which begs the question, how much of what parents do for any holiday is motivated not by what kids expect but what our consumer-driven economy has led us to believe is necessary for their happiness? Is the stress to provide a perfect holiday simply the byproduct of a successful con?

Last year I read “How to Change Your Mind,” Michael Pollan’s book about the history of and current medical research on psychedelic drugs. Pollen necessarily includes a lot of information about our brains. For instance, in the first years of a human’s life each moment is open to endless possibilities. But as we grow, our brains begin to recognize patterns and thinking becomes streamlined.

This is important for efficiency. If every step we took, every bite of food we ate, every person we encountered had to be met as though it were for the first time, every time, well, as a species we’d have long ago died out.

But the price for our high-speed large brains is that we gloss through many parts of our lives like automatons. Luckily, there are methods, including meditation, to get the brain re-attuned with the moment.

One of the easiest ways to think again like a young child is to travel — the more foreign a place the better. Presumptions seldom succeed when visiting a place for the first time. Food, money, systems of transportation and, depending upon where you go, sometimes language, must be negotiated anew.

Like other parents, the holidays became overly routine for me long ago. I recall ABJ columnist Robin Swoboda once describing her adult daughter nagging her to put up more holiday decorations. Robin’s reply was basically, “Meh, I picked up tinsel for months every year when you were kids, leave me alone.”

Unlike Robin, I baked a second batch of babies in my 40s and have felt obligated to remain in the business of holiday memory making for over 25 years.

But what if, like travel for the brain, the blur of holiday traditions could be refreshed?

Last year, otherwise known as the “before times,” I floated the idea of taking a cruise this Christmas. I’ve never been on one and very well might not enjoy several days on a ship — I never travel with tour groups, preferring adventure over predictability — but I was willing to find out.

Everyone, including Leif, was not just open, but enthusiastic about a Christmas cruise.

Instead, given COVID, we again stayed put this year and sadly canceled a more recent tradition —Christmas Eve dinner with our friends Brian and David, whose table settings and meals should be featured in Food and Wine.

With life as we once knew it halted for so long, this year has felt like a big reset button. Things that were taken for granted, even those we may not have enjoyed or that had become rote, have been missed. Others not so much.

Next year, after widespread vaccination hopefully puts an end to the global pandemic, what will you do differently than you did before?

This was first published in the Akron Beacon Journal on Sunday, December 27, 2020.