Monday, February 7, 2011

Mekka: An Ill-Advised Escape

Bo, Mekka, and me when Mek was about 9 weeks old

It was the year 2006 and I was in my second year as the assistant women's basketball coach at Lubbock Christian University. I was living in a house that I owned and Mekka was six months old. I also had an Australian Shepherd that I had adopted from the vet clinic named Bo.

Bo was a mature, neutered male and was rather large for the breed but had beautiful blue merle coloring and a pair of ice blue eyes. He was a truly good dog with a horrible case of separation anxiety that I'm pretty sure was the reason that he came to be an adoptee to begin with. He had been with me a little over a year by this time and I took him with me everywhere. By everywhere, I mean work, class, church. . .every-stinkin-where. I had a little Jeep Wrangler and I had taken out the backseat and the windows so that Bo had shade, a breeze, and plenty of space because he spent a lot of time there. Oddly enough, the little escape artist had no wish to leave as long as he was in that vehicle.

So when Mekka came he was less than enthused by his new job as puppysitter. He still got to come with me most of the time but there were also times that he and Mek were left in the backyard. Stupidly, I thought that he would be more likely to stay if he had a companion. I was wrong. He just took his little charge with him.

My little house was only 5 minutes from the university but to get there one had to go via the underpass of the major thoroughfare in Lubbock: the Loop.

On one of those days that I had chosen to leave my children (or dogs, if you prefer) at home my cell phone rang on my office desk. Expecting a return phone call from a prospective athlete or fellow coach looking for a scouting tape one can imagine my surpise when it was none other than an employee from one of the local cemetaries. Specifically, the cemetary just up the road from the school.

"Lubbock Christian University, this is Coach Wilson."

"Hello, this is Belinda at Resthaven Funeral Home and Cemetary. I believe we have your dogs here."

At first, my mind was thrown for a loop. My dogs? At the cemetary? I mean, I've been guilty of driving to the bank when I meant to go to the dry cleaners but I realized it before I tried to cram my clothes into the tube. But my dogs at the cemetary?? Surely not.

"My dogs?", I said.

"Yes ma'am, your dogs. Their tags say their names are Bo and Mekka and this was the number on them."

"Oh, no. I mean, yes ma'am, those are my dogs. I'll come right over and get them. Thank you so much for calling."

"Well, sure. They're really sweet. They were just trotting right down 19th street. Not on the road or anything, just toodling on down the cemetary. I saw them through the window so I thought I'd see if they had any tags cause I sure would've hated to see them hit."

"Okay, I'm leaving right now. Thanks again."

"We'll be right her under the awning waiting on you."

I pushed End and grabbed for my keys and purse. On the drive over, the whole two blocks of it, I alternated between cursing my nutty, blue-eyed Aussie and saying prayers of thanks that they hadn't been hit and that the lady had been kind enough to actually go out of her way to stop them. It wasn't until I was about to pull in to the parking lot of Resthaven that I realized that in order for Bo and Mekka to have gotten to this point they had to have crossed the Loop. I could picture it in my head clearly: Bo, in his working dog trot with a look of fierce determination on his face and Mekka, tall and gawky, ears pulled back with worry, her tongue hanging out, and struggling to keep up. All the while, cars whizzed by, some honking in warning, and others having to stop to keep from hitting them. My stomach turned over at the mere thought.

I shook my head and cleared it of the nightmare. Under the awning, just as promised, were my dogs. Bo was leaning against the black skirt of a stately older woman. His tongue was lolling out of the side of his mouth and he gazed up at her in adoration as she stroked his head. Mekka was lying on the sidewalk nearby with an exhausted expression on her face. She had a front leg on either side of a bowl that had probably only moments before held water.

When I stepped out of the Jeep Bo immediately trotted over, his expression showing nothing less than pride. No doubt he believed he had accomplished his goal. In fact, he had done one better: instead of having to come all the way to the school, as was his intent, we had met halfway. Perfect!

I opened my hand for him to place his muzzle in and continued walking toward the woman and Mekka. Mek's tail beat the concrete as she recognized me and then she immediately flopped to her side and raised one hind leg to show me her belly. I bent to rub it and then looked up to the guardian angel named Belinda. I noticed the long, white hairs clinging to her black skirt.

"Thank you so much. I live just over the highway, they must've crossed it to get here. I'm lucky they made it this far and I really can not thank you enough for calling."

"Oh, you're welcome. They're nice dogs and I sure hope someone would do the same for me if mine were lost."

We made small talk for a bit longer as Bo danced between us and Mekka caught her second wind and then I loaded them up and took them home.

Bo would escape many more times in the three years that I would have with him after that, before lung cancer would take him from me in the spring of 2009. Mekka never went with him again. I can imagine him asking her just before he made his exit and her raising her expressive, dark eyebrows at him as if to let him know that she thought him crazy. She was nothing but confident in my love for her and harbored no doubts that I would return. That and she was a big believer in energy conservation.

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