I had Nala for about a month. At this point our relationship consisted of me attempting to tire her so I didn’t feel like my hair was falling out when were coexisting in our small apartment. Car rides seemed to stimulate her and make her a little tired, so I took her with me to Walgreens to fill a prescription and pick up a few essentials. Like any normal human being, I left the window open what I thought was just enough for her to sniff the world without actually bursting into it.
These were the days when I still underestimated Nala’s abilities and intelligence.
I was inspecting a possible hairspray purchase when I heard the tinkle of a dog collar. A woman passed me and I caught her, “Is there a dog in here?” Of course I knew the answer. She was frowning, “I think so.” Please God, I thought, don’t let it be my dog. But for that too I knew the answer and as if to confirm it, around the corner into my isle came Nala. She flashed to my feet where she promptly sat and gazed up with expectant eyes, crooked ears, and an open happy mouth. She was proud. She had reached her goal.
Naturally I was not as happy, and in my shock and anger, I dropped the few items in my hands, one of which was the aluminum hairspray bottle and it landed with a ‘clang!’. Said ‘clang!’ caused Nala to do a quick about-face and run in the opposite direction. I followed as fast as possible, which, of course, wasn’t fast enough. She ran straight to the doors, they opened for her automatically and out she went. This is when I had that moment when you realize something horrible is about to happen but there is nothing you can do about it. I was about to chase my dog though the parking lot and maybe a very busy road. Maybe I was going to watch my dog get hit by a car. Maybe she would be killed. Maybe she would be horribly injured and I would have to scoop her up and rush to the vet. Maybe I wouldn’t have enough money to cover her vet bills. Maybe I would but she would be forever altered in some way like those dogs at the park hopping around on three legs or pulling themselves in wheeled carts. Somewhere in the back of my mind I was also aware of the people around me, I didn’t see their faces but I knew well the mixture of pity and disgust they were feeling. “That poor stupid woman,” they were thinking, “can’t control her dog.”
she ran to the car, sat by the door, and waited. I held my breath as I approached her, not believing I could be this lucky (all previous evidence was to the contrary). I quickly grabbed her collar. I couldn’t scold her, I didn’t want her to equate me catching her with punishment, so I put her in the car, rolled up the window, and went back inside to gather my things and apologize to everyone I could find. (Yes, I did consider driving away in shame at that point, but I still had some pills somewhere on the floor inside with my name on them, most likely next to some hairspray.)
When I returned, sweating and embarrassed, I fully expected to be met by a team of workers informing me that I was no longer welcome in the store and that they suggest I figure out how to train my dog.
it was if I had never been there, or, better yet, that Nala had never been there; patrons were shopping and clerks were working. No one even looked at me, let alone scolded me. Did they know who I was? Had they only seen the dog and not the idiot running after it?
With one eye on my fellow patrons, still not trusting that I wasn’t in some sort of trouble, I gathered my things still lying in the hairspray isle and slithered towards the checkout line.
“I am so sorry,” I said to the young girl behind the counter.
She shrugged. “Don’t worry about it.” She seemed genuinely unaffected.
“She got though my car window,” I needlessly explained.
She smiled, kind of, and nodded toward the door. “She came in once, stood there, looked around, and went back out. Then she came back.”
I was as shocked by this information and event as the clerk was placid. No one tried to stop her or catch her? No one yelled HEY THERE’S A DOG IN THE STORE! This CAN’T be a common occurrence. I mean, I’m in Walgreens almost weekly and I’ve never seen a dog.
I paid and got the hell out of there before someone came to their senses.
I white-knuckled the ride home feeling frustrated, angry, worried, embarrassed, and a lucky. After all, Nala LOVES people and I could have very easily ended up chasing her though every isle of that store, or worse, the parking lot. And of course there was the hit-by-a-car possibility. In fact, I realized, she could have exited that window and run free into the world, never to be seen by this former dog owner again.
In fact, why didn’t she do that? Why did she run into a pharmacy when there was a whole wide world out at her paws?
And that is when I realized what really happened.
Nala did not escape from the car to run a muck through a drug store because she was psycho. She didn’t want to escape at all. She wanted to be with me. She was afraid I was leaving her. She watched me go though those automatic doors and she followed me. She went inside even though it was new and a little scary, and she sniffed me out.
When we arrived home I sat in the car for a few minutes and looked at her, sitting properly and happily in the seat next to me. Okay, I thought, a stunt like that deserves a more devoted human. I vowed to do better, walk a little further, pay a little more attention, expect a little less from her and a little more from me.