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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Animal · #2162235
A visiting pet runs away into a hostile environment
The Jersey Escape
  Words: 1829

         "Jersey!" Jack shouted and in seconds, there was the clatter of claws on the laminate floor of the kitchen as Jersey rounded the corner on his way to Jack's feet where he groveled for a second and then rolled over on his back. Jack rubbed Jersey's belly and the canine laid back grooving, his jaws hanging half open, loving on the attention.
         When Jack thought it was enough, he stopped rubbing the upturned dog belly in favor of retrieving a dog snack from a nearby drawer. But, Jersey wasn't done with his affection; he stood up on his hind legs, the paws on Jack's thigh continuing his supplication. Jack fed Jersey a doggy treat and the mutt gratefully, but gently, took the bone shaped biscuit and ran to his doggy cage to jealously guard his prize and devour it in his "safe place".
         Jack didn't think a dog belonged in a cage, but Golden Retriever breeders swear that "retrievers" do better when they have a safe place to go. Jersey may be part retriever, a very very small part, but Jack decided to give Jersey the benefit of the doubt. He remembered years ago, he had a twelve year old Golden and one morning, he found Aureus (it means golden in Latin) dead on the basement floor on his way to his safe space.
         Be that as it may, Jack's daughter, Trisha, decided to get a cage for overnight or when she didn't want Jersey bothering house guests with his groveling for attention or worse, sniffing around where he should not sniff. Today, Jack was dog sitting while his daughter worked at the Courthouse as a child protection services lawyer. A couple of hours of dog sitting was fine while Jack visited from New Jersey.
         However, two days after Jack returned home with his wife, Debbie, they received a frantic phone call from Trisha. It seems that she was obligated to attend a week-long conference about two hundred miles from her home. None of her neighbors was able to commit to watching Jersey for the week, hence the emergency call. "It's only for two weeks, Dad." Trish said. She was coming up for a visit and planned to bring the dog, then return in two weeks.
         Debbie accepted right away, but Jack wasn't sure. Ever since Aureus died, he wasn't sure about getting attached to another animal. Short visits were fine, but extended to two weeks, the visit might create an unwanted connection. However, Jack agreed after a short discussion about who would care for, feed and walk Jersey. Jack and Debbie committed to the two weeks; what could go wrong?
         Trisha arrived on a Friday evening, stayed until Sunday and then returned home leaving Jersey in Jack and Debbie's care.For the first week, everything went as planned, but during the second week, Debbie called from her office and announced that she had to attend two other conferences and would not be able to retrieve Jersey for about three weeks more. Debbie and Jack realized that these were unforeseen circumstances and agreed to extend Jersey's welcome at their home.
         At this time it might be informative to explain the differences between Debbie's neighborhood and those of her parents. Debbie's home was in a residential setting in North Carolina, while her parents lived in a somewhat rural area of New Jersey. This area in the northwestern part of the state teemed with wildlife in the form of deer, rabbits, hawks, opossum, feral house cats, pheasant, wild turkeys, and the occasional coyote. Let's say that a city raised dog might find the outdoors a bit more active with wandering animals which might often stray close to the house.
         Jack's previous pets seem to take these co-inhabitants for granted and weren't prone to jumping up from their beds or growling as though an intruder had broken into the house. Jersey would race to the nearest door to give chase and create a fuss, acting like he wanted to attack and chase these strangers from his stand in masters' home. Jack knew that several of these intruders could more than hold its own against a city slicker dog who spent all his born days eating bagged or canned dog chow and drinking fresh water from a clean water dish.
         In a fight to the finish, the city dog would be at a distinct disadvantage, if he survived at all. Such was the case, one evening after dark, when Jack and Debbie were settling in with a book each and an adult beverage. Normally, they both would read until the eyes got heavy and then retreat to the bedroom for a good night's sleep. Or, at least, that was the plan that night.
         About ten o'clock Jersey launched out of his cage; yes, Debbie had brought his safe space along. However, Jack had decided that they could leave the cage door open because, he reasoned that the dog could both feel safe in the cage and have the freedom to come out whenever he wanted. The error, in that thought process, became evident when Jersey not only leapt ferociously from his safe place, but growled as though the most intrusive denizen of the area had dared to approach within one hundred yards of his safe place.
         Jersey scrambled back and forth along the glass sliding doors like a caged tiger, alternatively whining, barking and growling at whatever was out there. The hairs behind Jersey's head were raised like the quills of a porcupine as he ignored all Jack's pleas to heel. Not knowing what else to do, Jack switched on the outside patio lights. The glare lit up the brick patio surface as well as the green grass which extended from the patio to the stand of trees lining a farmer's rock wall.
         Beyond those trees lay an open expanse of pasture and tall grass which attracted predator and prey alike for the purpose of feeding. Oh, there was one very occasional visitor who might show up to raid the local bee hive, a black bear, who occasionally brought her cubs along for a treat. There must have been several bears and multiple cubs out there considering the way Jersey acted as he pushed his nose against the glass door which blocked him from attacking the intruder with all of his forty pounds of, out of control, ire.
         Jack pulled Jersey aside and slid the door open slightly open to see what had caused their house guest to display such excitement. Before Jack knew what happened, Jersey wriggled between his legs, squeezed through the narrow opening and took off in the direction of the woods.
         There just outside the glare of the patio flood lights stood a six point white tail buck, his green eyes reflecting the lights of Jack's house as Jersey made a beeline for the deer, growling and barking as he ran full out. The buck, seeing such a threatening creature coming at him, stood for a brief second and then, showing an agility possessed only by the elusive white tail deer,  turned away from the charging canine, leapt over a nearby hedge, pranced over the farmer's rock wall and swiftly disappeared into the night.
         Undaunted, Jersey, the city dog, never hesitated, but followed the speeding buck into the pasture where both predators and prey came to feed. Gone was Jack and Debbie's house guest in a short ten seconds. Ten seconds ago, their daughter's dog was inside the house and safe. For the first time, Jersey was outside, without a leash, uncontrolled by the hands of either Jack or Debbie, unbound by the restraint of the walls of  the house; Jersey was loose and on his own.
         Jack wondered if they would ever see Jersey again and what would he tell his daughter when she called as she did nightly to ask about her dog. What could he tell her? He had heard the buck's hooves digging into the soft pasture beyond the rock wall and the quicker sound of running dog paws thundering in the deer's wake. The questions were, would he come back or could he come back? After all, he was a city dog in the country. For a brief second, Jack thought of dressing warmly; it was Fall and the nights up here were crisp; he could mount a rescue mission.
         Then, Jack thought of calling the game warden; he would probably have laughed; the police, who were used to corralling runaway Thoroughbreds and Brahma Bulls, would have ignored his call for help. The only thing to do was to go out and look in the pasture; maybe, he would get lucky; maybe, Jersey would actually come when called. He remembered how Aureus, some years before, got lured away by a pack of wandering dogs which led him across the township. When Jack finally located his Golden Retriever, Aureus refused his call, turned tail and ran away. Needless to say, Aureus received quite a welcome when Animal Control captured and returned him to Jack and Debbie.
         However, even in the day time, the terrain was rough, hilly and full of dead falls, crisscrossed with streams and difficult to navigate. He decided to wait for Jersey to return. A half hour later Jack called his neighbor, Ken and arranged for both of them to a search with lights and Ken decided  brought his rifle.
         They checked the batteries in their flashlights and Ken adjusted the battery pack on his hip. His powerful light could pierce quite a bit of darkness and it might scare away any predators they'd come across. Debbie was worried. "You guys, be careful. If you see a bear, don't get all brave; just let him be. Jack, what should I tell Trisha when she calls?"
         "Don't tell her anything until we get back. Let's go Ken!"

         They decided to pick up Jersey's trail in the grass and mud at the edge of the property. Hopefully, because he was not familiar with the woods, he hadn't gone that far. Jack opened the sliding glass door and stepped onto the patio; Ken followed and closed the door. They were adjusting their gear, ready to step off when they heard a faint bark. The dry brush in the pasture crackled as though a wild animal were moving quickly through it. Then over the rock wall and across the grass came a forty pound, multiple cross bred city dog, mouth hung open as though he were laughing, at a leisurely pace, toward Jack and Ken.
         Jersey ran right up to Jack, rolled over on his back and looked up with that doggy smile of his, waiting for his stomach rub. Jack got down on one knee, shook his head and obliged. Ken switched off his light, re-slung his rifle and laughed.
         "Thanks, Ken. Looks like my daughter's mutt is smarter than I thought."

         Ken answered. "See you tomorrow, Jack. Good night."

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