It was only 8:45 pm, but I was tired. Our high schooler, exhausted, was sleeping already.
In pajamas, I was watching the documentary The One Percent, about the growing wealth gap in America. I let our two dogs out in the fenced back yard for the last time of the evening.
I couldn't wait to get to bed.
About five minutes later, I called the dogs in. "Puppies!" Expecting to hear the jangle of their tags and the thump of the doggy door flying open, I heard nothing.
They had dug below the chicken wire and under our fence through a space that looked so small it could barely accommodate a gerbil.
Actually, it was this guy. He's our digger. Our chewer. Our sweet boy, Benji. Teddy follows along.
When the dogs got out in the past, they never strayed far. We'd usually find them meandering around the playground a block away.
This time they were not at the playground. I grabbed our college-aged son and drove there. I drove up and down the streets of our neighborhood. No doggies. Our son went home to stay by the phone. I kept driving. Our wonderful neighbors came out to help me look. (Hubby was out of town on business.)
Forty-five minutes had passed. It was dark. I worried about a car hitting one or both of them. They stayed together when they wandered.
That's when my cell phone rang. "Someone has them," my son said. "She's in front of the middle school."
In front of the middle school? That was over a mile and a half away.
I drove there to find Benji (aka Butthead) sitting in a woman's car. She gave him to me on a leash. "I work for an animal hospital," she said. "When I see a dog walking by himself, I always look for the owner. Your other dog wouldn't stay, though. He went up that street." She pointed up a dark street.
Teddy. He's our skittish one.
After thanking the woman and getting Benji in the car, I drove down that dark street. And another, calling, "Cookies!" out the window. That one word always got the dogs running to me to discover which small treat I had for them. No luck tonight.
But I did see another car criss-crossing the same area. It was that woman! She stopped beside my car. "Give me your cell number. If I find him, I know he won't come to me, but I'll call you."
How do you thank someone like that?
"I'd do this for anyone," she said.
We drove in opposite directions. My cell rang. "He's near my car. When you called 'Cookies,' he went charging down the street."
I drove back and saw Teddy on the sidewalk to the right of the woman's car. I jumped out, flung open the back door and called, "Teddy!" He ran fast toward me, stopped short, looked up at me, then hopped into the car.
I thanked the woman, then texted her again when we got home. This is what she wrote back: "I'm just glad to know they're home safe."
And she was . . . because that is what she does. Cares deeply about animals.
I have this theory: When we do exactly what we were meant to do, what we are passionate about, what we care deeply about, we make a substantive difference.
This woman made a difference. I believe our dogs would not have been home safely by 10 pm if she hadn't done what she cared deeply about.
The leash around Benji's neck was from the animal hospital where she works. I'm going to call later today to let her employers know about how her dedication extends beyond the boundaries of her work environment.
Earlier that day, a local school librarian sent me an e-mail: "One of our 7th grade intensive reading students started How To Survive . . . and came back to tell me and her reading teacher that over the weekend her mother had to tell her to put the book down! That has never happened to her before! Her teacher got tears in her eyes! Your book may make her a lifelong reader!!"
When we do what we care deeply about, what we were meant to do, we make meaningful differences.
Thank you, Crystal! Because of you, our dogs are home safe.