“He’s not here,” I cry as I search the dark for him. “Where is he?”
“We’ll find him. He never goes far,” Tyler assures me, leading me across the lawn and back to his house.
“He always comes when you or I call him,” I point out, scanning the dark street again when we reach his porch.
“He’ll be okay. He probably smelled something and took off after it. He’ll be back.”
Even though I hear the assurance in his voice, I don’t agree. My insides are a mess, and I know something is wrong; this isn’t like him. We get inside, and he places me on the couch before heading back out. I listen to him shout Bruce’s name, and more worry fills the pit of my stomach. When he comes back, I get up.
“Has he ever done this before? Taken off and not come back when he’s called?” I question.
“No.” He rips his fingers through his hair.
I get closer to him, resting my hands against his chest. “I’ll get my car, and you take your truck. We’ll split up and search the area. Maybe he wandered too far and doesn’t know the way back home.”
He looks doubtful, but still he leans down, resting his forehead against mine. “All right—get your car, and make sure you’ve got your phone on you.”
“We’ll find him,” I whisper.
“We will.” He presses his lips hard against mine, then lets me go. I watch him as he goes to the kitchen and turns off the stove. I move to the door when he’s done before running to my house and letting myself inside. I grab my car key and purse, then go get in my car and back out, and I see Tyler getting into his truck. I give him a wave while rolling down my window, and I start shouting for Bruce, driving slowly down each block, scanning the yards and the street.
Thirty minutes into looking, Tyler calls, so I answer using my hands-free system.
“Did you find him?”
“No, but I got stopped by one of our neighbors. They said they thought they saw him being loaded up by animal control.”
“What?” I breathe, gripping the steering wheel tightly.
“It’s dark, so he wasn’t sure. He felt like shit he didn’t come over after he saw what he saw. Apparently, Bruce is well liked on the block, and when he’s out and about, he visits the neighbors and the kids.”
“Of course he’s well liked. He’s a good dog.”
“I tried calling animal control. They aren’t answering, and the message says they won’t be open until the morning.”
“Wouldn’t they check his collar?” I ask. I pull over to the side of the road and put my car in park.
“No clue, baby, but with Bruce not coming back, I’m thinking it’s because he got picked up and doesn’t have a choice in the matter.”
“I want to keep looking,” I say as I pull back onto the road. “Maybe he’s still out. Maybe—”
He cuts me off. “Baby, I appreciate that you want to keep searching, but I want you back at my place. If he is out, he’ll show up, and if he doesn’t, I’ll call animal control in the morning as soon as they open.”
“What if he’s hurt?” My stomach turns at the idea of him being hurt and alone.
“I can’t think of that right now, and I don’t want you thinking about that either. He’ll be okay, and he’ll be back. How far are you?”
“I don’t know, probably five minutes.”
“I’ll see you in five then. I’ll meet you at your place. You can pack a bag and get Mouse. We’ll stay at my house tonight.”
“I’ll see you there,” I agree, but I don’t go right home. I drive down a few more blocks, continuing to yell out the window for Bruce while tears fill my eyes. When Tyler calls again, I ignore his call but head back to my house and pull into the garage. Before I can even open the door, Tyler does, and then I’m in his arms.
“Baby, he’ll be okay,” he says against my ear while rocking me from side to side. “He’ll be home tomorrow.”
I pull in a few deep breaths and get myself under control. Once my tears have dried up, I let him lead me into my house. He goes in search of Mouse while I pack a bag, and when I’m done, we go to his house. He makes me eat and then takes me to bed, where I spend most of the night wide awake, just in case Bruce comes back.
PUT THE PAST IN ITS PLACE
As soon as Tyler pulls into a parking spot outside the local Humane Society, I open my door and hop out. I hear him curse but ignore him and run to the front door. This morning he called and asked about Bruce, describing him to the person on the phone as I sat across from him on the bed, biting my nails. Relief filled his eyes, and I knew they had him. My body went slack, the tension I’d held on to all night releasing instantly. I hurried and got dressed, and Tyler did the same; then we drove over here.