I met Hank over spring break in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He is my sister’s next door neighbor. This is about Hank.
Over the last several months, I had heard snippets from my sister about Hank. Hank this and Hank that. A few times I even heard Hank in the background of our phone calls when my sister was talking to me while in her backyard or out on her porch. I would ask, “Who is that?” “Just Hank,” or “Who do you think? Hank.”
It’s funny, all those times Hank popped up into my life prior to my trip down there, you would have thought I would have been excited to meet him, but, in fact, I completely forgot about Hank as I pulled onto my sister’s street and parked my bug-spattered car next to the curb. If I’d have remembered, maybe I would have thought about what I was wearing for the ten-hour drive. Shoot, I would have at least put an eyebrow and lip on! But the possibility of meeting Hank didn’t even register.
Thankfully, after ten hours in the car, I was unaware of the fact that Hank was spying on my arrival through the curtain that hangs on the inside of the big glass front door of his house. I didn’t notice him pulling back the curtain just enough to take a look at me, his hot breath hitting the window as he watched.
Two days passed before I finally met Hank face to face. It was mid-morning and I was headed out to do some antiquing with my sister. We were free of our kids and were having a sister day doing our favorite things. I was all spruced up with good hair, cute skirt with a fresh cotton blouse, and eyebrows in place. While waiting for my sister to do the same, I decided to take a minute on the front porch of her house—I can admit now, secretly hoping to catch a glimpse of the mystery man from next door since I was looking so cute. As soon as the door closed behind me and I edged to the top of the porch steps, I heard him.
I would know that bark anywhere.
Hank was sniffing around my sister’s front yard, leaving his mark here and there, when he suddenly got startled and took off running. His owner, a young gal who needed to get to work at a local pizza joint, was carrying his leash and collar in her right hand as he ran for it. She called his name as she slowly moseyed in the direction of his departure, but after a few minutes, Hank was nowhere in sight, and his owner was starting to pick up some speed in her step and her soothing call for her dog switched to panic and worry.
I was on the porch, watching all of this unfold, and figured that Hank, like most dogs, would come back to the hand that feeds him. My sister strolled out about then and was ready to hit the road, but I stopped as soon as my feet hit the sidewalk and asked the neighbor if Hank had come back. Her eyes were welled up with tears, her voice was up and down with worry, and she just shook her head. No. Hank was on the run, and what was worse was the fact that this poor girl had to go to work—her boss insisted, even after he got the phone call that her beloved hound dog was on the loose. We knew, with the neighborhood being surrounded by busy streets, Hank’s destiny was in peril.
In retrospect, maybe I should have gotten into my car and driven away…to the antique shop…back to Virginia…but I didn’t. My sister and I locked eyes, and we both knew what we were going to do. “We will find him. Just go to work.”
Two hours later…after literally chasing that damn dog up and down each and every street of the neighborhood (think Smokey and the Bandit or Dukes of Hazard), driving into the middle of a closed off construction site while I was speeding after him (and being escorted out of said construction site by head foreman), throwing dog treats at him from the car hoping he’d stop to partake long enough to snag him, asking the postal carrier, several construction crews, Miss Lula (the neighborhood grandma who watches the day go by from her porch) and various neighbors who happen to be outside if they’d seen this four-legged escapee galloping through the neighborhood, and me slamming against a fence as I tried to capture him in someone’s backyard only to have him rush me, knocking me down again into rough gravel and taking a little bite of my hand as he passed, we got him.
Well, maybe I should clarify.
We decided my injuries required some backup support from my daughter, who is close to a dog whisperer in her own right. She comes outside and sets up a hot dog and water trap inside my sister’s yard, hoping she could get him inside long enough to get a leash on him. While she is putting this all together, she decides to walk over to Hank’s house…and there he was. Exhausted, panting, and scared. He was sprawled behind an old wicker chair that sits in one corner of the large porch. The hunt was over. Hank was coaxed out of his hiding place and returned to his own backyard, where he spends his days.
For my efforts, I got a few scrapes, bruises and a nice sloppy kiss from Hank before I finally left for my day with my sister. I never heard from his owner, but I figured she was just happy to have her baby home.