It was a mid-November evening in the Midwest, which means it was chilly and the sun went down early. All the other library supervisors had left the building, and I was in charge until closing. There were a few patrons on the computers, a handful of children reading with parents, and all was quiet.
Then the dog came.
An eighty-pound, enthusiastic pit bull mix managed to trigger the automatic doors and came streaking inside. Terrified shrieks followed him around both floors of the building until he was cornered by two equally enthusiastic patrons. One produced a length of rope (I didn’t ask where it came from) and looped it lightly around the neck of the panting canine, then handed me the end.
“You can keep the rope.”
By 6:00 in the evening in rural Illinois, the animal control officers have all gone home. I called over to the police department, and they promised to contact the dog catcher and said they would send an officer over in the meantime “to help me out.”
I stood in the lobby of the building, repeatedly turning down offers from patrons to hold onto the dog until help arrived. (I wondered what the liability issues might be if I left a stray dog in someone else’s care on library property.) One 10-year-old boy came in and wanted to bike the dog around the neighborhood until someone came out to claim him. Not going to happen, kiddo.
The police officer arrived in about 10 minutes.
“Well, it looks like you have things under control here. Animal Control is on the way…he should get here in about an hour.”
Then he left.
And I held onto the dog.
And waited the full hour.
That wasn’t the only time I’ve encountered dogs in strange locations. Some of you may remember a couple of summers ago when a dog crawled out the open sunroof of a car and came into the Toco Hill Library to find his owners. (“I didn’t know he could do that!”) Just last week my husband and I were in Walmart when we heard someone yelling, “Snoopy, come back here!” Sure enough, a fairly portly Snoopy the dog came lumbering around the corner and bee-lined right to us. We hung onto his collar until his flustered parent could snap the leash on him. “He was in the car! I don’t understand how he followed me inside!”
Let’s be honest: there are plenty of dogs who are escape artists with a knack for getting themselves into trouble. Possibly the most famous is Marley, the golden retriever from Marley and Me by John Grogan. If you don’t want to read the book, try the movie.
Are you curious about the kinds of situations that call for Animal Control? Try Tales From a Dog Catcher by Lisa Duffy-Korpics. Or to find out what happens after the shelter, read Tea and Dog Biscuits: Our First Topsy-Turvy Year Fostering Orphan Dogs by Barrie Hawkins.
It also might help to keep a spare leash handy, just in case.