Back in my telecom days, I used to pass a billboard every morning on my way to work. On it was a picture of Abraham Lincoln with the words, "Failed, Failed, Failed, Succeeded". Then there is the famous sentence incorrectly attributed to Winston Churchill that goes something along the lines of, "Never, ever, ever give up." These phrases used to play over and over in my head in the wee hours of the morning as I--armed only with my laptop, a floral screwdriver and the will to beat a machine that is smarter than I will ever be--battled broken VoIP communication systems.
Many times--particularly as the hour neared 3 am--I thought about giving up, however, I couldn't because I had a boss who believed that he could fix anything (and he could). I never saw that man quit or admit defeat over anything. He would calmly attack the problem from all angles until he found a solution. It was his influence that struck the words "I can't" from my vocabulary.
Somewhere along the lines I forgot that lesson. Last night I learned it all over again.
"Helicopter Butt got away!"
Languishing in a warm tub after a busy day, I opened one eye to see Husband standing in front of me, out of breath. He was holding up a leash that was attached to a dog collar that was decidedly not attached to a dog.
"He saw a deer and somehow managed to wriggle out of his collar. He ran off into the neighbor's yard."
This was not good news. Our neighborhood was built in the 60's and 70's when yards were quite large and full of trees. Helicopter Butt would be hard to find.
"Don't worry," I reassured Husband, "We don't call him 'Boomerang Dog' for nothing. He'll come back--he always does."
Unconvinced, Husband grabbed his keys. "I'm going to go drive around and look for him."
Sighing, I extracted myself from the tub, dried off and got dressed. Figuring that we'd find HB in no time, I put on a tank top, yoga pants and my fuzzy, white slippers. I then proceeded to post myself in the front yard and call Helicopter Butt's name.
After a quick drive around the neighborhood Husband returned home and suggested that I drive around since HB is more likely to respond to me when called. By this time it was 11:40 pm. I drove for 20 minutes up and down the same streets calling his name. I offered treats and the opportunity for a walk, but nothing I said flushed HB from his hiding place. Exhausted, I resigned myself to the fact that the chances of Helicopter Butt returning home on his own were higher than us finding him at midnight in our heavily-wooded neighborhood. I decided that I would put his dog bed and water bowl under the portico and hope that he returned at some point in the night.
Since he had slipped out of his collar, he did not have his dog tags. He is, however, micro-chipped so that gave me some degree of comfort. I mentally began drafting the "Lost Dog" posters I was going to put up around the neighborhood before going to bed that night. Not that I was going to get any sleep.
As I was pulling up to our house, Husband flagged me down. "I can hear him! He's somewhere in the woods in one of our neighbor's yards and he's whimpering."
This was not good. HB whimpers for one of two reasons: he's either hurt or he's cornered a rodent. I turned off the car and listened. Finally, finally I heard him whimper again, briefly.
Running up a winding driveway into pitch blackness, I called HB's name as I shone my flashlight all around the woods. I prayed that whomever's yard I was in would not come running out with a shotgun. None of the yards were fenced, rather, they--being built into the side of a very steep hill--were separated by retaining walls.
Once again I stood still and listened. Finally Helicopter Butt whimpered again, and I realized that he was close by. Spotting a brief movement out of the corner of my eye, I shone my flashlight over into the neighboring yard and spotted just the top of his head peaking out of what appeared to be a hole. I somehow--fuzzy slippers and all--managed to scale a chest-high retaining wall and what I saw took my breath away: Helicopter Butt--my sweet, beloved, precious little dog--was drowning in a neighbor's pool.
I don't remember running over and pulling him out of the pool, but I must have because the next thing I know I was putting his collar back on him and rushing him home. Husband met me at the end of the driveway.
"You saved his life!" I told him, "If you hadn't heard him whimpering, we never would have been able to find him and he would have drown! He was barely able to keep his head above water when I found him and probably had been dog-paddling for the entire 30 minutes that we were out looking for him. That's why he was whimpering intermittently; he could only whimper when his head was far enough out of the water to do so!"
Back home we swaddled HB in dry towels and hugged his shaking body. We marveled over and over about how lucky we were. I thanked Husband repeatedly for saving HB's life. Then we tucked all our dogs into bed and went to sleep.
This morning, over coffee, I mused about what happened last night. How I almost gave up on looking for HB. How fortunate we were that Husband hadn't given up before he heard the whimpering. And how Helicopter Butt never gave up, not once, while waiting for us to rescue him from that pool. The alternate ending--the one that had me passively placing his dog bed in the portico while waiting for him to come home--is unthinkable.
Never, ever, ever give up.