This is Thomas. He’s cute, right? I first met Thomas about 5 years ago- it was evening, the sun had set and it was getting cold out- it was November I think. I was driving down a dirt road in pursuit of a “house for sale” sign when I noticed a shivering gray form on the side of the road- he was just sitting there. I slowed way down and he immediately darted in front of my car, stopping in front of it as if to say “stop! I need help.”
I did stop, got out and was met with a schnauzer embrace- like he’d been waiting for me his whole life. He was dirty, cold, and covered in dreadlocks and burs- I wasn’t going to leave him out there by himself. I loaded him into my car and called my mom who was just down the street, she met me and we both looked him over saying, “Oh buddy… we’ll help you out.”
At that time I had been recently married and my husband, Micah, and I lived about 20 minutes out on the mesa west of Rio Rancho, New Mexico- coyote territory. I called Micah and told him all about this poor dog and how he didn’t have any tags or anything so I was bringing him home. I heard a sigh on the other end of the phone line.
Once we were home, I gave this dog a bath, then sat on the floor of the kitchen and cut dreadlocks and burs off his body for probably an hour- I barely made a dent, but I got his underbelly so his fur wasn’t pulling his skin when he walked anymore. I fed him and he licked my nose- I was, in my heart, committed to this dog already.
The next day I took him to the local animal shelter (they had already been closed by the time I picked him up the night before.) I took him in, he was scanned- no chip. I payed for him to be professionally groomed, he had to get a full shave, and it was cold so I bought him a sweater, and I told the shelter that I wanted to adopt him if and when I could. We waited the days out and he was never claimed by anyone, so we adopted him and Micah named him Thomas.
He’s one of the most friendly dogs I have ever had. Since having him, Micah and I have gotten two other dogs (Eldie and Chuy- their stories are for another day) and had two babies. Daphne’s nearly 4 and Gloria will be 1 before I know it. Thomas, who we think is about 10 now, ADORES the girls and they adore him. He likes to snuggle, dance around, howl at sirens, and… run. Thomas will take any and every opportunity to get out of the yard and BOLT. I have chased after him more times than I can count- on foot, in a car, on a bike, while pregnant, with an infant, pregnant again and with my toddler on my hip, with a toddler and an infant, and even with the other dogs in tow… it can be exhausting, but we are always happy when he is back home and snuggled by our side. Micah is forever walking the fence line to mend the newest escape route, and time after time I have gotten phone calls from strangers asking “Do you have a dog named Thomas? He’s here with me.”
Yesterday afternoon, Daphne, Gloria and I ventured out into the cold snowy world to purchase some essentials from the store and have a play date with cousins. When we returned home it had begun to rain, and though I had the dogs inside while we were away so they would stay warm, I let them out in the yard so they could go be dogs for a minute. Meanwhile in our bathroom, trouble was brewing- when the toilet was flushed after an innocent pee- it overflowed. I put Gloria in her crib and instructed Daphne to stay with her- I could see them both the whole time, but I wanted them out of the way of the toilet water (obviously.) I plunged, mopped and tried to flush again- the chain got stuck making the toilet run and the water came over the rim like Niagara Falls! After what felt like an eternity- I got the water to stop, cleaned up all the freezing cold toilet water, threw all wet rugs and towels in the wash on hot, then disinfected the floors and the bowl. Lastly I washed my hands and feet and took a deep breath- Phew…
I walked into Gloria’s room where Daphne had been keeping her occupied with books and toys while I dealt with the dramatic bathroom situation, but Glo was fussing and needed a diaper. I scooped her up and headed to the changing table- when I glanced out the window into the snow, slush and rain I saw Thomas- four houses down and running fast. Damn it! Gloria went back in her crib and I ran out into the driveway in bare feet hollering after Thomas- to no avail. At that very moment a few groups of high school students came running by, no doubt they are on the cross country team, and were just doing their afternoon’s run. Three young men who were right in front of my house looked over at me- standing in slush on my tiptoes and yelling into the rain- I asked “Do you guys see that dog up there?”
One boy said, “Yeah, we’ll get him!”
I ran back inside, told Daph “Shoes and a sweater! We gotta go get Tom!”
Daphne got excited and frantic, then basically started running up and down the hall “looking” for her sweater and squealing. I put Gloria in her car seat, and pulled a sweater over Daph’s head. I slipped into my house slippers, put the car seat over one arm and Daphne on the other hip. I know when it comes to Thomas- I have to move as quickly as possible. The rain was coming down harder now so I got the girls loaded and buckled with a sense of urgency. I couldn’t see the runners and I couldn’t see Thomas anywhere.
We pulled out of the drive and I drove in the direction I had seen him running- nothing. We drove down the hill, around by the lakes, along the main road and then circled back- nothing. I was just about to turn toward the other side of the neighborhood when I saw, running back toward our house, the three cross country runners, between two of them, and matching their pace, was Thomas.
I pulled up next to them and told them he was mine. Thomas was soaked to the bone and shivering. He looked pitiful. I thanked them over and over, and when Daphne proclaimed that they were superheros, I knew she was right and I needed to do something more to acknowledge their kindness. I called after them and asked their names. They stopped running and walked to my car window and introduced themselves. I confirmed that they went to the local high school- I introduced myself and my girls, thanked them again, then brought Thomas home to get warm and dry. After he stopped shivering, and was dry enough to snuggle on the couch, he was right there by my side.
Once more, Micah walked the fence line when he got home from work and again found, then filled the new hole Thomas had dug to escape. Maybe that’ll keep him in for a day or two.
Tomorrow I will be dropping off a thank you note at the high school, with three gift cards to a local coffee shop the high school kids like to hang out in. I want the school, the coach and the boys to know how much I appreciate their kindness and their help. If they only knew how much we love Thomas, and how full my hands are most of the time… but when they are grown men, with dogs and children and houses with toilets that overflow, they too may find themselves standing in the rain in their bare feet, calling on the help of strangers, who just happen to be jogging by, training for the next track meet, and these boys will have paid it forward.