On early-morning walks before work, I took Preston on our usual route which led us through neighborhoods and onto a path through part of a park. The park was bounded on one side by a road that wasn’t used too much that early in the morning and a neighborhood with mostly fenced backyards overlooking the park on the other side. The neighborhood was on a slight hill and there were many trees. I let Preston trot along off-leash through the park. Generally, he was good and just sniffed around in the open field or along the tree-lined barrier between the path and the street. One morning he took off. He ran into the neighborhood. I was really concerned because I didn’t know how he would be once he got through the backyards and onto the street on the other side.

 

But I could do nothing. I didn’t even really know where he had gotten through the fence. So, I could only wait and hope he would end up coming back.

 

So there I was, waiting. All of a sudden, and without a noise, an eight-point buck popped over a cedar fence and just stood there for a moment. It was something out of a movie. It was very foggy with just a little bit of light. The buck practically glowed as it majestically surveyed the territory. The moment seemed to last forever and is imprinted in my head.

 

Just as suddenly, he took off across the field. Right behind him was Preston going “Yip! Yip! Yip!” I don’t know where Preston came out from any more than where he went in through those fences. But off he went. I could only call and watch. Surprisingly, at the end of the park, the buck shook Preston off somehow and Preston came trotting back. Always the happier. Tongue lolling out of the side of his head.

 

Another time on one of these walks, we were farther down the path. It was winter so it was still dark. I had a blinking light that I had attached to Preston’s collar. I felt confident because I could watch wherever he went even better than I could in daylight. So, off he went following his nose. He stopped to sniff at something. I waited. He continued to sniff at something. I waited. He still continued. Finally, I thought, shit! He must be eating something! So I walked over to where the light had remained blinking for that whole time and there it was. All alone. Stuck on a fence.

 

I waited and waited. I ended up walking home thinking he could probably find his way back. About fifteen minutes after I had gotten home, my phone rang. A woman on the other end of the line said those words I would hear many times: “I think I have your dog…”

 

When I showed up to pick Preston up, it turned out to be a woman I was acquainted with from the dog park when I had Filbert. Her dog, Barry, came up and I pet him. Preston was in the garage, she told me. Apparently she either thought Preston wouldn’t get along in the house with her dog or she thought Preston was too dirty – which he usually was.

 

“Meet my new dog, Preston,” I said.

 

This was the first time that someone called because they had my dog. I learned later that, if he was gone longer than an hour or two, chances are he had followed someone else home.

 

Actually, I always believed that Preston thought that the home that I had given him was so much better than his last home that, surely, somewhere even better existed. One morning when I took him to Bald Hill, a park close to home, he jumped into a Mercedes that had parked next to us. He just jumped into the back seat and curled up.

 

“I am so sorry!” I said to the man who was letting his much smaller dog out of the car. Fortunately, he just laughed. I tried to coax Preston out, but he didn’t want to leave.

 

The man laughed even harder. Fortunately, he happened to love dogs. Finally, I pulled Preston out of the Mercedes and, with another apology, ran off.