When I was around eight or nine, Prince ran away. Though Prince was the family dog, I was closest to him and spent the most time with him. I called and called and called his name, but he didn’t. As the days went by and he still didn’t come home, I felt betrayed. He had always come when I called, but now he ignored me. His love for me wasn’t as strong as I had imagined. More than missing him, the feeling of abandonment was worse.
I felt the same sense of betrayal years later when a girlfriend didn’t take my side in an argument I was having with one of our friends. I believed that if someone really loved you, then they stood by you no matter what.
I didn’t always stand by those I cared about and I didn’t recognize my hypocrisy. I needed the assurance of blind loyalty.
Two months after Prince disappeared, he showed up at my father’s office. How he knew it was my father’s office since he’d never been there before either meant he had a great sense of smell, had dog psychic powers, or he could read the name on the door.
Once Prince was home again, he wagged his tail when we pet him and seemed happy to be back from his adventure, but I wondered if I wouldn’t come home one day to find he’d left me again. I wasn’t sure I could love him the way I did before he left.
I got over my doubts about Prince and we went back to being the boy and dog pals we’d been before. He didn’t leave me again until he died while napping under the station wagon. He was difficult to bury because apparently he had just woken up from his nap and was stretching when his heart gave out and he died in mid-stretch. I had to dig his grave extra long.
I know now that dogs get distracted and wander off. They don’t have human logic or human love. What they feel for us is not the same as what we feel for each other. As for the girlfriend, I had to go through a number of girlfriends before I learned that loyalty is earned by being loyal. It’s a team effort.
I do wonder where Prince went on his adventure. I hope it was fun. I hope it wasn’t a case where he went further than normal and then couldn’t find any familiar scents. I hope he knew he was too far away to hear my voice and wasn’t wondering why I didn’t call his name to lead him home.