A couple years ago in May, I was trying leave my house. My parents owned a white three bedroom home, olive green shutters and trim outlining the house. As beautiful as the house looked, my morning felt ugly. My alarm never went off and by the time I woke up, I had 25 minutes until I started work. Rushing, I brushed my teeth in the shower and ate my toast while I threw on my clothes. While running to grab my black work bag, I accidentally kicked my dog Buttercup’s food and water dish, the water dousing my sock and kitchen floor.

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“Ohh great!” I muttered. Buttercup started barking at me, her golden tail wagging furiously. She needed to go outside. I opened up the back door, so Buttercup could do her business outside. Sometimes, I walked outside with her, but today I needed to finish getting ready for work. I packed a ham and cheese sandwich, a banana, and planned on drinking water from the work sink for the rest of the day.

Hmm. Buttercup was taking longer than usual. I gave her another five minutes before I opened up the back door again and started calling her name. A fence surrounded our backyard, which worked well for letting Buttercup loose.

“Buttercup!” I yelled, waiting for her to run inside.

No sign of Buttercup.

“Buttercup,” I repeated, thinking that she must be chasing a squirrel.

I stepped outside and did not see her. My heart stopped, as I glanced at the gate that led to our driveway. It was wide open. Frantic, I ran out the gate and down the driveway. As I looked to my right and left, I did not see Buttercup anywhere. Panicking, I sprinted down the sidewalk. I pulled out my cell phone and started dialing my work number.

Nobody answered, so I left a message, saying, “My dog got out and I can’t find her. Looking for her now. Sorry, I can’t come to work today!”

I started berating myself for not checking to see that the gate was closed. I usually did that, but rushing around made me forget. Why didn’t I just slow down and take my time? As I ran down the street, my eyes darting from house to house, my eyes filled with tears. Buttercup was a little dog, her demeanor sweet and non-confrontational. I worried that she would not be able to defend herself against a bigger animal.

Trying to get into Buttercup’s mind, I tried to imagine where she could be hiding. That did not work too well. I bolted towards the park at the end of the street, thinking that Buttercup found some young kids playing on the swing with their parents wanted to play with them. Unlike some dogs, she loved kids, especially when they played fetch with her with a tennis ball or a stick. No sign of Buttercup. I walked one street over. Getting out of breath, I stopped, not realizing that I was in somebody’s driveway.

I placed my hands on my knees and bent over. I must have stayed that way for about a minute before an older guy swung open his front door and asked, “Are you okay?”

“No,” I said. “I lost my dog.”

“What does she look like?”

“She’s a small pug. Pretty golden color,” I said.

Adjusting his blue baseball cap, he said, “Well, I can help you look.”

Grateful, I thanked him, as we both walked down the street.

“You know,” he said. “I had a chocolate lab once. Sweet dog. Ohh, she ran away from me a couple of times. She ran down to-“

He started picking up his pace and said, “I think I know where she might be.”

The man made a couple of quick turns, which lead to a dead end road. To the right, sat some woods and a small stream. As our sneakers trudged through thick brush, I noticed a hint of gold. Buttercup’s nose was pressed into some orange and white flowers, her wagging tail signaling contentment.

“Buttercup!” I yelled, scooping her up. “You know better than to run out of the gate.”

Thank you so much!” I said, locking eyes with the older man.

“No problem,” he said. “Every dog loves this place. Darn if I can understand it!”

As I cradled Buttercup in my arms, the smell of flowers on her fur, I understood one thing. I would always check to see that our backyard gate was closed!