I contend–but cannot prove definitively–that the dog had nothing to do with this.
Here's how it all went down:
My wife and I have been discussing adopting a dog since just after the governor (Jay Inslee, Washington, for those of you playing at home) put the state on lock-down. In the six weeks since, we've been working from home, practicing social distancing, and doing our best to keep our son educated, socialized, safe and happy.
On the face of it, this seems to be an optimal time for pet adoption. Both of us being home pretty much full-time ought to help ensure a relatively painless transition for a newly-adopted pet into our home. Of course under the most ideal of circumstances, times like these can prove challenging. Not everyone deals with change all that well, and the "adjustment period" can often prove stressful.
So we started looking.
For those of you who haven't been paying attention, it seems as if the entire country has had much the same idea. Shelters are empty for the first time in, well, ever. This is overall a good thing. But we were frustrated for a while in our attempts to find a dog.
Right up until the moment when we weren't. As these things are wont to do, the opportunity, when it came our way, came fast.
Last Saturday my wife found a nine-week-old Golden Retriever/Rottweiller mix available to a good home. The apparent product of an "unscheduled breeding," he was, explained the fellow making him available, the pick of the litter. The picker had backed out unexpectedly, however, and he was now the final member of the litter in need of a good home.
So we came to an understanding, made arrangements and drove a half-hour down to Tacoma on very little notice to collect the newest addition to our family. The meet-up, examination of shot records and the puppy in question went off without incident.
And just like that, we had a dog.
That's when things got weird.
Now, our son is very close to his grandparents. And both sets of grandparents are dog owners and dog lovers. So we called grandma and grandpa, to tell them that, SURPRISE! their grandson now has a puppy!
I called my mom's cellphone from the road at 7 o'clock. My parents live east of Tacoma, in Puyallup, and in non-COVID-19 times, we would probably have stopped on the way home to give our son the opportunity to show off his new puppy.
But, times being what they are, we opted to err on the side of caution, and settle for a phone call. The call went to voicemail. So I left my mom a message and asked her to call us back.
Now, my mom is pretty conscientious about getting right back to someone if they leave her a message. So when the thirty-five minute drive back home passed without my hearing back from my mom, I sent her a text.
I called again at 8:30. And at 9:00. And then I started calling my dad's cellphone, too. I didn't expect a response (my father rarely carries his cellphone with him. Most of the time it can be found charging on their kitchen counter.
But my mom had recently gotten the new iPhone, and was having some trouble with it. A couple of nights previously she hadn't been able to answer her iPhone, so we had connected using my dad's iPhone.
I should probably mention at this point that my parents are in their early 70s, and while for the most part pretty healthy, do have some health issues which put them in the high-risk category for COVID-19. At any other time, I'd have chalked their protracted silence up to not bothering to check their phones, and left it at that.
But we don't live in "any other time." We live in the Age of COVID-19.
So I texted my brother to ask whether he had heard from them this day. We talked on the phone a few minutes after 9:30.
Now, my brother is pretty level-headed. And we both tend to be pretty sanguine about our parents. He currently lives a few hours away, so it stands to reason that if there might be a problem with my parents, I'd be the one to go and check on them.
So when we talked about it, I explained the progression of events thusfar, adding that both my wife and I had also attempted to reach both of my parents via Facetime, still with no response. Then I said that I thought that if 10:00 rolled around and I still hadn't heard from my parents, I'd drive the thirty miles down to their place in Puyallup and check on them.
"You know, it's probably nothing," he said. "But yeah, maybe you'd better go. Let me know what you find out."
My wife and son were still up (only the puppy had gone to bed. And he was up and down all night). So they rode down with me.
By the time we got everyone dressed and back out into the car and down the road to Puyallup, it was nearly 10:45. My parents' lights were on, but their gate was locked, so I got creative and climbed through their front hedge, and knocked loudly at their front door.
I made my way around to the back door and checked on things before letting myself in with our key. My parents and their dog, a 90 pound yellow lab with a bark that can drive a nail, were nowhere to be found.
And wouldn't you know it? My dad's iPhone was in its accustomed place, charging on their kitchen counter.
I used my parents' remote to open the gate, then went back out to the car, called my brother, and my wife and I talked with him about what to do. We decided to text my parents closest friends; a retired nurse and a still-practicing emergency room physician. We didn't call, because by now it was past 11, and the wife of this couple is still recovering from hip replacement surgery, and we didn't want to disturb them if they were already asleep.
My brother suggested I go back in, leave my parents a note and retrieve my father's phone, take it home and if we hadn't heard from my parents by morning, use it to start calling their friends. So I did that.
No sooner had I written the note and picked up my father's iPhone, than I received a text message from the couple of I had text asking if they knew anything about my parents' whereabouts.
Their friend's text read:
"Yes they were here for dinner and left less than an hour ago... please don't worry... they should be home any time now... I always have Berniece [my mom] text when they arrive at their house..."
So my parents skipped out on quarantine without telling anyone.
I immediately called my brother back to fill him in. No sooner had he picked up than I heard my parents's garage door begin to go up.
The prodigals, it seemed, had returned.
So I let my brother know what had happened, and that he could stop worrying. Before we hung up he said, "You gonna go talk to them?"
"You know it," I said.
"Tell them I'll call and yell at them tomorrow."
So that's what I did.
My wife (who is a genuinely lovely, caring person.) assured them that we were so relieved that they were okay. We had gotten worried.
By this point, after getting out of bed to drive back in the direction I'd already done a round trip to earlier in the day, with it getting up to midnight, my ire was competing with the relief I felt, and my folks, no doubt sensing this, were suitably abashed.
Which is funny, because my parents are independent, intelligent people. "Abashed" isn't really in their playbook. They're at the point in their lives where they don't really need to answer to anyone.
And yet here we were.
In a genuinely funhouse moment, I was reminded of getting caught sneaking out when I was a teenager. Except the roles were reversed.
As it turned out my mom hadn't heard her new iPhone ring. it hadn't even buzzed any of the times we'd called. She had inadvertently set it to "Silent," and that apparently meant it didn't even vibrate on that setting.
Needless to say this did nothing to lessen my antipathy for iPhones.
Anyway, our son got to see his grandparents, and we got to hear about how they had been sneaking out back and forth, their friends to their house one weekend, them to their friends on the next, without telling anyone. My dad explained their silence as not wanting to hurt anyone's feelings. I guess because they were going out with friends and not us?
All ended well, all things considered. It was good to see my parents after nearly two months' time, and no harm was done. And I was crystal clear with them that in the current age, it's essential we stay in touch, and should–Heaven forbid–a similar situation arise in the near future, I'd do the exact same thing all over again.
And they would hear about it all over again.
And they will.
So, was it the dog's fault? Of course not. On the other hand, if we hadn't gotten him that day, would we have even known to be worried, or would those sneaky kids breaking curfew to go eat, drink, and play cards with their friends have just gotten away with the whole thing?
All I can say is that it's a danged good thing all three of them–my mom, my dad, and the puppy–are cute!