By all accounts, it was a typical Monday morning. That was until I met Mustang Sally.
Departing from an interview in Providence, I took my usual route down Warwick Avenue to stop at a favorite Dunkin Donuts. With my left turn signal blinking, I waited for a gap in traffic. Seeing a clearing, I began to turn into the parking lot. Though I had checked to see if any cars were approaching, I hadn’t thought to look for any meandering dogs.
It was to my great surprise I saw a small beagle making its way down the sidewalk. I laid on my horn, hoping it wouldn’t dart out into the buzzing traffic on Warwick Avenue. To my relief, she continued her path in front of my slowed car and stayed on the concrete.
I waited for her to pass and pulled into the Dunkin Donuts parking lot, slamming on my breaks and shifting hard into park.
I leapt out of my still-running car and hurried over to the beagle. She was sniffing the ground fervently. She also wasn’t wearing a collar or identifying tags. Definitely lost, I thought.
Being a volunteer at an animal shelter, I’m accustomed to dealing with strange animals. I know the warning signs (a tail curled between the legs, hair standing up on end) and saw none of them with this particular dog.
I lowered a hand to the beagle and let it sniff. It seemed ambivalent about my presence and began to continue down the sidewalk. I knew I couldn’t let it go much further. Cars rushed past. My heart was pounding.
Taking my chances, I scooped the beagle into my arms. Again, it didn’t seem to care. Walking back to my car, I scanned the landscape, hoping for a sign of someone that was frantically waving a collar and leash and yelling for their dog. No luck.
Then a woman came running.
“Is that your dog?” she asked.
“No, is it yours?” I replied.
“No,” she said.
We both looked dejected, she too had seen the dog running and didn’t know how to catch it. We tried to give the beagle a drink of water from the woman’s water bottle to no avail and decided I should just take the dog in my car and call animal control. The woman was grateful I had caught the beagle and that the dog was now safe.
I called the Warwick Animal Shelter and they told me to bring the dog in. But I couldn’t just let it go that easily.
Together, we went through the Dunkin Donuts drive-through. The beagle, which I soon realized was a girl, got a bottle of water. I got an iced coffee. She was good in the car – tail wagging, pink tongue dangling – but she knew she wasn’t where she was supposed to be.
Once we both had our drinks, we headed to the shelter. On the way I began tossing out names, seeing if her ears would perk up to any one in particular.
“Lucy? Daisy? Sally?” I said. None of them elicited any notable response, but the last one seemed to fit.
“Mustang Sally,” I sung. “You’ve been running all over town.” The panting continued and the tail wagged as she listened to my tune, deep brown eyes fixed on my face. I was already getting attached.
We arrived at the shelter and I carefully opened the car door, making sure Sally didn’t bolt. I scooped her up again and we walked inside.
Within minutes the shelter had my name and phone number and Sally was on a leash. Before I knew it, she was whisked away. No goodbye, no parting lick of the face. I watched as her tail wagged down the hall.
When I got back to the office, I tweeted her picture and posted it on Facebook. Within two hours, her photo had been shared hundreds of times. People were concerned about Sally.
And then, someone wrote that Sally was their neighbor’s dog and her owners had picked her up. A call to the shelter confirmed that Sally had indeed gone home to her rightful owners. They lived on Arthur Street in Warwick and Sally had been missing since early in the morning.
I was happy she made it back home so quickly, but the smudge marks from her wet nose on my car windows still give me a sad little pang. In the half hour we spent together, I got attached to the little beagle.
It made my day to know I may have saved Sally’s life and that so many other people on Facebook and Twitter were just as concerned about her as I was.
I hung up the phone with the shelter with a smile. Then my mind wandered – I should have asked them what her real name was. But then again, I don’t really need to know. Mustang Sally was fine by me.