Fire on the roof, an old lost dog, and a renewed faith in humanity

The other day, as I was lolling in the early-morning comfort of my bed, my smoke alarm went off. This was surprising not for the obvious reason, but for the fact that it actually worked. I’ve had a bad habit over the years of removing the batteries, because the thing always decides to beep its displeasure around three in the morning when the juice gets low.

In any case, I sprang—in my mind I sprang, more than likely I crawled—out of bed to see what was amiss and was assaulted by an odor reminiscent of jet fuel. I met my son in the living room.

My old girl was lost, then found, thanks to kind neighbors.

“What’s that smell?” he said over the blaring of the alarm.

“I don’t know!”

There was no visible smoke in the house, but when I opened the front door to see if the pungent odor was coming from somewhere else, I realized the problem was in my home. We switched off the alarm, opened the doors and windows, popped the cats into a carrier—they were not amused—and went outside.

A short time later, my sweetie pie called the air conditioner repair guys, convinced my ancient unit had finally succumbed to old age and had spontaneously combusted.

As we waited, I noticed my blue-eyed cattle dog was gone. Bella is almost 12 and has been acting oddly the past year or so. According to the vet, doggy dementia may be at work, a condition that sometimes causes her to stare at walls and ignore us when we call her. Since we brought her home from the shelter over a decade ago, she had never run away and walks with us happily without a leash, when it’s appropriate. Then, about a month ago, she slipped away while I was gardening. Luckily, a young neighbor recognized her and brought her home. But this time, despite searching all over, we couldn’t find her.

As anyone who’s ever had a pet go missing can attest, the not knowing is brutal. Happily, in our case, the panic was short lived. Neighbors who we don’t know took Bella in and called the animal control folks, using the number on her license. They texted me, but since I was looking for my dear dog, I didn’t see the message. Instead, they heard my son calling for her in the street and there was a happy reunion.

Later, after the AC man announced that it would cost a bit over eight thousand dollars to replace my burned out air conditioner—the fire had completely fried the interior and nothing could be saved—I winced, but didn’t whine.

You know why? I got my sweet dog back. Later, I delivered some cupcakes to my neighbors, because they were kind enough to care about an old lost dog.

The moral of the story? Always keep fresh batteries in the smoke detector and never, ever give up on humanity.

Find Anne Montgomery’s novels wherever you buy books.

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