Lost & Found

Last night started off like any other night. It was about 6 o'clock in the evening, & my grandparents & I took our dogs for a ride up in the Blue Mountains. It's something of a tradition of ours, to escape humanity for awhile & drive around the wilderness. Everything was going according to plan - that is, until we stopped to let the dogs out. Brendy (dog on the left of the photo) took off after a deer & disappeared into a valley. She was gone, just like that. After calling her name & looking for her for over 3 hours, we started to lose hope. Grandpa tied his shirt up to a tree so she had something to come back to, & we made our way back home, empty handed. I'll never forget that car ride. None of us said anything the whole way home, we just cried. We all somehow felt responsible for what had happened.
When we got back home Grandpa & I were out in the garage, sitting there in stunned silence. We agreed that we would go back up there early in the morning. But after about 10 seconds, the guilt became too much for me to take.
"What the hell are we doing?"
Grandpa stood up & understood exactly what I meant.
"You're right," he said. "Let's go."
We went in the house & Grandma was already packing stuff up for us. Somehow she knew we were going back up there. Somehow she always knows.
"I'll stay here with Buddy (my old yellow lab in the photo)," she said. "You two be careful."
So off we went, driving into the darkness, both of us not knowing what to expect. As we drove up the mountain the only thing we could hear was our own voices echoing in the distance.
"Brendy!" Grandpa yelled. "Brendy Lou, get back he-..." He broke down. "Goddammit, Alex, why did this have to happen?" he asked between sobs. "How did we let this happen?"
"Don't lose hope yet, Grandpa," I said, although I was thinking something entirely different.
At about that time some deer ran across the road in front of us. I stopped the truck, afraid there were more coming. I looked up the road & saw a pair of eyes reflecting off the headlights. The eyes were running toward the truck. That's not a deer, I thought to myself. Is it a cougar? A bear? My heart began to pound in my chest.
Then she came into view.
"It's Brendy! Grandpa, it's Brendy!"
I got out of the truck & she slowly made her way toward me, seemingly not believing what she was seeing. Neither was I. It was like looking at a ghost. I opened up the back door of the truck & without a moment's hesitation she jumped in. She crawled up to the front seat & began licking my face. Grandpa hugged her & I didn't think he was going to ever let go. Tears ran down his face, this time the happy kind.
"Let's get you home, girl," he said. "I can't wait to see the look on Grandma's face."

* * * * *

We found her (she found us, really) at 1:30 AM only about 100 feet away from where Grandpa left his shirt. I still can't believe we got her back.
I learned a lot last night about fear, regret, & guilt, among other things. But most importantly, I realized the power of never giving up hope.