Dog Gone It

Kyle Norris' cell went off in the middle of a job. He checked the number flashing on his screen and saw that it was his mother. Kyle hesitated for a moment, knowing that chances were 99.9% sure that it was another unimportant and irrelevant call but there was always that .01% chance that it was an emergency and somebody was dead or dying and he didn't want to be the one who missed a doomsday call.

"Give me a second," he asked of his co-worker Frank who was helping him install the new handicapped accessible shower in an empty condo.

Kyle walked out into the empty living room and answered the ringing cell.

"Hi Ma, what is it?" Kyle asked, trying to sound polite and calm.

"Could you stop by on your way home from work?" She asked.

"I don't need a meal, Ma, I have plenty at the apartment."

"No, it's not that," She insisted.

"Well, can't Dad do it if you need some kind of help with something?"

"It's not that either," Kyle's mother said, her voice more excited than usual.

"So, what is it?" Kyle frowned, stepping toward the glass sliding door and glancing out at the scenery beyond.

"Listen to this!"

Kyle heard a dog barking in the background.

"You got a new dog?" Kyle asked when his mother returned the phone to her ear.

"Not a new dog!" She said gleefully.

"What, some old geyser from the rescue place?"

"It's our old Dog, Kyle!" His mother said gleefully.

"What are you talking about, Mom?" Kyle asked with confusion.

"It's Morton!" His mother exclaimed happily. "He's back!"

"It can't possibly be Morton," Kyle insisted. "It's been seven years."

"He had a microchip, remember?" His mother said delightfully. "It's him!"

Kyle heard the bark again and he nearly dropped the phone. "Holy shit," he said.

"I thought you would want to know," his mother deadpanned.

"Is he okay?" Kyle asked, trying not to revert back to his little kid voice.

"He's fine," his mother said proudly. "A little white around the snoot and a little slower, but he's the same."

"I'll be over as soon as I can," Kyle said, sounding more giddy then he meant to.

"We'll be here," His mother laughed.

Kyle ended the call and returned to the bathroom where Frank was diligently working without him.

"Everything okay?" Frank asked when he saw Kyle standing in the doorway with a perplexed and foreign look on his face.

"Have you ever heard of a dog coming back after disappearing for seven years?" Kyle asked.

"I don't think so," Frank admitted.

"My family just reunited with our dog that went missing seven years ago," Kyle said, sounding like a kid on Christmas morning. "Can you believe it?"

"The dumb mutt ran away?" Frank asked.

"Escaped off the leash during a walk," Kyle explained. "Saw a rabbit or something. Gave chase. Never returned."

"Wow, that must have been some chase!" Frank laughed.

"I gave up on him years ago," Kyle admitted. "I can't believe he's back."

"Well, congratulations," Frank said. "If only dogs could talk. I'm sure he has a story to tell."

Kyle had trouble concentrating on the job for the rest of the day. He felt like he was a jilted lover and his long lost love was taking him back. Or he was about to meet a famous celebrity. He thought he had outgrown the sentimentality of having a dog and had gotten over the loss of Morton, but here was feeling as excited as a groom on his wedding night.

Morton had joined the family when Kyle was ten, handpicked from a neighborhood litter of Labrador mix. Morton was black and it was Kyle, the oldest, who spent the most time house breaking and training the dog. His sister Lisa was four years younger than him and Bob two years behind her so they were too young to do much other than cuddle and love the family dog.

Morton went missing five years later in what turned out to be one of the worst days in Kyle's life – even more traumatic than his grandmother dying (she had been ill for years). And now, as a young adult seven years later, Kyle faced the prospect of reuniting with his long lost dog.

Of course, seven years is literally forever (49 years!) in dog years and Kyle knew the dog who would greet him when he got to his parent's house would not be the same dog in temperament, energy, or disposition as he remembered from his youth. But it was nice to know Morton was still alive. It was weird wondering all these years.

Kyle was glad when the work day was done and although he tried to play it cool with Frank as they loaded the tools and scraps into the van, he was anxious to rush home and see Morton – his seven year itch.

"Don't take it personal if doggie doesn't remember you," Frank joked as they said goodbye.

Kyle laughed but as he drove to his childhood home he started to feel anxious and paranoid. What if Morton didn't recognize him? Would having your long lost dog return be even more traumatic if he had doggie Alzheimer's? Wanted nothing to do with him?

Kyle had reacted like an Army General in the aftermath of Morton's disappearing. He initiated the initial search (that lasted for days), posted ads, sent out fliers, and visited the pound every day but after several weeks went by, he found himself suffering from emotional exhaustion and even depression.

He had been as close to Morton as he had any friend and he prayed every day and night that his dog would return. Was he dead? Was he hurt, lying in some cold dark ditch somewhere? Was somebody torturing him? Using him in dog fights or some other mean-spirited disgusting way? Would the family ever find out what happened to him? Even knowing he was dead would be easier than wondering what happened to him for years on end.

It was hard to go on with life when his heart was broken. He and his siblings took turns 'manning the fort' incase Morton showed up out of the blue. He suffered from acute sadness, longing, anger, and guilt, his grief mixing with sustained hope that never seemed to be resolved.

"It's like having a heart attack that never ends," he remembered telling his mother months after Morton disappeared.

It was an perplexing loss at best, a life altering traumatic event at worse, a undefined and unexplainable grief that he could never put into words or convey to others who simply didn't understand.

And now, in an instant, all those powerfully painful emotions had been evaporated with a single phone call. Morton was alive! Morton was home!

Kyle turned his pickup truck into the driveway of his childhood home, feeling as though he had gone back in time seven years.