riving home the other night on a country road at around 10:30 p.m., I came across two dogs ambling down the middle of the road. They were clearly lost or abandoned. I pulled over. One was a black Labrador and the other was a setter. Neither looked dangerous or showed signs of being ferocious. I opened my car door and called them over. They sniffed around and walked off, but stopped just behind the car. I got out and went over to them. I crouched down and called them gently over to me. The black lab had a collar. The setter did not. As I was soothing them and examining them, a car approached, slowed down and stopped in the middle of the road. A woman rolled down the passenger window.
“Are you okay?”
“Yes, I’ve found these dogs. They’ve either been abandoned or they ran off. They’re lost.”
“You should call the kennel.”
“Right. Good idea. I think I have the number on my phone.”
“Will you be alright on your own?”
“Yes, thanks. I live nearby.”
“Okay then, goodbye.”
As we were talking, another car pulled up on the side of the road. A man stepped out to check on the situation. The dogs were quiet. They enjoyed being petted. I told him the same things. He confirmed that everything was fine and got back in his car and drove off.
I decided to put the dogs in the back of my car so that they wouldn’t run off into the surrounding woods. They clambered in – a little hesitant at first. I called the kennel. A lady answered and gave me the number of the local dogcatcher. I called him and we coordinated a meeting point in town in 10 minutes, the amount of time he needed to get there.
He arrived in his special van, a wizened, bearded man. He held his digital reader up to the back of the necks of the dogs to see if they had their identifying chips. One did and one did not. We exchanged a few words, and then he gently led them to his van and escorted them to the kennel. The next day I checked in to find out what happened. The dogs had run away from their home and been missing for three days. The owners would be fined because the dogs had run away, but more importantly because one of them had no chip, collar or tag.
The incident led me to think about how this particular system is effectively structured to ensure safety and promote responsibility in our society.
The kennel exists to give unwanted dogs a home. It is run by people committed to the most basic beliefs of well-being. The dogcatcher’s job is to make sure that lost or abandoned dogs do not hurt people or get hurt. There is kindness and humanity in this simple structure. People who assist it in some way — either by finding a dog and returning it to the structure, by adopting a dog, or by donating objects and food to the kennel — come into contact with a structure that in its simplicity nears perfection.
In a utopian manner, the system provides for its members and radiates hope. I came away from this experience with the feeling that good had been done, that wrong had been made right, that I had helped restore some tiny sense of order to the world.
You might be wondering about the point of this essay. I chose to write about this mechanism of safety and responsibility in order not to use this space to talk about the everyday hardships, struggles, let-downs, inanities, vilifications, vituperations, bigotries, injustices, cruelties, and demoralizations that pervade and invade our society, our press, and our thoughts with ever-increasing frequency. I needed an Amelie moment and I found one — on a winding country road on a Thursday night in Cortona.