On Friday evening, Mace and I took our eleven-week-old puppy Adriana to the Fort Campbell Military Base. We were having dinner with the goofiest hound dog we ever fostered, Silvio Dante, and his family.
Silvio’s parents invited a few neighbors. In total, seven humans feasted on fried green tomatoes and garbage bread while six dogs, including Meadow and Adriana, wrestled in a shared rectangular yard. The yard was the length a football field and wedged in between rows of military housing.
By far, Adriana a.k.a Ade was the smallest dog in the group. On occasion, a four-month-old Great Dane got too frisky. He’d chomped on Ade’s head like it was as a squeaky toy. Predictably, she’d squeak, then dash under the picnic table. Ade never seemed fearful or timid. Instead, she wore a delighted expression, as though she loved every second of being around new friends.
Towards the end of dinner, Silvio’s mom announced she was doing the ALS challenge. Her husband filled the bucket with ice and water. Patrick had just finished his first round of special operation’s training. He was tired and sore, but he seemed good-natured about almost everything from setting the picnic table to throwing a bucket of ice water over his wife.
We all stood around the patio, dogs included, and watched Patrick dump the frigid water over his wife’s head. She squealed when the water hit her skin. We laughed. But when the bucket, hit the concrete patio, it sounded like an explosion. Adriana immediately bolted, floppy little ears waving behind her.
At first, Ade’s disappearance didn’t seem real, and for ten full seconds I watched her silhouette recede in stunned silence. Patrick acted first and darted after her with bare feet covered in blisters. Soon, they were both out of sight. After five minutes passed, Mason grabbed the car keys and headed in the same direction as Patrick. When ten more minutes went by, and nobody returned, I realized that Adriana had run away on the Fort Campbell Military Base, home of the 101st Airborne Division.
Dusk came and went. There were sightings of Adriana. Military families, playing in yards or playgrounds, informed us about a fleeing white puppy. Somebody said she sprinted towards Gate 3. Another saw her by the Inspector General’s office or Mahaffey Middle School.
We had plenty of help. As dark neared, soldiers pulled out spotlights and headlamps and drove or walked around Stryker Village. Wives posted Adriana’s picture on Facebook. A few other folks went door to door, letting neighbors know an eleven-week-old puppy was missing on base.
At one point, tired, defeated, and scared, I marched into the Military Police office and demanded they help me. If they could find Osama bin Laden, then they could damn well find a puppy. By the end of the evening, an empathetic MP drove around Stryker Village with his floodlights blazing.
Late that night, Mason and I drove the thirty-three miles back to the Farnival in complete silence. In the distance we saw flashes of lightning and heard rumbles of thunder.
The Next Day
The registration gate opened at 5 AM. Mace and I were waiting in the parking lot. The storm’s edge still lingered over Fort Campbell, and the rain fell in a steady drizzle.
On that dark, soggy morning, Mace and I brought the rest of our pack because we hoped Adriana would smell their scent. Wearing raincoats and headlamps, we started walking. The five of us looked everywhere she had been sighted, plus places we couldn’t see the night before. We searched pavilions, office trailers, bushes, ditches, drain pipes, athletic fields, bleachers, and deserted sheds. We trekked near the outermost barbed-wire fencing.
The sky lightened. The rain stopped. Our sneakers and shins were soaked and covered in grass clippings and mud. The same soldiers and army wives who had searched the night before texted. They wanted to know how they could help.
After two long hours of searching, I heard the distinct sound Ade’s ID tag made when it clinked against her collar. For a second, I doubted I really heard the sound and wondered if I imagined it because I’d been desperate to hear it for hours. Then I saw her little white shape bouncing down the sidewalk. Ade didn’t greet us but simply moved into line with her pack, acting as though she hadn’t been missing for fifteen hours. Besides her paws, she was surprisingly dry, unscathed. She didn’t even look like she needed a bath. It wouldn’t have mattered if she did. All that mattered was we found our puppy.
On our way home, we stopped by the MP’s office and let them know we found Ade. The officer, a large black man with a quick grin said, “I’ll let the President know we can call off the choppers.”
(I want to give a shout out to all the soldiers and military families on the Fort Campbell Military Base who helped us search for Adriana. Thank you so much.)