SATURDAY, CONTINUED: We were driving back from the VW dealer where we took the car to have its brake lights replaced because we couldn't manage it ourself because we're something like half a man and now it's going to cost $1,875 because the mechanic managed to helpfully find other things wrong with the car, when we got a call from our daughter that our dog Jimmy had scampered off into the wild.

Turns out we'd left the back gate open when we were attempting the art of light bulb installation.

Jimmy is more than 16 years old. He's basically blind and deaf; his back legs don't work too well. If we took him to an Australian shepherd dealership, the mechanic would say "Everything from the femur to the fibula on both the rear driver and passenger legs is shot, the front passenger side dewclaw is gone, there's a toe missing from the front driver side paw, both rear hocks need to be replaced and the muzzle should be blown out. You're looking at $2,200."

Of course, we were frantic. Our neighborhood is full of serpentine streets laid out by a developer who was trying to get away from the whole "straight lines" idea.

When we got to our neighborhood, an Animal Services guy was already there looking around, our son Ray was driving around and we called our great friend Charlie who dropped everything to join the search with his daughter Maxine.


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We all drove and drove, totally saturating the streets near our house before tossing out a wider net. It's like when you lose your car keys and you look three or four times in the usual places before you have to start looking in stupid spots like air vents and the crisper drawer in the fridge.

After an hour, we decided to call Animal Care and shimmied up the phone tree until we got a lady who asked us what kind of dog we have (Australian) and our cross streets (Palo Verde and Wardlow).

"We've got a Chihuahua up by Olive Avenue," she chirped. Then, she kept saying stuff like that over and over, each time getting our hopes up: "Wait a minute ..." she paused. "OK, we've got a wire terrier up in North Long Beach. It's a female. Is your dog a female?"

"Male," we said. "A non-wire terrier in East Long Beach."

"Hold it. We've got a toy poodle. Black. Near the Traffic Circle."

We hung up before she started talking about kangaroos and parrots.

Rain was coming and we imagined our faithful dog curled up, exhausted and confused, beneath a hibiscus plant somewhere far away, so we drove on, up and down avenues we've never seen before.

Eventually, it dawned on us that Jimmy's tag might have our old phone number on it. We drove home, dug our old cellphone out of the junk drawer and plugged it in and then motored off to rejoin the hunt, where we kept seeing the same joggers and people walking their leashed dogs. We called our son and had him check the old phone back at the house.

There were two messages from some neighbors who live just a block from our house. They had Jimmy. The sun came out and all the angels and the saints sang.

We went over with our daughter to pick him up, braced for a joyous reunion in which Jimmy would launch himself at us, knocking us to the ground and covering us with slobbering kisses.

When we got there, James was lying on the rug in the family room, surrounded by teenage girls and their mother. He looked at us like our face rang a bell.

"We washed him and fed him and we've just been sitting here petting him," said the woman, still scratching Jimmy's ears as he lost all interest in us. (We are an idiot for forgetting her and her husband's names, such was our relief at finding Jimmy. We welcome your thinking less of us.)

Eventually, we wrenched him from his little paradise and got him into the car and then to his real house, where he sprawled, as he always does, on our king-size bed, which is only king-size to him. Our wife and we each are allotted a little strip on the outer edges about half the size of an Army cot. 

We sat next to him and watched Jimmy dream of all those houses out there, and how his research has shown that they're all full of loving people who will give him treats and even baths that aren't too horrible and rugs in front of the fireplace.

Jimmy used to talk to us, for column purposes. For a columnist, a talking dog is golden. He's not too chatty these days, but he did manage to let us know that, while it's good to be home, he'll be watching the back gate closely.

tgrobaty@yahoo.com, 562-499-1256 or twitter.com/grobaty