Well, that didn't take long. We had planned to walk the neighborhood after church looking for Paco's owner, but the man showed up around 11:00. Though Paco had no collar, he did have a radio frequency chip implanted, and the man just followed the signal to our house, where he found Ethan walking him on the borrowed leash.
We hastened to explain that we'd been on the way to look for his home, but the man eyed us rather suspiciously, as if we'd been plotting to keep his dog.
"We fed him and gave him water," Bill said. "He seemed to enjoy playing with our dog this morning."
"Our dog is big!" Allyson chimed in. "She tried to bite him."
"No she didn't," I assured the man, whose eyes widened in alarm. "They were just playing."
He extended his hand to me and Bill. "Thank you for taking care of him. My wife will be so happy."
"What's his name?" I asked, not mentioning that Ethan had already named him.
He grinned. "Poppy!" (Not so far off from Paco, don't you think?)
"Tell the puppy goodbye," Bill said to Allyson, who leaned against his side, sheltered in the crook of his arm.
"Bye, puppy!" she said in a quavering voice. She broke into sobs after the truck pulled away, her little shoulders heaving. She should have listened to her father: "Don't get attached!"
It hurts my heart to see her sobbing, but honestly this was such a relief. Bill and I passed a pretty difficult night. At bedtime we put Paco/Poppy in the garage in the collapsible carrier that we'd put Lola in on her first night. (She rolled it around like a hamster ball, but Poppy looked lost in it.)
Ethan gave him a tiny serving of canned dog food, a free sample we haven't given to Lola for fear that she'll disdain her (cheaper) dry food. That little dog devoured the food and licked the bowl clean! Apparently the reason he hadn't eaten before was that Lola's dry food wasn't good enough for him.
Have you ever wondered how long a little dog can yap and yap? I'll tell you. For hours. Hours. Around 11:00, we tried transferring Poppy to the back porch. We locked Lola in her run again and set up the carrier at the back door. That made her yaps a little fainter, but it stressed Bill since we knew the neighbors would be bothered. The rigid set of his shoulders and the tightness of his jaw as we sat watching Seinfeld reruns gave away his frustration.
"Are you mad at me?" I asked meekly.
"Not mad exactly, but frustrated. You guys just don't think things through."
"I'll walk him around myself in the morning," I promised. "It's just one night."
We tried to sleep, but every time we dozed off, Poppy resumed his lament. Interspersed with his high pitched yipes were Lola's deeper barks. I also heard little scritch-scratches at the back door, and I hoped Bill wasn't hearing that too.
Around 1:00, we heard a woman outside, calling frantically for someone or something. Bill thundered down the stairs, and I stumbled down behind him. Could this be the Chihuahua's owner? No, it was the neighbor behind us. Their tiny white Pomeranian mix had gotten away around midnight, and she'd been hoping the yapping in our backyard might be coming from her dog. We wished her good luck and good night.
At that point, Bill let Lola and Poppy out of their enclosures and watched them for a few minutes. They seemed to be best buddies, and now both of them were quiet. Maybe Poppy had just been lonely.
I fell into an uneasy sleep around 1:30 or 2:00, with visions of Lola eating the poor dog, but when I woke up this morning they were both standing at the back door begging to come in.
I think Lola was a little sad to see him go, but I wasn't so much. Why? Maybe it was the little surprise he left us in the dog carrier (which Bill cleaned up, by the way).
Still, I have to admit it was a pretty exciting 18 hours. It was especially cool getting to return him safely to his owner. Thank you for your prayers and good wishes!