Lost Dog, Unlocked Doors and Goodness

We lost Tucker for a couple hours yesterday. I felt terrible about it. I had let him out. He always barks when he wants back in. He never barked, though, so in the craziness of the day I didn’t think about letting him back in—I assumed I had let him back in. Late in the afternoon I thought it was strange he hadn’t been hanging out with us downstairs. And then I thought it was really strange when the boys spilled Cheerios all over the floor and he was nowhere to be seen. Still, I assumed he was sleeping on his bed, upstairs.

But when we opened the door to pick up Sophie from a play date, and he didn’t come running down to say goodbye, I knew something was wrong. I went upstairs and looked—no Tucker. Thinking he may have somehow gotten in the attic or basement, I looked both places—no Tucker. I had knots in my stomach when I looked out the bay window in the dining room only to see the gate open just enough for a large lab to squeeze through.

I called Andy. He sprinted to his car parked downtown, drove home and started driving around Fort Thomas, looking. I loaded the boys in the van, picked up Sophie and then we drove. We drove and drove and drove, windows down while it flurried outside, screaming “Tucker!” as loud as we could. We stopped to ask people if they had seen a black lab. One woman, who was walking her own dog, insisted on helping us. I had talked to her before, and at times she didn’t seem quite with it. She was older and it was cold and she struggled with walking long distances. She wanted to help us look. So I invited her—and her dog—in our van. She started yelling, too.

At the remembering place I saw a black dog tied to a tree. I thought I had found Tucker. But after getting out of our van I realized it wasn’t him. The man who owned the dog ripped off part of a cardboard box and I wrote my number on it. He then loaded up his black dog and started driving around on his own, helping us look.

Sometimes, exasperated with the notion that the world is largely an evil place, I find myself testing humanity. I leave car doors unlocked. I leave my diaper bag unattended at the museum. I leave my camera in my stroller outside of indoor exhibits at the zoo. When computer systems are down at local businesses I have no problem with someone writing my credit card information on a piece of paper to be input at a later time. If I’m not home and a plumber or electrician or anyone, really, needs access to our house I simply leave the front door unlocked.

I trust.

I realize I’m lucky in that I can trust. I live in a neighborhood that allows more trust than other neighborhoods. And I don’t do anything that would put my family in danger. As much as my heart goes out to hitchhikers on cold, winter days, I never pick them up. I don’t allow door-to-door salespeople—particularly those who want to “inspect our house in order to give us a housecleaning estimate” inside. There are some neighborhoods in which, when I park on the street, I do lock my car doors. And maybe, someday, when I’m writing about having spent hours canceling credit cards, etc., because of a stolen wallet I will rethink my current theory.

I’ve been robbed, once. In college, someone stole my computer—they walked into our house through the unlocked basement door and into my room in the middle of the night (I was, thankfully, home that weekend). They picked up my computer and walked out. From that experience I took away the necessity of saving one’s work in multiple places. But when Tucker was lost, I thought about a neighbor who might find him. So I left our front door wide open so anyone could easily return him.

We found Tucker—on our street, of all places. A neighbor heard us yelling and ran outside, with Tucker on a leash. He had spent much of the afternoon at a beautiful Arts & Crafts bungalow, one we, ironically, considered buying when it was for sale several years back. He seemed overjoyed with his afternoon adventure. I thanked the neighbor profusely while also trying to deal with an overexcited lab and three overexcited children.

I dropped the woman who had been riding with us off and took the kids home. I called Andy. He came home, relieved. I walked to Anita’s, a Mexican restaurant across the street, and bought a gift card for the neighbor. I wrote a thank you note, and delivered it. I called my parents and learned that Andy had asked them to make calls for us—animal control, the vet’s office, etc. I thanked them, too.

There is evil in this world. Daily I see images and hear stories I wish I could erase from my brain. There is unfairness, deep unfairness, and hurt beyond anything I could ever imagine. But I also believe in the world’s goodness. I believe one of the main reasons we live in a (somewhat) civilized society is because there is more goodness than evil. I believe in unlocked doors, purses left attended, neighbors who will take care of a large lab for an afternoon and strangers who will give up what they’re doing to help look for a dog they’ve never met.

Perhaps I’m naive. Perhaps I will take much of this back, when one of my experiments involving the goodness of society goes wrong. But for now, my little humanity tests have all proved my theory that people, most people, are good. Most people will let unattended belongings be. Most people don’t take advantage. Most people will help a stranger in need. Our world can be awful—but sometimes, more times than not, I think—it can be beautiful, too.

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it—always.” —Mahatma Gandhi