Where the Woods Met Henry

   I heard the terrorizing tone of Sadie’s bark. It was coarse and disturbing. It was a bark that would make anyone fearful, a bark that could make grounds shake and mountains quiver. I had never heard that bark from her before. I stared at her for a moment. What could have possibly caused Sadie to bark with such fear? She was standing extremely alert, pushing most of her weight to her front paws as if she was ready to jump forward, into the woods. But she stood still.

   “Sadie. Come!” I yelled. “Sadie, come on!” But she continued on, unphased. She didn’t even flinch enough to acknowledge I was calling her, she just stood there in her trance.

   I persisted to call her name. I baited her with treats and food and a walk, but nothing moved her. She stayed growling at the woods. I looked around at the forest, searching for any speck of disturbance that wasn’t already caused by Sadie. But there was nothing. She was in eyesight and was in no harm, so I left her there and went inside.

   I had not a worry in my mind despite the fact that Sadie Never barked. She never spoke. She would rather stand outside, waiting for someone to open the door than bark at us to tell us she wanted to come in, but here she was, barking louder than anything else. I couldn’t even imagine that it was anything more than a squirrel. I didn’t want the idea to even cross my mind, so it didn’t even cross my mind.

   “Mom, Sadie isn’t moving. She is just standing there barking.” I grabbed my water bottle and sat on the leather ottoman.

   She placed her iPad down on the side of her chair.

   “Did you see Henry?” She said.

    Henry was our other dog. Though he was little, he took up space with his personality. We always said that he thought he was a German Shepherd. He was heart and courage. Afraid of nothing with no speck of cowardice. He was a lion, even if he was ⅛ of the size.

    I stared at her confused. “What? I didn’t even know he was out.”

    I focused outside to where Sadie was still barking emphatically. She had not moved at all. But then, I looked back at my mom. She had this terrible look glazed over her eyes. It so easily had struck fear in me.

    ¨Mom?¨ And she got up and ran to the door, and I followed her closely.

     “Henry!!” No reply. “Henry! HENRY!!” Nothing.

     My Mom’s calls started to resemble Sadie’s bark, who was still outside the rock wall, yelling into the forest. She wreaked havoc with her howl that was so harsh and rough. I raced over to her and pulled her back to the deck where my mom was still calling for Henry over, and over, and over again. And over again. And still, after forty minutes, there was no sign of his scruffy, white fur.

     The daylight faded and black was dragged across the sky in what felt like seconds, but what was more like minutes, or hours. It was May, and in May most days are warm and most nights are cool, but this night seemed so cold compared to any other winter.

     My Dad got home at 8 and immediately joined us when he heard the news.

     “I don’t know where he is…” My mom mumbled. She lightly placed her hand on her neck and rubbed like it was strained.

     “This isn’t right, I can feel it.” She said. Before she spoke she stuttered a bit, as if there was something blocking her from speaking. Her eyes were becoming mistier with every moment. I didn’t need her to hold it in, I really didn’t need her to be strong.

      “It’s okay,” I said. I leaned my head on her shoulder.

      “I know.” She said. I lifted up my head to look at her profile. I came to realize that she wasn’t staying strong for me. It was for her. Although, she still looked defeated. She looked so lost. I felt so similar but lacked her composure. As the minutes passed, I started to have that same disbelief that my mom complained of.

      Henry wasn’t disobedient. He came when he was called, and sat when we said sit. But he never came when we called, and sit, was a word now reserved for only Sadie.

      My Dad’s brows were furrowed as he stared into the woods. I looked out at where Henry could have been. I saw the Trees and the grass. The new leaves, and the passing flowers. The woods were so full but seemed so empty. The birds seemed to have fallen asleep and the squirrels went into their homes early. The bugs decided to take a night off and so did the mosquitos. The whole forest stood still. You could hear nothing except for Henry’s name cutting through the silence. It was eery and concerning. I felt like all of the animals had gone off to their nests or homes, resting. Or even watching. I took a breath in. I was taken by how fresh and beautiful everything was, but mostly how terrible this feeling was.

     None of this was even bordering right. I had this aching pit in my stomach filled with concern. After the one-thousandth call, I had come accustomed to that aching and we chose to give up for tonight. I desperately wanted to keep calling. I wanted to see him prance out of the forest and hear that yap, but what would that do except deprive me of my sleep so much that my eyelids wouldn’t have the energy to stay open. Why should I stay up and yell until my voice was nothing but a whisper? So, I went inside. I slept with my curtains open for the first time in years. Usually, the darkness would frighten me. The forest and all of its critters and monsters terrified me, but I kept them open for tonight in hopes that when that little white guy would make his way through the pitch darkness, I would be able to see it through my window.

    The next day as I walked home from school, I expected to see him. I expected that he would run up the road and into my arms like it was a movie. But what movie’s fail to show, is the period when he didn’t come home. We took days slowly coming accustomed to him not being there. The ending lacked all versions of closure, but somehow it was found.

     As we reminisced a couple months after he ran away, I started to feel this odd sense of happiness. I was no longer seeking for that “all important” closure, and I settled for who he was. He had such a personality and such a presence. He was my childhood, there for every moment since I was two, and as he left that night I came into my new role, where I no longer expected the movie version, but I accepted the beauty of a life. I learned to admire the ending of a journey and how it was necessary. And that night, I thought, How fitting? Henry, this tough little dog with a personality as big as the moon, bounded off into the woods one night and didn’t come back. It was as mysterious as he was. It was a story to tell, exactly how it should be. His whole life was a story and it ended with a mystery, which seemed just about right. It would have been a shame if this extraordinary dog would have had such an ordinary ending. But it was perfect how his story never really ended, it faded and left everyone in awe. How perfect. How fitting. How… Henry.

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