Living in a remote place with nine animals to look after makes it difficult to leave. Finding someone who can take care of this menagerie when traveling is not so easy. Recently while on business in Los Angeles, I left my seven horses, three dogs and cat in the care of a young woman who I’d just met.
After being gone for three days I arrived home late and was chatting with the woman, Julie, in the kitchen. I asked her how things had been. Calmly, without any hint of emotion, she informed me that Minnie, my old blind Chihuahua, had left the house, to find a place to die.
"It was her time," she told me confidently.
"What do you mean?" I asked, "Minnie’s fine! She’s not ready to die! Where is she?" I asked frantically.
"I don’t know, she’s no where to be found, I looked everywhere."
By now it was 11pm, a pitch black night without any moon.
"How long has she been missing?" I asked.
"The last time I saw her was when I fed the horses at noon."
"We have to find her! She’s out there somewhere!"
Thoughts of Minnie, scared, lost, and shivering in this unusually cold, summer evening, brought tears to my eyes. Minnie had never ventured far from the house. Beyond her familiar surroundings, lay open plains and mountains, populated by catcus, coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions and predatory birds. When I checked Minnie’s drinking bowl it was bone dry. Evidently she’d left the house thirsty, in the midst of a burning, hot, August afternoon.
Equipped with flashlights, we combed every square inch of the nineteen acre property. With no sign of Minnie I contemplated on how far an old, miniature, blind dog would travel? After three hours of searching we decided to call it a night.
The next morning I rose with the sun and tacked up my horse, Ruby. I had only one thing on my mind; to find Minnie, in whatever condition she was in.
Ruby and I scanned the areas outside the property boundary. Calling out her name began to feel pointless and I was starting to lose hope. If I could find her alive before the sun was in full force, she might have a chance. After a couple of hours, I gave up. Minnie was probably snatched by a coyote or trapped in a ditch somewhere, whimpering for help. This last thought brought up so much emotion in me I wasn't sure how I would get through the day.
I was about to eat breakfast when the phone rang, it was my Manzanita neighbor, ‘I just got a call from the prison, Minnie’s over there!’
‘What?’ I said in disbelief. ‘Yes, they just spotted her sitting on their lawn.’
The low security women’s prison was the closest building to us. About a mile away as the crow flies. After wandering for twenty hours, Minnie somehow was able to navigate herself to this location. Hungry and thirsty, it was probably the smell of prison breakfast that led her.
As we reached the prison, I saw about twenty women prisoners dressed in bright orange jump-suits, standing in a line. One of them was holding Minnie. As I walked towards her, I thanked her, and took Minnie from her arms. The line of women began to cheer and clap, joyously chanting the word "Min-nie!"
Safely back home, Minnie drank three bowls of water and took a nap. I apologized to Julie, and told her that any bad feelings towards her were gone. I was overjoyed at finding Minnie and with this triumphant emotional relief, Julie was instantly forgiven.
The next day, Minnie was back to her normal self. This whole experience had seemingly given Minnie a whole new lease on life. Since her adventure she has more energy and has made it very clear to me, 'I'm not done yet Sara!'