Every now and then, the winds of fate blow in a curious pattern, sweeping up whatever is in their path and configuring it into a perfect storm of disaster. My perfect storm hit a few months back and included a baby, a runaway dog, and a bowl of cat food. The mayhem that resulted put what I profess to believe to the test.

My daughter and her husband had left my two-month-old granddaughter in my care while they made a necessary out-of-town trip, and I was over the moon about getting to keep this little cupcake for a few days. I dropped her parents at the airport, and with my precious cargo aboard, carefully wended my way home through the nightmare of Atlanta’s rush hour traffic. When at last I pulled into my driveway, safe and sound with a sleeping baby, I breathed a sigh of relief.

I thought I was playing it smart by parking in the wide open space of the driveway instead of in the confined space of the garage where it would have been a tight squeeze to remove the car seat and take it into the house through the connecting door. So, I gently lifted the car seat to avoid disturbing the baby and headed to my front door instead. That’s when the first unexpected gust of wind hit me in the face.

I had barely cracked the door open when my dog Harper, unhinged by my unusual entrance through the front door, bolted straight at me, nearly sending me (and the baby) crashing down on the sidewalk. Fortunately, I regained my balance before falling, but Harper, smelling freedom, was already a streak of brown, taking off down the hill. I bellowed after him, to no avail.

After I carried the car seat inside and set it safely down on the floor, I went back outside and ran around our cul-de-sac, yelling for Harper. Nothing. Harper has many good qualities, but coming when called is not one of them. Back inside the house, I grabbed my phone to text my husband at work. I wanted him to come home immediately and mount a search party.

As I reached for my phone, I suddenly remembered that in ten+ years of marriage, my husband had only forgotten to take his cell phone to work with him one time, today. With texting off the table, I punched in his office number instead. My husband is almost never at his desk, but I hoped this time would be an exception. Worse than no answer, I got a recording, informing me I had called a number that was not in service. Three more attempts with the same result proved I hadn’t called the wrong number, but my calls would not go through. I felt the beginnings of a full-blown panic attack coming on. Every minute that passed likely took Harper farther away from home and, I feared, closer to the highway in front of our neighborhood.

As a last resort, I decided to email my husband, even though I knew without his phone on him, he’d likely not check his email until he was back at his computer at the end of the day. But with no carrier pigeons available, I was out of aces. I hit “send” and hoped the message would reach my husband in time. The email bounced right back to me with an error message that said his mailbox did not exist. What in the world was going on? I was sure any minute Rod Serling’s voice would announce that I’d entered The Twilight Zone.

I took a deep breath and tried to regain my composure because I knew the baby had to be my top priority. As much as I love my Harper boy, there was no way I could leave the baby to go after him. “Well,” I said aloud, “I’m always spouting off about the power of hope. I have no choice but to hold onto the hope that Harper will somehow be guided home safely.”

By this time, the baby had begun to stir, so I lifted her out of the car seat and laid her on my bed to change her diaper. As soon as I got her diaper off, my doorbell rang. I answered the door, holding a half-naked baby, to find the gray-haired Korean man from a few doors down, pointing toward his house and trying to explain something to me in a mix of halting English and Korean. I only know how to say “hi” in Korean, so after “Annyeong” I was pretty lost, but I thought I heard him say “dog.”

Just then his teenaged grandson came running up and explained that Harper was in his grandfather’s yard. I was so relieved I started saying “thank you” in every language I knew, although Korean didn’t happen to be one of them. I grabbed Harper’s leash and a Milk Bone and handed them to the grandson.

“He’ll come right to you if he sees a treat,” I explained. “If you could put his leash on and bring him home, I would be so grateful. I’m here alone and can’t leave the baby.” (And you can’t seem to dress her completely either, lady, they probably thought to themselves.)

The grandson relayed the plan to his grandfather and they headed back toward their house. I finally got the baby diapered—grateful that she hadn’t leaked anywhere—and was marveling at how my hope had been rewarded. Somewhere in the midst of my marveling, I realized it was taking a very long time for my neighbors to return with Harper.

I wrapped a blanket around the baby and went outside to take a quick look down the street—just in time to see Harper dashing down the cross street, followed by the grandson waving a leash and a Milk Bone in the air…and the grandfather, bringing up the rear, yelling something in Korean. Apparently, Harper had managed to elude their grasp.

I Iost sight of the dog chasers, so I took the baby back inside the warm house, fed her a bottle and held onto my hope for Harper’s safe return. About ten minutes later, grandfather and grandson again knocked at my door, this time with the wayward Harper in tow. They’d found him at the end of the street in a neighbor’s open garage, chowing down on a bowl of cat food. Harper may love to run like the wind, but not as much as he loves to eat. And why settle for one crummy Milk Bone when the smell of tuna is in the air?

The grandson told me that after he’d attached the leash, Harper insisted on finishing the entire bowl of free food before allowing himself to be led out of the garage. The instant I opened my door, Harper charged into the house as wildly as he’d charged out of it, except now he was covered in wet mud which he generously spread all over the carpets I’d spent $150 to have cleaned exactly one week before.

All three of us now exhausted—and at least two of us with full bellies—we collapsed, me in the rocker with babe in arms and Harper on the floor at my feet. The winds were calm; the storm had passed. The rhythmic breathing of contented infant and canine slumber was the only sound. I snuggled the baby close to me, rubbed Harper’s head with my foot and shot a grateful glance heavenward.

Emily Dickinson wrote that hope is the thing with feathers, but my perfect storm taught me that hope rewarded is the thing covered in muddy brown fur. And, P.S., sometimes hope waves a Milk Bone and speaks Korean.

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