This morning, while walking back from our daily trip to the coffee shop, Matilda disappeared. That’s the way it looked to me. If you ask Matilda, she may say that it was me who disappeared.

Like so many times before, i had let Matilda off leash in a large empty lot behind a large shopping center. With little vehicle traffic in the area and a lot of room to get some exercise, Matilda enjoys the opportunity to stretch her legs a bit and investigate new scents there.

This time she caught the scent of a squirrel and she took off as if she was late for a steak dinner. And it wasn’t but a few moments before i lost sight of her.

Fortunately, we have been practicing with a whistle and clicker as an indicator that Matilda was about to get a treat and her response to the whistle or the clicker usually resulted in her running over to me to get it. It wouldn’t be long, i thought to myself. She’ll hear the whistle and she’ll come running. And everything would be fine.

Until today, all that practice clicking and whistling had paid off. This time, nothing. No Matilda. I didn’t see her head pop up to figure out where i was like she had done in the past. She was gone.

I diligently searched the tall brush as i walked in the direction i last saw her headed. And i whistled and clicked, and whistled again and again. Still nothing. My whistling stirred all the dogs in the residential area north of the lot we were in and i listened for Matilda’s bark from among the many. Still nothing.

At this point i made the decision to walk back to the house without her and get the car to expand my search. I thought to myself that being in the car would help me find her and that i could respond faster if someone should find her and call me.

With a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, i drove back to where i last saw her – delaying only to turn off the new (and unfamiliar) “do not disturb” feature on my phone that prevented phone and text notifications while i was driving. And it was a good thing i did. After fumbling with the phone trying to determine how and if i had properly set the phone to receive calls while driving, one came in.

The call was from a young woman named Victoria. She introduced herself and said that she had found Matilda and that she would hold on to her until i could get there.

She was at the Starbucks where Matilda and i were earlier – about a quarter mile or so from where we lost each other. Matilda had found her way back, crossing a wide street and the very large parking area of this very large shopping center to the tiny corner of the complex where the coffee shop sat.

I was already imagining a life without Matilda when Victoria called.

Thank you, Victoria. Matilda is a magical dog. And you did a wonderful and blessed thing by bringing us back together.