Steamboat Springs We may never know what compelled Bambi to go AWOL on Aug. 22. Was it separation anxiety? Or was it a case of reaching for a lifelong dream of working for the phone company? Perhaps Bambi was simply answering the call of the wild.
Could a Chihuahua ever be devious enough to hatch a plot? A scheme resulting in her owner's mother-in-law crawling under a truck in her nightgown? Bambi ain't talkin' to the press this week.
I was introduced to Bambi at the home of John and Nicole Ashby this week. And I quickly became wary. The little dog refused to make eye contact and trembled uncontrollably at the sound of my voice. Clearly, she was hiding something.
Nicole is a lifelong animal lover who has had some heartbreakingly bad luck with lost pets. She expressed profound gratitude this week to all of her neighbors on Pamela Lane for the energy they put into Bambi's rescue.
"I've lived all over Colorado and this town has been the most helpful, loving, caretaking town I've ever seen," Nicole said. "That's why we moved up here."
Nicole also has her mother-in-law, Dianna Ashby, to thank.
Nicole, John, and son, Christopher, 6, live on Pamela Lane with two dogs, two cats and a handful of fish swimming in a spotless aquarium.
John's dog is a gregarious boxer named Niya. A year ago, Nicole adopted Bambi from a family in Craig.
"She was so small when we got her that I could hold her in my hand," Nicole said.
The two dogs couldn't be more different.
Bambi has a distinctive gait that can be attributed to the fact that the elbow on one of her legs never formed properly.
"Everywhere we go, people ask me if she has a broken leg," Nicole said.
Bambi's ill-advised run for freedom began when the human members of the family left for Smith Mountain Lake, Va., to visit Nicole's family.
Personally, I think Bambi had been waiting for a chance to bust out and party. Nicole disagrees. She insists Chihuahuas typically bond strongly to one human only, and Bambi was upset by her absence.
Whatever the case, Dianna Ashby had agreed to come up to Steamboat from the Front Range and care for her son's pets. The only gap in the plan was the first day the Ashbys were gone in Virginia. A friend in Steamboat had agreed to look in on the critters at midday on that Tuesday.
As soon as the pet-sitter turned the dogs out into the backyard, Bambi darted through a hole in the fence and set out for the high weeds.
Dianna arrived in Steam-boat to a phone message from the interim pet sitter letting her know Bambi was on the loose. The mother-in-law went into full panic mode.
"She went to everyone on the block and talked to everyone in (Emerald) Park," Nicole said. "There were posters everywhere. The whole neighborhood was looking for her. We were thinking about flying home early."
A day later, city parks workers spotted the Chihuahua doing the doggy paddle in a couple of feet of water in the ditch between Dudley Field and Emerald baseball diamonds. She splashed away before they could corral her.
When Dianna received a phone call on the third day from workers in the Qwest work yard on the west side of the Yampa River, she left the house so fast she didn't have time to change out of her flannel nightgown. The guys at Qwest were herding the missing dog to keep her from escaping, and she'd taken refuge under one of their trucks.
Ironically, John Ashby works at Qwest's downtown headquarters in Steamboat. But that's not all. Dianna had a long career with Qwest as well.
"She used to climb telephone poles. In fact, she had to climb down a telephone pole to go into labor when John was born," Nicole said.
Bambi, unable to dial the phone, did the next best thing and found the phone company.
It goes without saying that a mother-in-law who once climbed telephone poles for a living wouldn't hesitate to scramble under a truck to recover a wayward Chihuahua. She grabbed Bambi by her good leg and dragged her to safety.
Now, Nicole and Bambi are working on ways to show their gratitude to Dianna.
I'm left scratching my head, wondering if a lost Chihuahua who turns up at the phone company is effectively placing a 911 call.
You tell me.
- To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org