My friend lives a block away, so I just pulled on my cold-weather gear and walked up. The dog - a very alert terrier-ish breed - was inside at the moment. She brought him onto the porch and put him on her dog's chain. He began to walk in a three-foot circle, glancing into the house through the front door each time he came around to it.
"He has a tag with a phone number. We called it and left a message, but there's no answer." The tag also had an address, for Shavertown. Shavertown is a good 15 miles or so from Nanticoke. The dog didn't look like he had just walked 15 miles. How did he get here?
Another friend of ours had "found" the dog when he was getting out of his car at my friend's house. He was rummaging through his trunk for something when the dog came up to him, shivering slightly. He actually tried to get into the trunk - he certainly wanted to go somewhere.
The sun was setting, light was failing. If we were going to do something about returning this dog, we would need to do it soon. It would be better to have strangers walking around a neighborhood trying to return a dog before sunset rather than after dark.
We came up with a plan: we would drive the dog back to its home. If there was no one there, we would try to determine if the residents had just stepped out, or if maybe they were on vacation or something. (In which case they might conceivably have left the dog with friends or relatives in Nanticoke, who had managed to lose their dog and were now frantically trying to locate it!) If the residents were likely to be back soon, we would tie the dog up outside of their house. If they would not be back for a while - something we would need to find out about from neighbors - then we would leave the dog with one of the neighbors. Failing that, we would drive the dog back to Nanticoke and formulate a new plan.
My friend whose house we were at would drive, since she had a roomy SUV. Our other friend would navigate, and I would put my experience with Haley to good use as the dog wrangler.
We found the neighborhood without too much difficulty, and Spooky (the dog) grew increasingly excited as we got closer to home. But the address could have been either of two unnumbered houses in the right part of the street. We pulled into the larger of the two driveways and decided to start knocking on doors.
We must have made quite a sight: a small, curly-haired schoolteacher driving a huge SUV, accompanied by a thin man in a baseball cap and a enormous bear of a man acting as dog wrangler. No wonder the neighbor across the street watched us warily as we pulled up, and retreated into her house as we got out.
The first house was not the right one. The cute teenage girl who answered the door said she thought that Spooky was the dog from next door, but she wasn't sure. This seemed odd. The houses weren't that far apart. Could she really not know her next-door neighbors?
We tried the house next door. It was dark, but there were two cars parked in the driveway, which seemed promising. As we walked up the driveway, the dog began to yip and yelp - even more when he managed to get one of his feet under one of mine. We had stupidly forgotten that the boxy plastic thing on his collar was probably an "invisible fence" shock collar - and we had just walked through the virtual fence. (Was this why the dog had developed the habit of walking in circles?) All for nothing, as no one responded to repeated rings of the doorbell.
Next we tried the wary neighbor across the street. She was much friendlier that we at first had assumed, and confirmed that the dog in fact did belong to the people across the street, who were on vacation, or something. Seems that these people were the quiet types who kept to themselves - a family of serial killers, I immediately decided - and no one in the neighborhood really knew them very well. She called the teenage girl who we had first spoken to, and arranged to have the dog stay at the girl's house while the initially-wary-but-now-friendly woman across the street tried to locate some relatives of the missing neighbors. (She believed they did have some relatives in Nanticoke, so suddenly the incompetent dogsitter scenario seemed more likely.)
We left Spooky with the neighbors, and drove back to Nanticoke. Now we have to watch the local papers and telephone poles for LOST DOG notices, posted by the dogsitter who lost Spooky. Somebody, somewhere, is definitely freaking out right about now.
UPDATE, 4/19/2011: It's weird to be writing an update
Like I said, I have no idea what became of Spooky. I hope everything worked out for him.