Today’s post comes from billinmpls.
A couple of weeks ago, I noticed the sign you see in the header photo planted on a street corner near my house. A commonplace, innocuous sign, one I might have not noticed at all except for two things:
1. Except for the picture, which looks a little impersonal- like the sort of photo that comes when you buy a picture frame, there’s no information about the dog. Nothing about the breed or his name or the neighborhood he usually calls home.
2. That curious statement, “Do not approach or chase”. Did that mean that the dog was dangerous in some way to approach?
I would likely have forgotten about the sign except that, recently, I saw the same sign in a completely different part of Minneapolis, three or four miles from where I saw the first sign. Usually when a pet is missing, you see a few signs posted on telephone poles around the neighborhood. They’re not generally as elaborate as the two signs I had seen and they don’t usually blanket the city.
And then, when I was driving in a fairly distant northern exurb—Blaine or Coon Rapids—and I saw almost the same sign. It had a different dog photo and a different phone number, but the same layout and the same exhortation: DO NOT CHASE!
The thought struck me, “What if the signs are not about lost dogs at all? What if they are some sort of anonymous signal to someone or some group, hiding in plain sight? After all, nobody who doesn’t recognize the sign as a signal is going to call the number if there is, in fact, no lost dog.
I had decided to keep my eyes peeled for more of these “Do Not Chase” signs and to try to discern some sort of pattern in their placement and then tried searching online to see if anyone else had noticed these curious signs. And that’s when I came across an article in a minor paper that purports to explain the mystery. It turns out that there is an organization of volunteers who make it their mission to help people recover lost pets. They call themselves “The Retrievers” and they have established a protocol for how they proceed. One thing they do is to put up signs over a very wide area. Lost dogs sometimes travel surprisingly far from their home, apparently. Another distinctive feature of their protocol is that they always urge informants not to chase the dog if they spot it. Lost dogs are stressed as a rule and in survival mode. Chasing them exacerbates that and can make them harder to find and coax into confinement.
My mystery turned out not to be especially mysterious after all. That is, unless the article in the little local paper was just a red herring to throw us off the trail. But there are other unsolved mysteries around us, mysteries that beg an explanation. Like that business that never seems to have any customers and yet has been there for years. Is it a front for something? What about that house where you’ve never seen anyone come or go? That guy you’re always seeing. Doesn’t he have to be somewhere? What’s he up to?
I was walking the dog one morning and passed by an unremarkable house. A pickup truck was in the driveway of the garage and the hood was open. One of the truck’s doors was open and the radio was on and playing an Ernest Tubb song. The back door of the house opened and an older man came out and walked toward the truck. He had on a seed cap of some sort, baggy jeans, a heavy plaid wool shirt. And red high heels. I thought to myself, “I’ll bet there’s a story there…”
Noticed anything unusual lately?