It always breaks my heart to see a lost dog poster.  I don’t know what’s sadder: Is it the owner sitting at home, feeling guilty, crying, calling friends, looking at pictures of the dog, going to Kinkos to make copies of the lost dog poster, all the while thinking, “I can’t believe I’ve become the person who has to make the lost dog poster.”

Or is it the dog: confused and wandering down alleys, eating little bits of garbage (actually, every dog I’ve ever known has really loved eating little bits of garbage from the gutter, so maybe this is the one perk of being lost), not knowing how to cross the street, curious about some things, afraid of everything.

It’s a sad situation all around.  Still, there are pressing questions whenever I see those posters.

1.  How the fuck did you lose your dog?  Were you one of those people who got cocky about letting your dog off the leash on the sidewalk, bragging to everyone, “Yeah, my dog can be off the leash – we have a pretty intense understanding.”  Fuck you.  Don’t take your dog off the leash.

2.  Within the realm of lost dogs, it seems like more than half the time it’s a small dog that’s gotten lost, which makes sense.  It’s easier to lose small things, like keys, than it is to lose big things, like a dryer.  But on the occasions when I see that someone’s lost a mastiff or a German shepherd, it’s harder to understand.  Where could it have gone?  I feel a sense of failure on the part of the public, those of us who are supposed to be looking out for the dog.  How could we not have found it by now?  It’s enormous.  Open your eyes, people!  There’s a 150-pound mastiff wandering the city!  Someone must have seen it!  Pay attention!!!  Live!!!!!

3. Then there’s the question of whether a lost dog poster is still relevant.  Do people come around and take down the posters if their pet has been found?  Surely some of these people must find their dogs.  Would they let us know if they did?  Would there be an update notice, like, “Thank you to the people of Branson!  Wilbur is safe and sound.  We can never express how grateful we are for your support and prayers during this difficult time.”  Every so often I’m actually tempted to call the lost dog number just to check and see if there’s any news, any leads.

4.  This is a difficult one, because it’s going to come off as obnoxious, when in fact I mean to help.  But the other day I saw a poster for a “Lost Parrot”.  I’m sure the person who lost their parrot is upset, and cares very much about her parrot, even though I’m not sure how that’s possible seeing as how parrots, like all birds, are disgusting.  That said, I know people can form emotional connections with all kinds of living things, because as my father once told me, there’s not enough love to go around in this world. (Depressing; probably true; why did he tell me that?)

In any case, I truly believe that if you’ve lost your parrot you must learn to let go.  It has flown away, into an infinite blue sky.  Does it prefer to flap about in the open wind, going wherever whimsy takes it, to perching day in and day out upon its own shit in that tiny brass cage you bought in Chinatown?  I suppose we’ll never know.

But your parrot is probably on to bigger and better things.  Don’t put up posters.  Don’t go to Kinkos.

Look at this as a sign.  Maybe the parrot getting loose is God telling you to quit your job, and finally open that bagel store you’ve dreamed about for 10 years.  Maybe life is telling you to flap your own wings, get out of your Chinatown cage, put yourself out there and go on a date!  Be vulnerable!  You put up so many walls, you never allow anyone to truly get to know you!  Your parrot knew it!  Now you must know it.