Our first three-day weekend of the year, Memorial Day weekend, began with a wave of sadness that blanketed both of us in a miserable haze. Who are we kidding? I thought. A three-day weekend is a time for travel and cookouts. Surely no one’s going to give up their grill-outs and baseball games to help us hang flyers. Still hopeful that we might get some support, I texted a few of our friends for help.
The brakes on my car were in dire need of replacement, and Josh selected that day, of all days, to change them. I looked at him in disbelief. Why can’t he stop trying to fix things and focus on what needs to be done to get Briggs home? Looking back, I realize it was Josh’s way of coping with sadness; he couldn’t find Briggs for me, so he was trying to fix whatever he could. It was hard for me to see it at the time. It was far easier for me to pick a fight with him.
Pissed off, I drove Josh’s truck to the store. I’d been doing some research on posters and had a new idea about how we might attract more attention. I purchased all the supplies we’d need and drove home to set up our creative studio. Josh’s co-workers were on their way to help with the brakes, but in the meantime, we churned out the new poster design.
We simply taped our original “Stolen Dog” posters to larger, hot pink and neon orange poster board. Using reflective tape, we doctored the posters to catch the light. We added huge block letters proclaiming, “REWARD!” and “STOLEN DOG!” across the top. We would place those larger signs at main intersections, and we were sure they’d garner attention because they were simply too big and bright to be overlooked.
We also decided to translate flyers in Spanish and proceeded to stuff hundreds of envelopes with them. They would be easy to drop into mailboxes of veterinarians’ offices and other businesses across the city.
Our friends Clodagh and Brian texted us back and agreed to meet us at our house with their conversion van. Clodagh, originally from Ireland, owned an Irish shop in Elm Grove and often traveled to set up at various fairs and festivals. Their conversion van, used to store goods while she traveled, offered enough room for several people and dogs.
My friend Marisa also called and offered to join us along with her two Great Danes, Lemmy and Lulu. I was ecstatic about our human and canine street team for the day. Neon posters and giant dogs would draw a huge amount of attention to our cause. In a stroke of what I considered to be luck, my brakes could not be changed due to a missing tire key; suddenly, I had more helpers on hand to aid in the search. Taking our pile of Spanish flyers, Josh and his co-workers left to head for the South Side of the city. With a quick kiss, he advised me to stay safe, and I said the same to him.
Shortly thereafter, Marisa showed up with her beautiful Great Danes. The gentle giants loped around our house, looking for Briggs; they could smell that another dog lived there. As I told my friends about the prior day and the horrific phone calls that we’d been receiving, Lemmy and Lulu skidded to a halt near me. As if sensing my sadness, they pressed against my legs. I was happy to have those friendly, massive protectors by our side that day.
Clodagh, being a properly feisty Irish woman, insisted that we head right back to the area where we’d been the day before.
“Why not make your presence known again, but this time with two huge dogs?”
I agreed with this reasoning, and her husband Brian was all for it. I wanted to make sure Marisa was comfortable with taking her dogs into that area, and she felt it was fine. In her experience, she’d learned that most people were frightened of Great Danes simply because of their size.
Grabbing our large, hot pink flyers, with the dogs at our side, I felt strong. There would be no mistaking our message today.
It was another sunny day, the perfect weather for Memorial Day weekend. I imagined what we normally would be doing: heading to friends’ barbecues, taking Briggs up to my parents’ lake home so he could play in the water, and trying to get the first tan (or in Josh’s case, sunburn) of the year. Instead, we were pulling up to an empty parking lot next to a street basketball court full of people who were betting on the teams.
As we parked, I noticed through the side window that the basketball game had stopped. A conversion van full of strangers slowly pulling into an empty lot in this neighborhood was as expected, the kind of thing that caused a stir. As we unloaded the dogs from the car, we heard murmurs from the court. A few small children started yelling. The Great Danes were already doing their job.
We decided it would be best to divide and conquer. Marisa and I took Lemmy, while Clodagh and Brian took Lulu, and we aimed to hit every pole on both sides of the street.
The basketball court grew even quieter as we walked past. One man crossed to the other side of the street, and children shouted questions at us. Sullen stares greeted us from the players; they didn’t like us being there, but they were too afraid to say anything because of the dogs.
When I reached the site from the day before where I’d pointed at the man on the porch, I saw that the flyers had been ripped down. I looked across the street. The same man was sitting on the porch, glaring at me. I looked at him again, and he looked at me. I looked down at Lemmy, back at the man, and then taped up a huge poster over the place where the remnants of the last one were.
This time, the man gave me a nod.
We walked for hours that day, and anyone who saw us hurried to cross the street to avoid the dogs. We waited outside of busy places like Walgreen’s and gas stations, handing out flyers to shoppers as they tried to back away from Lemmy and Lulu. By the end of the day, we’d met our goal. We had clearly made our presence known in the neighborhood that the psychic had identified. We could only hope that the Great Danes, the neon posters, and the locals’ word-of-mouth would reach whoever had Briggs. We wanted him to feel the pressure was building, that we were willing to do whatever it took to get him, and that we were closing in on his home turf.
Eventually, we decided to go to the South Side to rendezvous with Josh. It was the Hispanic side of town, so we took our Spanish flyers with us. We continued our walk with the dogs, hanging flyers and passing them out to anyone who would take them.
The streets were busier on the South Side, teeming with life. It was a vivid community, filled with happiness. Children played outside, flowers adorned the windows, and festive music filled the air. It didn’t feel as angry and ominous as the neighborhood we’d just come from.
The Great Danes did their thing, stopping traffic, drawing attention, and generally creating a disturbance.
One man walked out of a store and jumped back in mock horror: “Daaaaamn! We used to Chihuahuas down here!”
We all laughed. A much needed relief.
When we arrived home that night, we were too antsy to sleep, so it was decided that whiskey and a fire on the back deck was in order. As Josh built the fire, I rummaged in our junk drawer for a paper and pen. Carrying these outside, I sat down next to Josh. We sipped our drinks and contemplated the flames.
“Do you think he’s ok?” Josh asked.
“He has to be. He just has to be.”
Nodding, Josh stared into the fire.
“Let’s send up our thoughts.” Brandishing the paper, I told Josh to write what his thoughts were for Briggs.
Staring down at the paper, my eyes blurred as I wrote: Please, help us. Keep him safe. Help us, we need help.
As I tossed my hopes into the fire, I prayed to any and every spirit warrior I could, asking for help, asking that they would send us a sign; praying that they would give us something, anything to keep us going.
Little did I know our sign would appear the very next day.