Herman Has Been Found
An email came a few days ago telling me that Herman had been found. That’s great, I thought, but who is Herman? It explained that Herman’s “chip” had been scanned and the serial number matched at an animal shelter in Colorado. So Herman probably wasn’t human. The email was meant for a Douglas Schultzberg (which sounds like but is not his real name).
I replied briefly and set the email aside. Still, I was curious about Herman. My son and I agreed Herman must be a cat, because Herman isn’t a good dog name. Dog’s names have to be something you’re willing to shout out in public without embarrassing yourself or the dog. Herman doesn’t sound right—says the man with a lanky coonhound named Daisy. (Hey, she came to us that way.)
I got a form letter follow-up two days later from the chip people asking if I’d picked up Herman. There was no mention of my email. There was no box to check saying, no, that’s not my pet. So I wrote to the animal shelter. They didn’t respond.
I figured it wasn’t my problem. Then I pictured little Herman in a cage on death row. I imagined his whiskers sticking out through the bars, nose quavering, forlorn eyes gazing out. You know, like in those tearful save-our-furry-friends ads. I worried that maybe the chip people had no way to contact the owner, if they even cared.
So I grumbled and stalked Mr. Schultzberg on Google. I found someone on Twitter with a profile pic of a balding man sitting on bleachers next to someone wearing a Cubs T-shirt. I skimmed through his many sports-oriented tweets. This Schultzberg is a fan of the Bears and a Missouri college basketball team. That seemed questionable for Colorado but I sent a tweet. I got no response and didn’t really expect one. The tweet date stamps were pretty stale. LinkedIn had a loose match for a systems engineer in Colorado, but there was no contact information and I couldn’t find a website for the company.
At this point I realized that old tech might be the best tech. What I needed was his damn phone number. At whitepages.com I found a Schultzberg in a town near the shelter. I gave the number a shot, not realizing it was an Illinois area code.
An older woman picked up. I said, “Hello? I’m looking for a Douglas Schultzberg with a pet named Herman.”
“Hello?” I asked.
The woman on the line seemed confused. “There’s no one here by that name. He lives in Colorado. What do you want?” She was pleasant about it but had no idea what I was saying.
So I explained. Laboriously, I convinced her I was legit. She gave me his cell and landline numbers. I called the cell number and got voicemail. On the landline, I got another confused person. After a little bit he said, “Oh, I picked up Herman yesterday.” Jackpot. The “actual” Mr. Schultzberg. (The nice lady in Illinois is his mother.)
Turns out Herman is a beagle who keeps his nose to the ground and doesn’t watch where he’s going. So Douglas explained. He explained a lot of other things, such as that Wyatt Earp was born in Illinois in a small town near where Douglas grew up. I learned a bunch of trivia about Colorado, local history, and the alleged superiority of Apple products.
I wasn’t forced to listen to all this. I played along while I figured out what was going on. I told him some things about myself, like that I’d stayed in his town some years ago and explored the area. I told him where I lived and he asked about the cherry blossoms. It was one of those conversations you have with an older person where you have to be careful to wait for silence before you say anything. Interrupt and you’ll throw the train off the track.
I realized Douglas was lonely. He had three strokes last year, mild ones he said, but with that and some lumbar spine issues he’d been forced to retire from his job as a Windows software specialist. I noticed that he’s having a bit of cognitive trouble—sometimes it was hard for him to express himself. Nonetheless at 62 he isn’t ready to give up.
So the wayward dog wasn’t the only one who benefitted from human attention. Frankly, I didn’t mind getting some myself. After a fairly long series of random non-Herman topics that left my eavesdropping son wondering who the heck I was talking to, I volunteered, “I should let you go.”
He said, “Well, thank you for calling. I guess I made a new friend.”
And I said, “Yes, you did.” I’ll check on Herman sometime soon.