warning, shield, risk

The difference between a warning sign and a red flag!

I’m in the fifth grade classroom in my hometown, and throughout the day, my husband and I are parking our car in front of the front door, preparing to enter the house.
We are about to enter the house when my husband spots a particular dog in the front yard. He stops the car, steps out, and begins barking. Immediately, I feel a tinge of concern. Should I be worried?
We enter the front yard and sit on the bricks, looking out the car’s open window, hoping to see the dog. It is quite a ways away, maybe ten feet, and I’m sure by the time we find the dog, it will be too late.
The dog does not appear.
We turn around and go back to the car. My husband parks about 10 feet away from the house, and I park about 5 feet away in front of the house. We walk slowly around the block, past the baker, the clock, the post office, the liquor store, and up to the front door of the house.
The dog does not appear.
We knock three times, get no answer.
We knock again.
Still no response.

We go back outside and sit on a bench, looking at the yard, wondering why the dog isn’t inside the house.
He does not come inside, either.
I’m about to protest — he goes in the back door and out the back window — but I stop myself. There is no back door or window in that back yard. It’s a one-way street. If he wants in, he’ll have to go the other way.
“What are we supposed to do?” I ask.
He considers this for a moment. “Call the police,” he suggests. “But there is a big police car outside our house. At least tell them we want police protection. Maybe they’ll do something.”
He smiles. “Don’t call the police,” he says. “It’s not that big a deal. If they see a dog, it’s a different story.”
I consider his suggestion. There is no such thing as a small dog that doesn’t make a lot of noise. There is also a big difference between a barking dog that roars and a calmly sitting dog that doesn’t bark.
Nevertheless, I go to the door to the back yard and knock three more times. I knock on the brick, and there is no response.
I knock on the brick, and there is no response.
I knock on the brick, and the back door is closed, as it usually is when people are not home.
I knock on the brick, and the door is unlocked.
I knock on the brick, and the front door is unlocked, too.
There is a long pause, during which time I think that the dog might be hungry and would love some dog food. Then the knocks turn to the upstairs porch, which is unlocked.
I knock again, and the door is unlocked, too.
I knock on the brick, and the door is unlocked.
“What’s going on?” my husband asks.

“I don’t know,” I say. “I just need to knock four more times, and then maybe someone will come by to take the dog out.”
I turn to my husband and shake my head. “There’s no way I’m going to put myself and the dog in the back of a car to go get dog food.”
“Why not go to the neighbor’s house?” he asks. “They have a dog, and they’ll let us bring the dog inside.”
I consider his suggestion for a moment, then say, “It’s not a good idea. There are other people in the neighborhood, and if the dog eats something we don’t want it to.”
“If it’s a small dog, maybe we can get a foster puppy for him.”
“That sounds good too.”
“But there’s no way I’m bringing home a puppy right now.”
“Well, there is a way.” He stops walking and turns to me. “You have to go to one of his appointments first.”
The dog walker arrives just as I’m walking toward the front door of the house. “I’ll go to the neighbors,” I say. “You can go to the dog’s office.”
The neighbors are a bunch of retirees, and the dog is allowed to roam the neighborhood freely. The office is a tiny room with a single desk and chair, and only one chair for the veterinarian.
I knock on the desk. “I’m sorry,” I say. “I’m going to have to ask you to go first.”
The woman at the desk opens the door and turns toward me. “Natasha, would you please go the other way to the neighbor’s office?”

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