In his long life, my dog had never been in a basement.
As a puppy, he would stand at the top of the steps and howl every time I went down the basement stairs. He would celebrate like I had come back from the dead every time I arose from the depths.
No matter what was down there – intriguing kitty litter, pet treats or his best friend, the cat – Marty would not venture even one step toward whatever horrors he imagined were down there.
We've lived in three houses, each with a basement, but not as far as he was concerned.
Stairs weren't the problem.
Marty flew up and down all kinds of stairs for more than a decade. He's a teenager now in people years – 80s or 90s in dog years – so his trips are now on the sedate side.
So it's a mystery what happened Monday night.
I came home from work and heard this pitiful, mournful howl as the key turned in the lock. No dog in the kitchen, living room or dining room, but there came that howl again. Muffled somehow, and tremulous.
Oh my gosh, am I going to go upstairs and find him with a broken leg?
Rushing up to the bedroom, the only living thing was a kitty curled up in a comforter, blinking a welcome. I checked the bathroom, even opening up the spare rooms just in case.
Again that odd warbling howl.
Did he somehow get outside? I opened the door and called his name.
The howl came from below. In the basement.
Rushing down, I checked the workshop, the storeroom, behind the stack of cardboard boxes. No dog.
Then there was this quiet rustling from the laundry area, next to the washer. In the sump pump pit.
There he was, standing on his hind legs; only his front paws and button nose showing.
Supporting his behind, I hauled him out, thinking all the while about whether he was hurt, where to get the vet's emergency number, if he'd be OK.
Marty was limping when he came out of the hole, his back paws damp. Luckily, the pit is mostly dry this time of the year.
I carried the "little guy" upstairs – all 28 pounds of him – and put him down. He slurped up what seemed like a gallon of water and then rushed to the back door, clearly in need of a bathroom break.
He ran outside, wagging his tail, flipping white stuff with his snout and doing a doggie snow angel. Then he spent the rest of the evening leaning against my calf, edging closer to touch my foot. Following me from room to room.
Today, he seems recovered. And I'm guessing that was Marty's last trip to the basement.