The news story didn’t tell nearly enough.
This doesn’t happen often. The stories in some magazines – I’m thinking of the New York Times Magazine and the New Yorker, for example – go on longer than I figure I have left to live, and I stop reading when it’s time to make dinner or go to bed or put my affairs in order.
This story, though, about a lost dog riding an Irish train, could have been published in serial form and I’d have been its most loyal reader.
The dog, a brown terrier with black trimmings, was on a train to Dublin when Irish Rail employees realized he was an unaccompanied canine. Immediately, as the story says, they “took to social media.”
This is what people do now when action of any kind is required.
A police matter? Social media.
A political issue? Social media.
A legal problem, best resolved in the courts? Social media.
So it was with the dog. Train workers immediately whipped out their mobiles (this was in Ireland, remember) and started posting pictures of the rail-riding terrier.
And then – the story fails me, because it jumps directly to the conclusion:
“ ‘It’s been a big day for Hamish and he’s certainly made a few friends along the way,’ said Ted Maher, of Irish Rail. ‘Tonight he’ll be settling down under the care of Ted in the hope that tomorrow will see him reunited with his owner.’ ”
Wait, hold on a second.
What about how people noticed Hamish (that’s his train name, not his real name) riding along by himself? Did they gather around him like schoolgirls to scratch his ears and tell him he was a good boy? Did they take turns holding him up so he could see out the window? Did they start a list of “People Willing to Adopt Hamish if Hamish’s Owner Isn’t Found”?
This feel-good story doesn’t leave me feeling nearly good enough.
I want to feel positively suffused with joy, and this story as written is far too skimpy on the details to have the desired effect.
And how about the people who shared pictures of Hamish on their mobiles until Hamish’s despairing owner, walking the streets, calling for his dear dog, felt his phone ping and discovered – oh, happy day! – the furry face of his beloved?
Put that way, it sounds like the kind of picture book I often read to my grandchildren: A dog loses his way, the dog has a clever idea, the dog meets friendly people who help him.
“That’s a good story,” I imagine my grandchildren and myself saying.
The youngest one probably would want to hear it again, because he loves both animals and machinery.
Had Hamish hopped a backhoe instead of a train, he’d like the story even more.
But here’s what I have to go on in real life: Hamish is on the train.
Then some guy who refers to himself in the third person returns Hamish to his owner.
The end. I’m compelled to add adorable parts, so I don’t close this page and complain about unsatisfying electronic feature stories on my all-purpose action device.
So my story is this: Lost and frightened, Hamish found himself near the train station. He had seen his owner get on the train many times, so Hamish believed that’s where he’d find him.
He jumped aboard and ran from car to car, looking hopefully into all the faces. Poor Hamish! His owner was nowhere to be found.
Then the train began to move and Hamish found a seat.
In real life, the story notes only that Hamish and his owner were reunited.
Were they overjoyed?
Were happy tears shed?
Did the owner offer Irish Rail a reward?
I have only this fact: Hamish’s real name is Tyson. Tyson the Irish terrier.
Too bad his name didn’t turn out actually to be Hamish. He looks like a Hamish. And that would’ve made for a much better story.
Write to Margo Bartlett at firstname.lastname@example.org.