The Born Again Dog
the Scenic Route
It’s not my turn to rant. I’m up 3 to 1 on the publisher over previous months, unless you count her recent pieces about Bonner County politics, which would pass for thinly disguised editorial if they weren’t so true. So, I’ve decided to wax poetic about our dog (shared with my mother, sister, friend Harold, the UPS man, the FedEx guy and miscellaneous other humans). For the bloggers, doubters, Marxists, Obama-haters, naysayers, rabble, ultraliberal snots and ultraconservative skinheads who delight in mashing my prose (it’s kind of cool to have enemies from both sides of the political spectrum), I apologize. I imagine that some of you also love your dogs, so we may have some common ground, after all.
Our dog is of the best kind: a mutt and an ex-con; bailed out of the shelter where he was doing time for malingering. He is smart enough that he was able to hide his bad habits—and abandonment issues—long enough for us to sign the papers and get him home.
Laddie is a “born-again dog.” Our decision to bring him home—which my mother, sister and I have all, at one time or another, regretted—was his resurrection. He was happy about that, and he still is. In fact, Laddie is happy about most everything. Laddie’s picture is beside the word “exuberant” in the dictionary. He is a joyful dog, if not completely obedient.
His joy takes many forms; his dance of delight that you—whoever you are—have come into his presence, or that you—whoever you are—are going to take him for a w-a-l-k. His unbridled (and unleashed) delight that something, anything, left a trail through the woods for him to follow. Squirrel, deer, bear, raccoon, rabbit, skunk, field mouse, pack rat; it doesn’t matter. If his nose can sift a single smell out, he will follow it until it can’t be followed any more—at a high rate of speed. Anyone who takes him out really isn’t “walking” him as much as they are “watching” him as he comes tearing by, nose to the ground—again and again and again.
The good news is that he—ever-so-slowly—is learning that ripping around the woods is not necessarily good form on a w-a-l-k. If he manages to stick close and actually comes when called, he likely gets a t-r-e-a-t. If he happens to check in of his own volition—wonder of wonders—the rewards are great, as they also are when he stays on heel for at least three minutes.
Further good news is that he doesn’t wander unless there’s someone to wander with. The bad news is that he might wander with anybody, evidenced recently by a 46-hour absence. He went missing on Monday and wandered home on Wednesday. Upon return, he was not in the least dirty, footsore, tired or inordinately hungry. In fact, it was as if he had been locked in a backyard—or, perhaps, a living room—for two days. He was, as he always is after a period of relative inactivity, like a race horse in the gate. Manic. Ready to rock. Wired.
I theorize that someone took him. “Oh, what a cute dog,” they may have said, as he crawled in the car with them—a habit he is slowly being cured of. The relationship lasted almost two days. If you’ve read “The Ransom of Red Chief” by O. Henry, you might imagine the quandary the alleged dognappers found themselves in. Lucky for them, they’d not tipped their hand yet, and so did not have to pay to bring him back.
Don’t get me wrong. We were glad to see him. And whoever took him was probably glad to let him go.
Laddie’s lineage is unknown. Yellow lab is hard to miss in his configuration, his love of water and that damned nose. Some smaller breed was involved; maybe Australian shepherd (he has half a blue eye and he’s a herder). At 50 pounds, with that lab physique, some mistake him for a her, which he ain’t, nor is he dainty. He’s like a crazy-ass welter-weight outside receiver who plays like a maniac and will do anything to catch what’s thrown his way.
He’s a good dog, working on being a great dog. I have this fantasy that one day, we will go for a w-a-l-k, and he will actually spend most of his time in my immediate presence instead of levitating around the forest. You know, like Lassie or Rin-Tin-Tin or Sandy the dog of Little Orphan Annie fame. A boon companion, instead of a loose cannon.
It’s a good thing he’s “our” dog. We all love him, each in our own way. And, he loves us all. One person doesn’t seem to be enough for this happy canine. And, he’s probably too much for any one of us.
Sandy Compton is the author of several books, instigator of “The Storytelling Company,” and owner of Blue Creek Press. Learn more at www.SandyCompton.com. Reach him at [email protected]
Editor’s note: This year, Sandy once again allowed my family to conduct our “Christmas Tree Hunt” on his property on Blue Creek and Laddie joined us for the adventure. After reading Sandy’s story, I no longer feel nearly as guilty (nor as worried Sandy will find out) about Laddie’s high speed race through the woods and into the river and back through the woods and into the river again and “Crap! Where did he go? Laddie? Laddie?! Damn, I’ve lost Sandy’s dog. That’s a fine thank-you for our Christmas tree.” Laddie, thankfully, did come back (at high speed) eventually and we returned him safely home.