Sunday, May 28, 2006

A Sleepless Night

I'm a pet owner. Dogs and cats. A lot of them. And like most pet owners, my pets are a part of my family. A part of it. They watch my television, they listen to my music, they eat in my kitchen. Sounds dirty, I know, and it is... but I wouldn't change it for the world.

On Wednesday, May 24, 2006, I took my dogs for a walk in a wide-open field. Not quite the middle-of-nowhere, but a good couple of miles from the nearest house and the nearest highway. In fact, other than a small livestock farm, a gravel quarry, and a water tower, there's nothing but acres upon acres of playground (for a four-legged friend, of course). It was 12:30 PM. I walked my usual route around the field, with my loyal German Shepherd in tow. My two other dogs, an independent "king-of-the-hill" pit bull/pointer mix, and a super intelligent, yet super stubborn beagle/pointer combo, decided to check out a small hill to the north of our location. Somehow, I knew it was going to be hell to get them back. And it was.

4:30 PM. My truck is stuck on an outcropping on top of a different hill. My German Shepherd is terrified of the squealing tires. My pointer mixes are nowhere to be found. Nowhere. The longest they've ever stayed gone before was two-and-a-half hours. Not three, and certainly not four. As my rescue vehicle approaches from the south side of the hill, I start thinking... start thinking about the poisonous snakes that live in the area, about the groups of coyotes that run rampant, and about the wild horses that can kill a dog with a mere flick of its hoof. And let's not forget the people who shoot dogs for getting too close to livestock, or just for fun. It's 4:30. Where the fuck are my boys?

My truck's out, but I'm tired, hungry, and my hand is bleeding from a multitude of splinters from an old, weathered two-by-four that I probably shouldn't have picked up. I have to leave the area, get my German Shepherd some water, and take care of my hand. One last look across the horizon. Nothing.

My pit bull/pointer is easily the coolest dog I've ever had. He was the first dog I'd owned since I had left the Army (Hell, since I had joined the Army) and, like my previous dog, was a stray. My roommate and I had found him, along with another lost dog, in front of our rental house outside of Fort Bragg. While the other dog was clearly trained (she wouldn't even climb on the couch when called), the pit bull/pointer was young, and was apparently still in the process of being potty trained. A good Samaritan (sometimes), I posted signs for both dogs around the neighborhood. A couple of days later, the trained female was picked up by her rightful owner. But the pit bull/pointer... nothing. Probably left by some G.I. who couldnt take him with him, and couldn't (or didn't feel the need to) find a home for him. Weeks passed, I got attached, I took down the signs that the weather hadn't blown away. The pit bull/pointer became mine.

Over the years I discovered just how gentle this dog was, and yet, how protective. I would baby-sit my friend's infant daughter from time to time, but to be honest, the pit bull/pointer did most of the baby-sitting. He would curl around the baby, keep it warm. He'd lick her when she started crying. And, if for some reason I left the room, my dog would act angry until I came back. Obviously, he'd grown up around children, and every so often I would wonder if a small child yearned for their lost pit bull/pointer. I didn't care though... by this time, like I said, he was all mine.

It's 5:30 PM. I'm back out at the field. I drive a few mile radius around the spot I last saw them. The only thing I find is a small red hatchback parked on a closed road with two teenagers trying to have sex in broad daylight. They see me, try to hide, I laugh my ass off as I pass them. But still no dogs. At 6:30, I leave again, eat a quick dinner, take a quick shower, and head right back out. I'm there from 7:00 to 8:00. Nothing. So I leave again, watch American Idol to distract myself, and then head back out at 10:30. Still nothing, not even jackrabbits.

The beagle/pointer is another story entirely. Extremely needy, extremely stubborn, and so fucking smart, it blows my mind. He's also so self-conscious, when he takes a shit, he buries it meticulously with his nose and his front paws. I'm serious when I say this... you'll never know he pooped. I had built a privacy fence at my last house. Now, this could be a testament to the sloppy work, but no matter what I did (chicken wire, rocks, boxes, planking), that damn dog would find a way out of the backyard. He's like those velociraptors from Jurassic Park: if there's a weak spot in the defense, he'll find it. He's also a master at getting to the cat food bowls. It doesn't matter where they are... on the counter, on the table, in the garage in a secluded area... he'll get to it. I've seen him walk on his hind tiptoes and turn his head upside down just so his tongue could flick at the cat food. It didn't matter how much he knocked around... as long as one or two morsels stuck to his tongue, he was happy.

He's a bit of a sad case, too. I wasn't his first owner. His previous owner used to beat him because he barked too much. That explained why I had him damn near a month before I heard him make a sound. His previous owner used a crate to try to potty train him. Unfortunately, he would be left in the crate even when the owner was home. And the fucker wondered why the dog would bark The dog would also get carsick. Every single time you'd put him in a car, he'd hurl. I don't know why. When I drove him across country, he quit doing it, so I'm guessing he was afraid of cars... probably something to do with that prick first owner. But it didn't matter now... he belonged to a new family. One that wouldn't abandon him... one that would look for him until he was found.

It's 4:30 AM, Thursday morning. I haven't slept a wink, although I've tried. I'm attempting to wait until 9:00, so I can call animal control to see if they've picked up two pointer mixes, but I can't. My anxiety overtakes me, and within 15 minutes, I've got my German Shepherd loaded up and am on my way back to the field. I get there, and there are jackrabbits up the ass, now. Everywhere. Running from my headlights, taunting me... cottontails up as if saying, "Here we are, where are your dogs?" The fuckers.

I roll down my window and start calling for my dogs, futilely, I figure. I drive slowly... maybe they'll hear the truck this time... if they're not dead. What am I doing? I should be asleep, but instead I'm driving around the same field I've driven around 50 times. I'm approaching a bush that I stop to piss on every time I walk by it. Why? I don't know... it just happens to be the right distance from the point where I drink a glass of water to the point where I need to go. A beagle's face is poking out of the bush. I stop the truck, get out, and blink. The face isn't moving. I'm seeing shit. I call for my boys. The pointer emerges from the bush behind the beagle. The beagle finally moves. Holy shit... They stayed together. I've found my boys.

They're mad at me, of course. They act as though I left them there on purpose, as if I'm supposed to wait until they're done wandering the countryside. While the pointer enjoys the hot air from the truck's heater, he growls at me a bit. I guess it was my fault. I might as well take the blame, or they'll hate me for a week. I laugh. Pet them both. Pet the German Shepherd because he feels left out. Pet the two pointer mixes again.

Then I laugh again. They're home, and they can be mad at me all they want... they slept in my piss.


Anonymous said...

You let a DOG babysit my BABY??? Shame... Now she's tainted with a love for dogs. I hate dogs.

Posted by Jessica Lynn on May 28, 2006 - Sunday - 1:20 PM

She Writes said...

Those dogs must be crazy about you, considering where they slept! And I like a dog story with a good ending.

Tom said... are brave, letting your dogs out for a run...i don't think Toby is smart enough to find his way back, and for sure he'd get run over by a car.

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