Last night was my turn to watch Fergus. I’m not going to go into all the permutations of a two-month-old canine’s skills at eliminating in inappropriate places at the wrong times, like… never mind, I’m not going to go into that.
However, my brains being slightly fried from all the excitement (and a night of sleeping in the papasan), by mid-afternoon today I couldn’t think of anything to write about except An Excremental Journey or A Scat Concert or Bummed Out or Hindsight or… until E.g., answering an e-mail, said Why don’t you write about that time with your first dog… So here it is. Just.
When I was 12, my mother, realizing the shortage of sandwiches developing in my psychic picnic, decided to get me a dog. A woman she knew had some puppies to give away, and one of them came to me. Alfie had some collie in him — Cai reminds me a bit of him.
Alfie and I liked to walk down to the far end of the dirt road and hop the farm fence, braving the possibility of Polled Herefords to get to the pond. It was maybe a foot deep, with cattails and Red-winged Blackbirds and frogs and a cowpath up one side and a little bridge that led, past the cedars, to some summer cabins. I think there must have been another driveway to those cabins, because I never met any other humans at the pond.
There was one meeting, though, that’s etched on my brain. One day, I decided to climb a tree while Alfie was busy snuffling about in and out of the pond. This tree was reached by crossing some marshy, splishy bits. I swung myself up into the crook, and leaned my back against one of the main uprights, closing my eyes to better feel the sun on my face.
I don’t think I was blissed out for long when I heard some emphatic splashing and a hiss, then a scrabble. It was a muskrat. Alfie had scared it, and it was climbing up my tree! I stayed very, very still. So did the muskrat, when it realized I was in its way. Alfie had his forefeet on the tree trunk, quite pleased with himself. What was the poor old ratty to do?
To this day, I’m glad about the choice it made; I’d like to believe that it considered me the lesser of the two evil species. The muskrat continued its climb — right onto my torso, off my right shoulder, and on up the tree.
I climbed down after that, calling my dog, to head home and let the usually non-arboreal creature stop panting and make its way back into the water.