Published in the Rains County Leader on April 4, 2017:
David and I spent last week with our canine friend who lives in Alba while his humans were on a cruise. He would have preferred a pair who would have stayed on the patio in case he was hungry or wanted to be petted and otherwise allowed him to run free. Unfortunately, he got us instead, so he had to resort to trickery.
We arrived on Saturday afternoon and released Spike from his tether so he could run for a bit before dinner. He took a brief jaunt into the field to relieve himself and then returned to the patio and lay down. In retrospect, I guess he was resting up for the big evening he had planned, but at the time I was just grateful that I didn’t have to chase him down when dinnertime came. When I poured food in his bowl, he stood up slowly, yawned, stretched, and strolled over to see what was on the menu. He docilely let me reattach his tether while he crunched his food, and then he lay down again.
He usually perks up around dusk when the night critters begin to forage and make noise. When the coyotes begin to howl, he answers in his own doggy language – but Saturday night he was strangely quiet, so quiet that we almost forgot about him until a show we were watching ended around 9:00 pm. Almost, but not quite – so David found the leash, put a treat in his pocket, and went outside to take Spike to the barn for the night. For any new readers, the “barn” is climate controlled, has running water, and is more luxurious than many houses.
Spike continued to be cooperative, standing quietly while David attached the leash and detached the tether. He didn’t even pull against the lead or try to get away while David unlocked the barn door. He followed obediently through the office into the main part of the barn and waited patiently for his leash to be removed. David gave him his treat, hoping it would buy enough time to fill the water dish. Spike gulped down his treat and looked toward the door. It was open just a crack, but a crack was all it took. He was off like a shot and was out of sight before David could turn around. I heard his frustrated voice, calling Spike’s name, well before he made it back to the house.
“Well, he’s out and running,” he said as he slammed through the door.
He explained what had happened, and I pulled out the slightly out-of-date pot roast that had been left to add a little interest to Spike’s dinner. I cut a little of it into a bowl, and we went back outside to see if we could bring the prodigal home. David went toward the field, and I walked toward the barn and waving the bowl around.
At this point, I will point out that it is very dark on a large piece of property far away from the city lights on a cloudy night. We had turned on the outside spots, but their light only reached so far. Halfway to the barn I heard rustling in the trees off to my right, and my imagination shifted into high gear. It could be Spike or a wandering raccoon – or it could be one of the packs of wild coyote that howled throughout the night. I stood rooted in place with a bowl of meat in my hand – not a comfortable position for a city girl. Then, I heard the thunder of big paws on my left, and Spike came streaking across in front of me and into the trees. I don’t know what was hidden there, but for a few seconds, there was rustling and snarling – and then Spike was gone again.
We continued to call for a few more minutes, and then we went back inside. We made a few more futile attempts before bedtime, but we finally left Spike to the consequences of his choices. I expected him to come back in the night and wake me with his barking, but I didn’t wake up until 6:30. The first thing I did was check the patio, and there he was. I tethered him without incident, and as soon as he had eaten his breakfast, he lay down, went to sleep, and slept most of the day.
Spike behaved quite well the rest of the week, especially since we made sure that no doors were left ajar. I guess we’ll never know for sure where he went that night, but I have an idea. The following day I saw many pictures of good-looking young people, decked out in tuxes, three-piece suits, and floor-length gowns, and I learned that it had been prom night in Alba-Golden. My guess is that Spike had a hot date and he didn’t want to be late – but I’m glad he hung around long enough to save me from whatever was hiding in the trees.