The chocolate labs, Poncho and Lefty, frisked about, splashing through puddles and skidding through mud. My friend Carol was walking her dogs along the river’s upper trail in the pouring rain.
That’s right. I said pouring rain.
She’s that kind of dog owner. Totally
wacko committed. What other kind of friend would I have?
Both dogs are both more than a little ball-crazy (I’m looking at you, Lefty!), lightning-fast brown blurs when they run, and unreservedly sweet. But Poncho, handsome doe-eyed Poncho, is the trouble-maker of the two. At home, Poncho is the one to get into the trash, chew a shoe, steal a sandwich. At the river, Poncho is the one to eat the horse poop, roll in the fish guts, stumble over a rattlesnake.
He’s just that kind of dog.
While Lefty turns crazy whirly-gig circles for his tennis ball, then crashes into the river after it, Poncho quietly disappears from the riverbank. When finally called back, he bursts exuberantly through the underbrush, stinking of fish guts or skunk. He erupts onto the scene and chases Lefty, both dogs streaking around the beach. Then Poncho breaks off and flings himself into the river after a tennis ball, likely becoming airborne. He digs, he pounces, he rolls. He instigates.
He lives life to the fullest. And sometimes, that spells trouble.
So there was Carol, soaking wet, slipping and sliding down a muddy hill when she realized that Poncho wasn’t with them. Lefty was at her side, carrying his tennis ball. Mud-spattered above, mud-streaked below, blinking away rain drops, he looked very happy and satisfied.
But where was Poncho? She called his name. He didn’t come. What trouble was he getting into now?
She called him again, more sharply. Where in the world was he? What could he be doing in this pouring rain? Poncho! Come!
She rounded the corner.
And saw the tent.
The tent was being tossed about wildly, rocking violently from side to side. It shook and thrashed. The fabric was punctuated, cartoon-style, by long thrusts and jabs from its interior, all suspiciously dog-shaped. Protuberances and bulges frenetically peppered the tent, stretching the fabric outward before popping back into place. The whole tent rattled and quaked.
It was possessed!
By Poncho, obviously. He’s just that kind of dog.
Was food in there? A sandwich, maybe?
Carol cringed, recalling that someone had been illegally camping here recently. Evidently, during the storm he had left his tent with the door enticingly open for any creature to wander in. Poncho had clearly found his way inside.
Worse, it appeared Poncho was confused as to how to get out again.
Give him credit for trying, though! He was certainly exploring every nook and cranny, and very energetically at that. The inside of the tent was taking quite the beating.
Days before, my own dog Jasper had pushed his way under our vegetable garden’s deer netting and was flummoxed as to how to get out. He cast about inside the vegetable bed, trampling the carrots and broccoli, before planting himself by the gap in the netting– the very gap through which he’d just pushed his way in– and yipping mournfully: Help! I’m stuck! How do I get out?
Poncho was lost inside a dome tent with an unzipped door, forcibly trying to punch his way out, bouncing around the inside like a demonic pinball, and Carol had the nerve to call my dog dumb!
This, right here, was payback. This was God’s way of saying, “Not so fast, lady. Your dog’s got issues, too.”
Carol called once more, and Poncho rocketed towards her voice and out through the tent flap, considerably cleaner and drier than just moments before, looking very relieved.
Readers: Please overlook the fact that Poncho followed Carol’s voice out of the tent, whereas Jasper was unable to find the open gap even as Martin stood right in front of it, looking through, expressly calling him. It was a different situation entirely. I’m sure you understand. You simply cannot conclude that Jasper is dumb.
Poncho gazed up at her innocently as she snapped on his leash. What, Mom? Why the leash? I didn’t do anything!
The owner of the tent would undoubtedly disagree.
I’m sure he is regaling his family and friends with the tale of his near-encounter with the enormous bear. The enormous muddy bear that obviously found its way, during the storm, into his temporarily-abandoned tent, ate all his food, and left a staggeringly wet and muddy mess. A narrow escape! Thank goodness he, the camper, had not been present for the fearsome meeting!
We can forgive him for misidentifying the culprit. A huge muddy bear or Poncho the dog, thrashing about a small dome tent, would produce equally disastrous results.
I love hanging out with Carol and her dogs. But I most-assuredly watch where I lay my sandwich.
Because Poncho is just that kind of dog.