Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Midnight in the garden of good and evil dogs

People ask, "Did you name your dog Chaser because she chases things?" Uh, no.
But she does take after the stray rabbit once in a while. My husband liked the name Chase and thought it would be easy for training purposes.
Uh, again, no. Chaser's name is a compromise between Chase and a tribute to the crew of the Columbia space shuttle, which was tragically lost on the day we picked up our baby girl. I wanted to pay tribute to their memory. So her AKC-registered name is Baldwins' Chaser of the Stars. She does, however, also answer to Poocher Smooch, Hey You, Bad Dog and What did you eat now?

"Midnight in the garden of good and evil dogs"
(originally published on March 20, 2007)

I’m gonna kill that dog.

The thought danced through my mind as I snuck across our neighbor’s yard during the quiet of the dark, moonless night.

The varmint in question was our golden retriever, Chaser, who had nose-poked my left side so hard I woke up from a deep sleep and bolted out of bed ready to do battle with whomever – or whatever – had invaded our home at precisely 12:03 a.m.

The intruder in question hopped around excitedly, gave a little grrrr and poked me again.

I heard a muffled, “What the hell is her problem?” from the other side of the bed where my husband was snuggled in blankets.

“Maybe the house is on fire or someone tried to break in or there’s a tornado coming. Aren’t dogs supposed to sense danger?” I asked.

I looked over at Chaser who sat on her haunches with one leg raised over her head and her nose stuck in her butt.

I doubted she was capable of recognizing impending doom at that very moment.

Satisfied she’d thoroughly inspected her rump she jumped up and stuck her face an inch from my nose. Having just witnessed the last place her nose had been, I grimaced and leaned back.
I took a whiff then realized what had gotten into our Chaser. Or, rather, what was trying to get out. And it wasn’t going to wait for morning. Or, judging by her increased agitation, it wasn’t going to wait another five minutes.

I said, “OK, let’s go,” to the antsy pile of strawberry blonde fur. I held up both hands in a stop-like gesture and smirked at my husband as I walked from the room, “Really, no need to get up. Please, I insist. Go back to sleep.”

His answering snore earned him the finger and a hex on his manhood.

I opened the back door, and the dog made a run for it like she was training for the Iditarod. Several minutes passed before I realized she hadn’t returned.

I peered out the kitchen window, searching for her long, fringed tail that – when wagging – could be spotted from a distance of at least three city blocks.

I opened the back door and gasped as the icy February air hit my face. Wearing nothing but a T-shirt and shorts, I wrapped my arms across my chest, leaned out and whispered loudly, “Chaser!”

Nothing. I tried again, a little louder, “CHASER!”

Only the wind answered back. I turned and grabbed a large flashlight. I flicked it on and swept the strong beam across the yard, hoping to catch a pair of gleaming eyes in reflection.

Nope. No Chaser. I mumbled several words my mother certainly would have disapproved of, shoved my feet into a pair of sneakers, grabbed the nearest coat – my husband’s – and headed out the door.

Since our neighbors to the left had a fenced-in yard I headed the opposite direction, fumbling with the flashlight while trying to free my hands from the coat’s too-long sleeves. Bad move.
It wasn’t until my left shoe slipped on the grass and I heard a squish that I discovered Chaser may be AWOL but she’d left a present behind.

That’s when thoughts of her unnatural demise slipped into my mind.

I dragged my foot along the ground behind me, trying to scrape the crud off and thankful for the darkness so I couldn’t see it.

I prayed the neighbors wouldn’t wake up to see me shuffling in jerky steps across their yard, mumbling to myself like an escaped mental patient, wearing what looked like an oversized coat and nothing else, and carrying a flashlight as if I were attempting the world’s worst break-in since Watergate.

Sweeping the light toward the rear of the yard, I finally caught a glimpse of a rump I recognized. It was attached to a dog that was sniffing a bush and didn’t have a care in the world.
That was about to change.

I didn’t bother to whisper this time. “Back here! Now!” I stomped my feet, even the one in the stinky shoe. “Or I swear to God no more chew toys!”

Obviously such a life wasn’t worth living. She streaked past me toward our house. It wasn’t until I walked inside and looked down at my feet that I finally smiled.

I was wearing my husband’s shoes.
You can e-mail Kelley Baldwin at

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