We were lucky enough to get a few minutes with Danny just after he got home from the vet the other afternoon. ( See A Yellow Lab & 40 Hours … posted on 1 August.)
“How did this start?” the visitor asked. “How did you get in this mess?”
Well, before the big guy threw us out to go and pee in the yard I had lifted a couple of beers from the frig, stashed ’em out by the gate. Of course, it’s his fault. He taught me several years ago to open the frig and bring him a beer. Lately, though, he and The Lady have been putting a lock on the door. From time to time the left-over lasagna or deviled eggs were just too tempting. I keep looking for a pork tenderloin, but there is never one there! Even when the lock is not on the door.
You heisted a couple of beers?
I did. Do it all the time. The Big Guy never misses it. Just keeps it there for when the neighbors come by. Especially that old, grey fellow … they don’t talk about nothing but football, drink beer!
Anyway, when he sent us outside to do our business at just dark I collected the beers and headed off into the edge of the woods. Settle down for a drink and keep an eye on the night critters: raccoons, those little spotted skunks, and the occasional bear. … The Big Guy and The Lady get all upset, hate it, when those two yearling bears from up the road get the bird feeders. B G and the Lady just stomp around most of the day, make twelve phone calls telling all the neighbors how awful it is. Damn bears! I suggested that they bring the feeders in at night, but I don’t think they paid much attention.
So you’re just there in the dark? … Having a beer?
Just minding my own business. … It gets kind of fuzzy here, but most likely what happened is I went to sleep after that second beer, didn’t wake up until sometime in the middle of the night. What woke me up was a bit of a ruckus down in the hododendron thicket that seemed like needed investigating. Turned out to be an owl in pursuit of a black snake, crashing around down in the middle of the limbs and leaves. I left them to sort it out. Decided I didn’t have a dog in that fight.
You realize it was the dark of the moon. Darker than a well-digger’s —- . Well, you get the picture. But even at that, if it
hadn’t been for that second beer I would have never gotten turned around. But I did, took the wrong trail, got on the wrong side of the ravine. I sat down for a while to think about it: go around the long way, or cut across?
What the heck, I decided. Just walk that log down to the lower end. It’ll save a couple ‘a minutes. Everything was fine until that mama possum started fussing at her little ones. Right under my feet, it sounded like. Scared the bejesus out of me. In the dark I missed that next step, slipped half off the log.
You slipped off the log?
I did. But even then it would have been okay except that the limb I could reach with my back feet was rotten, broke. So, there I am draped across this half rotten log, four feet off the ground. Rear end hanging out in the breeze, so to speak. Every time I tried to pull myself back up, I just slipped farther.
Is that when you fell?
It was. Didn’t even hurt. Just suddenly I’m on the ground. Surrounded by all these broken, rotten limbs. Every direction I turned I kept jabbing myself against something. Finally decided I would just wait until daylight, figure out then how to get out of there.
But, boy, it was a long night. Longest night I ever spent … up to then! Bet I went to sleep twenty times, woke up with a start thinking it was dawn. But it wasn’t, still no daylight.
But it did come eventually. What did you do then?
Well, I discovered I was in a kind of a hole. And my rear end and legs were curled up sort of under and behind me, beginning to go numb. I could tell already I was gonna need some help getting out ‘a there. I barked like crazy.
Nobody heard you? … Bark?
No. I guess not. You know the house and all is on the other side of the ridge from there … and I was down in that ravine, and under all that brush and stuff.
After a while I heard the Big Guy come walking through. I knew he would be mad at me about the beer and staying out all night, so I studied on it instead of barking when he was close by. Then he was on down the trail and didn’t hear me.
That must have been discouraging.
Boy, I’m telling you! … And I was starting to get really thirsty. It wasn’t too hot. Being down on the ground, and under all that stuff. But it sure was thirsty.
Were you scared? … Ever scared? Snakes and things.
No. Not from that standpoint. Snakes don’t bother you much as long as you’re too big to eat. (chuckle) … I did hear some coyotes the second night, up on the mountain. But they didn’t ever come close.
Did you try again to get yourself out of the hole?
I did. Tried to use just my front legs, pull myself up. But there wasn’t any direction I could go that wasn’t blocked.
People came by once a while. That nice lady from next door, the one with the little black and red dog. I barked, but they didn’t hear me. Them being up on the trail and me in the bottom of that ravine. Nobody ever got off the trail, came down in the rough stuff, the ravine.
What was the worst of it? When you got really worried.
When it got dark again and there wasn’t anybody still coming by to check. That was the worst. And, by then I needed water bad.
Even another beer!
I don’t remember much of that night and the next day. I think a must have passed out from time to time. Then I would come to and know that it was getting hotter and how thirsty I was.
Did anybody coming looking that day?
Maybe. Truth is, I didn’t know what was a dream and what was real. The Big Guy might have been calling. But, hell, I don’t know. I might have been making it up. Things were getting pretty fuzzy about then. I thought somebody was there, or maybe another dog. Ester maybe. Then I would look and nothing. Just those damn limbs and sticks. The sun getting higher in the sky.
When did they find you? … How?
There was a howl. I sort of remember that. A howl, and three or four yelps. It wasn’t me, I know that. I knew it was from right where I was, but it wasn’t me howling. Do angels howl? I don’t know. I never heard one howl. I tried to look around, see who it might ‘a been. I didn’t see anybody. But … I might ‘a been dreaming, or even hallucinating.
Anyway, there was a howl. If I heard it, somebody else must have, figured out where to look.
What’s the first you remember? First time you knew somebody was there?
Somebody breaking away the limbs, the snapping sound. Then pulling on my collar. I think I just looked at them, couldn’t help. I tried to help. Think my front legs just quivered. I couldn’t help. … Then the water came. I’m still in the hole, and the water came.
I knew then it would be okay.
The Lady came in with a tray of peanuts, celery
and pimento cheese and such. Danny ambled off looking for a treat … or three.