Carol Jane Remsburg
The Fourth is invariably too hot or too cool. This year was no exception—it was too hot, way too hot. It was another banquet of a holiday weekend. Parties, barbecues, and get-togethers abounded poolside or within the cool confines with central air. It was the last day of the three-day weekend that I met Wilson.
The two days prior were filled with domestic drudgery, yard work, cooking, and entertaining. Sunday was for visiting. At the end, we were all exhausted. The heat had been more than oppressive, it was a live thing, moving about and flaying the unwary with its cutting edge. That edge of 100+ degrees and 90+ humidity isn't for the masses. Most of us are committed to the comforts of our air conditioning.
The last few weeks we have seen snakes of many sizes and genders, many more than we've seen in years. It gives pause to the phobic among us—me included. The heat has pushed them out of their hiding places. On Saturday, my little doggy took on a 6' black snake with a vengeance. After two hours, her ire had wilted. The snake had perished long before.
Ah, but Wilson came into our lives on Monday. I have only two neighbors—one to the back (north) and one to the east. To my west is a cornfield and to the south, across the road are others but the old highway precludes my acquaintance with them well. Monday was a busy day. It was for more laundry, playtime for my daughter and supposed rest for me. It was a holiday, or supposed to be. The forecast was for the oppressive heat to continue. The kind of weather that kills.
About 10:40AM I wandered out with a third load of laundry to my nearly filled clothesline when I noticed my neighbor to the north had a new dog. It was unmistakably a Chesapeake Bay Retriever with the looks of a youth. Quite gangly and thin he was. I hadn't noticed that his demeanor was that of an older dog, one who had seen much of the harder side of life.
His owners were gone for the day. The dog was laboring and languishing amid the bright sun as he foamed and drooled. I had not met him before and didn't know if he were friendly or not. About all I did know was that Danny had just gotten him several days before. I walked over and called to him.
Wilson barely had the energy to wag his tail to make his friendly intentions known. At this point it wouldn't matter if he'd been rabid or not, the dog simply didn't have the energy to bite anyone. Still, Wilson was a gentleman of the old school. He knew his manners and showed them. The effort it took for him to display them was awesome.
All I wanted to do was to cradle the poor dog in my arms. He was much older than I'd originally thought. His lower jaw deformed by a fight or accident, I don't know which. His coat for a Chesapeake wasn't as thick as it should have been and was sprinkled with flecks of white. It was obvious his life had been more than difficult, he'd already been to hell, this was just the return engagement. Today further stated the obvious. This dog needed shade, lots of cool water, and immersion if it could be managed.
I gave him cool fresh water to drink that he immediately tried to immerse himself in. He was a grateful dog. My neighbor to the east, Louis came running at a trot. In this heat it was a sure invitation to a heart attack. Louis was kind enough to move the stake that Wilson was tied to and move it beneath the shade of the tree. He also hurried back to his house for more cool water.
Once beneath the shade, I bathed Wilson in gallons of cool water that I'd toted from home. Then the memory struck me. Many years ago, my family had once had a Chesapeake as a pet. He was strong, protective, beautiful, and slightly psycho, yet what this dog needed and desired more than anything was water. My parents brought home a kiddy pool and filled it for him. Our dog, Ginger, lounged the hot days away in the cool of that pool.
This was what Wilson needed, and needed with urgency. All we had was an old kiddy sandbox, a turtle with a cover. However, the bottom of the sandbox would make a perfect pool for a dog his size. I made my decision in an instant. Wilson would have it, must have it, and have it right now. Yet, it wasn't my sandbox to offer. Erin, now nearing nine, no longer used the turtle as a sandbox but as an outside toy box because of the cover. I met her on the porch. I was already flipping the toys inside onto the overturned, now inverted lid of the turtle while begging her permission.
Erin is many things, often not all I hope, but this child is not stingy. For an only child, Erin has the biggest, most generous heart that I've ever encountered. She will give away her favorite toy if asked—it may have to do with that Mommy and Daddy are sure to replace it, but still, the thought is there. She gives and became desolate over Wilson's plight.
Erin held him and Wilson was enthralled over the love he was receiving. Unfortunately for Erin, I was the object of his love. I had doused him with that reviving cool water. Wilson wanted to come home with me. My little doggy, who isn't so little about 80 pounds of mongrel, was having hissy fits all over the place in her pen in our back yard. Her view was a clear one, one that she'd rather not see.
Our gent, Wilson, knew how to remain stoic as we left him. He realized that he couldn't come home with us as much as I desired to kidnap him. He already had a master. His owner, my neighbor, Danny, arrived around 3PM. The rearrangement of his backyard came as a shock to him. I rushed out to explain and he was ever so grateful. He had no idea that the morning sun would give Wilson no shade to hide under.
Today held a purpose for me, one I would never have realized. Had I been at work and not at home a poor dog would have perished, just another life snuffed from the earth. Wilson lives and will live tomorrow too.