Through the fence 8-17-09
Before I married and had children, my yellow Lab, Honey, was more than a pet to me. She was a best friend, a daughter, and a playmate all rolled into one. She went with me to work every day and slept on my bed every night. She retrieved sticks, balls, Frisbees and anything else I threw for her. She was always in a good mood except when she heard a noise at my door in the middle of the night or felt that some stranger or friend posed a threat to me. Then she was a 90-pound spring-loaded weapon, with teeth bared.
After I married, she reluctantly obeyed my husband when he told her to “sit, come, stay or lie down,” but she always checked with me before complying. One of the great things he taught her to do was bird hunt. Well, he didn’t really teach her, he just gave her the opportunity to hunt and she took it. We spent many happy cold mornings in lakes and swamps hunting ducks and letting her do the hard part – baling into the icy water to retrieve them. When we moved to a drier part of the state, duck hunting wasn’t as accessible, so Honey learned to retrieve doves and quail out in the tall grass.
One hot autumn afternoon, when I was expecting our first child, my husband and I took my dog, my sister and her husband to hunt some doves. We went to a field scattered with mesquite trees that was surrounded by pecan and cedar trees. My sister and I set up at the edge of the field, and the guys stood in the trees about a hundred yards away. When the first few birds flew over, my sister and I raised our guns and fired. As usual, Honey sprang into action, but we both had missed our aim. After a few moments of searching, she came back, disappointed but undaunted. It must have been a comical scenario. They’d see the doves fly over, we’d raise our guns, they’d see the smoke, and eventually hear the gun’s report. Then Honey would dash out, look around while the doves flew off into the distance. This happened more than once or twice. After a while, she just stayed put when we shot.
Being about 40 pounds heavier than usual, due to my condition, I felt like I had a good excuse for missing my shot. Finally, my sister and I walked back to the house. In about an hour, the back screen door opened and my husband and brother-in-law came in with their game bags full. Right when they came into the kitchen, the pungent odor of skunk hit me full force in the face. Seeing my shocked expression, my husband started to explain. I knew it was not going to be good when he pointed to Honey and said, “Your dog …” and paused.
Apparently, Honey was so excited by getting to retrieve, she wasn’t paying close attention. When my husband fired his gun, she dove into a hole when she saw something moving to get what she thought was a dove. Instead, she grabbed a skunk by the behind, and he sprayed her point-blank in the mouth. She backed out of that hole in a flash and ran, yelping into the open field. She cried, she howled, she rolled, she rubbed her nose and muzzle in the grass, and finally threw up in an attempt to rid herself of the foul-smelling spray. She kept trying to come over to my husband. Lucky for him, Honey was an obedient dog and stayed sitting where he told her to, so he could continue to hunt for a little while longer – far upwind.
Lucky for Honey, when they got back to the house, I happened to have the ultimate home remedy for skunk-funk – tomato juice. She wasn’t thrilled about taking a bath in it, but if she hadn’t, I don’t think any of us would have slept a wink. The next time Honey went in after her prey, she made sure she knew what she was grabbing.
Lisa welcomes e-mail correspondence from readers, and is also available for public speaking engagements. She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.