Larry's been out making friends again.
"Hi ... this is Eric. I'm a jogger on the Centennial Trail, and I saw this big black dog lying in the crosswalk when I made my first pass going north. Half hour or so later I turned around and headed back and, well, he's still here. Friendly guy. Very gentle. Looks like maybe he's waiting for someone. He talks to everyone who runs past. He's just ... lying there, all stretched out across the trail. Makes you run around him. Thought maybe he was lost, so I checked his collar and got your number. So now you know."
Yes, now we know. Actually, Eric is the second caller this week. It seems Larry has elected himself "crosswalk guard" over our section of the trail. I suppose from a distance he looks pretty menacing. I mean, he's 120 lbs of lab/chow and has a head that looks like you could crack walnuts on top of it. But when you get close enough to peer into those eyes, you can tell right off a buddy lives inside. Larry's not going to hurt anyone. He might lick you to death, but that's the only real danger.
We're stymied as to how to keep him on our property. It's hard to fence 13 acres, particularly when most of that is through dense woods. We don't want to keep him kenneled, because what's the point of having 13 acres and a dog if the two can't enjoy one another? I couldn't imagine keeping him confined all the time. So we try to watch as best as we can.
When he's not sitting on the front porch or sniffing the ducks or trying to lure the goats over the pasture fence, we know he's on the Trail. I've gone after him a time or two. I'll walk down to the edge of our driveway, scan left, scan right, see a black blip, and set to hollering. "Larry! You go on home!" He's wiley, that dog. He won't come right to me. Instead, he slinks off into the woods and tries to beat me back to the house. Sometimes he wins. And then I'm greeted with that innocent "What?" expression, as if he'd been sitting on the porch all along and I must be losing my mind.
Mid-afternoon forays are one thing, but nighttime disappearances really cause my heart to thump. And those only happen around New Year's and the 4th of July. Larry has no tolerance whatsoever for fireworks. At the first hint of a Whistling Pete, Larry's head shoots up, his ears stand to attention, and he looks for a place to hide. That's fine if he's in the house with us. But if he's outside, he takes off.
We first realized he had this tendancy a year and a half ago, on New Year's Eve. Larry had wanted to go out, and I thought nothing of letting him. About an hour later, he wanted back in. He was breathing hard and slobbered all over himself and our saltillo tiles as he trotted to his green mat. Once there, he collapsed in a tuckered-out heap. Not long after, I noticed the message light blinking on our phone. “Yeah, this is Mike over on 85th," I heard. In the background, loud music blared and the din of many voices filled my ear. "We’ve got Larry over here enjoying the festivities with us. We’ll let him hang for awhile and then see what happens.” While we'd been sitting quietly at the kitchen table eating shrimp and playing cards with our friends, Chris and Cora, our dog had partied with strangers.
We've tried to keep a good eye on him since then, but he managed to disappear at dusk a few nights before the 4th this year. Dave walked the woods behind our house and I drove the car around the neighborhood, calling his name. We went to bed not knowing where he was. I got up every twenty minutes or so, hoping he'd returned. I'd glance left, first, to the patio door, then right to the front door. I so hoped one of those glances would yield a view of a big, black lump of fur, but by midnight, he still hadn't come home. He took his time that night. Didn't make it back until 3:15. We heard him leap onto the front porch, and that was enough to wake us from a dead sleep. It's hard for 120 lbs to leap and land quietly, and for that, I'm glad.
Two nights ago, just as I drifted off to sleep, I heard some thoughtless yahoo on the other side of the woods starting up again. It wasn't just one firework, but several, and though I didn't know it right that minute, the guy would shoot them off for the next hour. Isn't the 4th over?
In two seconds I was out of bed and standing on the front porch, looking for Larry. In the time it took for my voice to drift through the night and my eyes to adjust to the darkness, I saw his form, halted in mid-flight on his way to the woods. He turned at the sound of his name, spun, and bolted back to the house. He didn't even wait for an invitation inside--he just flew past me, a black blur of anxiety.
"Where do you think you were running off to?" I asked him, scratching between his ears. He twisted his head and that snakey tongue of his whipped out and slathered my hand. I kept talking. "Don't you get it, you silly pup? We're your safe place. When you're scared, don't run off. Run home."
The words were still hanging in the air when I heard a whisper. Remember that, He said.
--Ps 62:5-8 NIV