Monday, March 17, 2008

Stop and Smell the Guinness

They say the Irish are born with the gift of blarney; no one can spin a tale quite like them. I thought about sharing an old ghost story that I heard many years ago, but I think the story I didn't tell you on Saturday would be much more fun. It's too bright and sunny outside for Banshee stories.

Our neighbors have dogs. They've had several over the course of the years they've lived there. Right now, they have a little pointer-type dog named Caesar and a boxer whose name I have yet to hear. For my purpose, I'm going to call him Rex.

Rex is tall and lean, as boxers go, and barks at everything and nothing. When dad and I come home from work, Rex is usually in the neighbor's fenced back yard, sometimes with Caesar, barking at us like we're climbing his fence. And that dog can jump! It's a good thing he doesn't actually perceive us as a threat when we're getting things out of the car, or I'm sure he could clear that fence.

Last Thursday was a day like any other. Dad and I came home to the jarring sounds of Rex barking away as he always does. In fact, his barking is so regular that many days I barely take notice. Usually, by the time we get out of his sight, he stops barking.

But, on Thursday, he did not. Even after we were well inside and there was no sound or movement on the street, Rex kept barking. And barking. And barking. I looked out the back window to see if I could identify what had gotten Rex so worked up; honestly, I didn't notice if he was up at the fence barking at us when we got home. What I saw was a dog who was barking and carrying on at a specific spot in the grass near the fence between our yard and the neighbors'. It could mean anything, an unusual stick, a mouse or mole, a bird (I hope not!). Then, I saw a long black thing shoot forward. It might have connected and it might not have, but Rex backed away in sudden shock, and then went right back to that whatever it was in the grass. He never stopped barking. It took some twenty seconds or so for me to identify what was troubling the dog.

I let it go on for a bit, wondering to my parents if I should go next door and tell them Rex found a snake that was doing its best to get the dog to scram. I heard the neighbor yell at the dog, but otherwise take no notice of what was bugging him. Following that, Rex went back to barking, the snake went back to biting. Alright, I'll take care of this myself.

I went into the back yard and armed myself with a stick. Rex saw me coming and backed away, but didn't stop barking. Now, he had me, dad, and the intruder snake to bark at. Poor dog! I also understood his confusion; there was this colorfully-spotted black snake coiled up next to a pile of Rex-poo, looking much like a pile of poo himself. Except it moved, and bit. I'd be unnerved if a pile of my poo started moving about and biting me, wouldn't you? And who knows, Rex might have been very concerned that the moving, biting pile of poo actually came out of his butt. Who knows what dogs think sometimes.

Rex backed further away from us as dad armed himself with a stick of his own and we approached the fence. Rex was really more concerned with the snake than with us, and he kept barking. The snake was all coiled up, ready to strike again. He was very pretty, and one I have never seen before. My attempts to identify it have been inconclusive, but it most resembled a juvenile rainbow snake; listed as endangered by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. We gently prodded the snake with our sticks and it gladly slithered away.

And, as the best anticlimactic ending that could possibly be to this story, the neighbor opened a window in the house and once more yelled at the dog to keep quiet. So, I yelled to her that he had found a snake that was biting him, which is why he was barking, and we shooed it away.

She said, "Oh, he had a snake?"

"Yes, we shooed it away." I repeated.

"Oh. Thank you."

Take the time to pay attention to your dog, lady, and you could have taken care of that yourself! But, I didn't say that.

With the snake safely hiding and the pile of poo the only (normal) pile of poo about, Rex was happy again. And quiet. Ahhhh.

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