I figured out several years ago that emotional devastation over the death of a dog is kind of optional. Our first standard poodle died due to a bad reaction to anesthesia. Mollee and I were devastated, of course, and sat at our dining room table in shock. At once, without giving it much of a thought, I went to the recycling and pulled out the classified ads. Five hours after our first standard poodle, Truman, died, we had our second standard poodle, Hugo, who is black. Later, Mollee decided she wanted another standard poodle, and we added Scarlett, a red female, to our stable.
Two standard poodles is a handful. They are big dogs. It’s like having two miniature ponies walking around the house. They eat a lot. They used to knock the kids over. And they, like the kids, love to go to our ranch. We went there for spring break this year.
At the ranch, we just let the dogs (and the kids) take off. The dogs do more exploring, seemingly, than the kids do. They walk the trails side-by-side in formation, tails up and wagging in unison. They have been sprayed twice by skunks. They have gotten indescribably dirty. But never have I worried about them.
On about day two of our spring break, around five p.m., my son hollered to me that Hugo was foaming at the mouth. I went to check and he was indeed, but it was from panting. His glands had also cut completely loose, which necessitated an immediate bath. I got that done and went back to hanging around. An hour or so later, just before dark, Mollee asked, “Where’s Scarlett?” Immediately I started adding it up. Hugo’s condition, which I had not given much thought to, was totally consistent with some kind of traumatic event. This was not good. The moon was basically full during this time and the coyotes had been very active. Evening-time coyote attacks are not unheard of. Hell, one attacked our beloved governor during the morning, right? But I digress.
In any event, I quickly decided that Scarlett was dead. Of the two, Hugo is much bigger. He is the leader. Scarlett is the follower. Worse, she never struck us as being all that smart—at least when compared to Hugo or other standard poodles. And now she was gone. And it was dark. So I figured it was the classic deal. Hugo and Scarlett are trotting along and happen upon a pack of coyotes, hungry, agitated, yelping like they do. Then, the first law of nature kicks in. For Hugo, the truism goes something like this: “Scarlett, my dear, I don’t have to run faster than these coyotes. I only have to run faster than you.” The whole chivalry thing is probably lost on a dog.
As you might imagine, that was a bad night in our little ranch house. My son was inconsolable. Surprisingly, my daughter didn’t seem to much care. Dogs have never really been her favorites. She quietly read a book while my son gathered up on the floor in a fetal position and cried. Quietly, Mollee and I started looking for a new dog.
We stayed out there one more night. Still, no Scarlett. Even Hugo was depressed. He lay on the couch looking out the window, sighing from time to time. But the conversation inside had shifted. Mollee had found a new little female standard poodle puppy—red, just like Scarlett—in Ada, Oklahoma. She had emailed with the breeder, and the puppy was there and available. So on Wednesday, Mollee put up a little “lost dog” sign on our fence, mainly to appease our son, and we took off from our ranch in Dublin, made a stop in Fort Worth to drop off Hugo, and immediately drove to Ada, Oklahoma. Twelve hours after our journey began, we arrived back in Fort Worth, catatonic and $1,200 poorer but with a very cute little 13-week-old female red standard poodle who had been named “Stella” in the truck on the way back. Friday morning, of course, I got the call.
It is hard to get to know people out in the country, when you just own some land out there. Neighbors are far away. You really don’t see people except on the road. So when Lonnie Smith called me that morning as I was on my way to the office, I didn’t recognize him. But the conversation started, “I think I’m looking at your dog.” He described her. Red poodle. Big. Groomed. Yep, that’s her. He said he first saw her jogging to Proctor about a mile away from our place and knew she belonged to someone, so he didn’t shoot her. But he couldn’t get her to come to him. He would keep trying, though, and give me a call. I told him I would head directly there. I went home and got the two dogs at the house and went. I got updates from Lonnie as I went. He still couldn’t get her to come to him, but he was about to get a burrito from the store and he’d try that.
As it turns out, the burrito worked. I got there and Scarlett was curled up in the back seat of his truck—weak, simple little Scarlett, who had just spent four nights in the wild with the coyotes. Needless to say, I have never looked at her the same since. Scarlett the survivor. There’s a great lesson in there about assumptions and judging books by their covers. Once that burrito finally left her system, I was able to ponder such things. It was great to have her back.
So then there were three—three standard poodles. They are a nice complement, I guess, to our one cat, one python (my daughter’s, of course), two fish, and two kids.
We criminal defense lawyers work hard and our jobs take a lot out of us. Here’s hoping you also have a “non-law-related” story to tell.