Canine Cloaking and Stealth Technology

Even before first light, it was apparent we had gotten more rain last night than I was aware of. This is not to say that I slept soundly. There is a point to which rain on the tin roof is a comforting white noise. And there is the point beyond which it is as soothing as a high-elevation plane-load of lug nuts on sheet metal.

Last night was more of a sheet metal night, and the total volume of rain, it turns out, was enough to reach local flood levels–which for us means 1) the low water bridges will be covered in up to a foot of fast moving water, and 2) we’d better take up the 2 x 12 plank we use for a footbridge. I didn’t.

So I’m standing there on the wet back porch at dawn, the dog has gone out for the umpteenth time, and scanning around, I spot her sitting motionless but on alert at the foot of the maple-syrup tree I spoke about a few weeks ago. She is surveying the pasture side, where there is a very brave—or very stupid—gray squirrel she particularly likes to chase.

I go back to my coffee and my revery, listening to fat drops fall out of the trees, now that the front has passed east of us.

Suddenly from the maple, the dog yelps, but I don’t see her. She couldn’t have gone anywhere but down the bank. Maybe she stepped on a rose thorn.

I called. No Gandy. I put on my slippers without looking away from the source of her distress call. She would be down the bank digging, I was certain.

And when I got to the road looking down into the creek, I realized how very steep that bank was, and worse, how much more water swirled in the muddy creek at just the point where she usually crossed it to get at Mr. Squirrel.

I called. No dog. I speculated, knowing she had been right there seconds before I heard the yelp. And I leapt to the dismal conclusion she had gone into the roiling creek, come up once for a final distress call, and was either pinned under the muddy water or had washed down stream.

I screamed for her to come. If she was within earshot, she would come. She didn’t. I could not believe what had just happened. But freak accidents happen. I turned for the house to get my boots, to walk downstream and find her carcass washed ashore. What would I tell Ann?

And as I reached the back porch, the cloaking-capable dog appeared from UP the hill BEHIND the house as if to say “What’s all the shouting about?”

I’ve never known a dog that could be headed west and show up behind you from the east. I am certain there is a StarTrekian technology involved.

My hope is that,  maybe when we have reached mutual agreement in our various relational contracts, Gandy will allow us access to the tracking goggles that will let us detect her movements that mere mortal eyes must never see.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Ah, yes. One of my past dogs was famous for his teleportation skills. It was not my favorite talent of his.