Dog Days

â–¶ We had guests Saturday for supper. It was raining. The wet dog would have to stay in the pen (concrete floor chain-link enclosure) until we were done with dinner. Mid-way, she started a strange kind of barking. Ann went to check and came back quickly: “There’s a snake in the pen with the dog. I think it’s a copperhead” she said. Dinner conversation took an abrupt 90 degree turn.

It was a copperhead. By the time I got out there, it had disappeared, but I discovered it behind some tools leaning against the outside of the pen fence. The shovel from among this collection would suffice. It was not a large snake. It has brothers and sisters. This is the third copperhead this year. We saw only two from 1997 through all of last summer. Bummer about the mild winters of late.

â–¶ It’s interesting how much more docile the dog is on the days when it is just the two of us here. I guess maybe it’s the competition and jealously, or maybe just that the general level of confusion, activity and marital discourse is disturbing. I like her better when she’s sweet (the dog too), and end up with fewer scratches from her claws. I’ve not had the fortitude to try the PediPaws yet. On the dog.

â–¶ Gandy will miss the oversized vegetable cast-offs from the garden, now that it’s about done for another year. The yard is littered with the corpses of huge yellow crookneck squash and blimp-shaped “straight eights” that exceeded those dimensions neglected on the vine.

â–¶ We started leaving her out of the crate at night four months ago. We took down the collapsible gate to our bedroom a month ago. That’s working okay mostly, but she seems to need the comfort of my nocturnal irritation about 2 in the mornings. She comes to Ann’s side of the bed with her wet nose intruding into our dreams. I get up and escort her back into the front room. Ann always whimpers that maybe the dog needs to go out. She never does. She just scratches herself in the dark, and goes back to sleep. I, on the other hand, go back to bed and lie there awake for an hour. It’s the Goose Creek rhythm, the zeitgeist of our times.

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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. I guess that 2 AM hour of sleeplessness will just have to be the quiet reflection time in your routine. I don’t have a dog who wakes me, just me that wakes me, but I sort of enjoy the forced quiet time, when I have to do nothing but meditate/pray. I do enjoy an afternoon nap, however!