Cheating Death

Shortly after losing Barney to some unknown malady, we had a close call with another dog that made me realize how lucky we have been to have Champ and Sis for 14 years.  It’s not surprising that the event involved Tuffy as her genetics (rat terrier/Jack Russell cross) have produced a temperament that is not conducive to longevity.  As a very young dog, she pursued something, probably a squirrel, up a cedar tree and became wedged between two branches.  When we noticed she was missing, it took quite a lengthy search to locate her half a mile from the house, climb the tree, and break off the branches to free her.  She does everything with the ferocity and reckless abandon of an early morning shopper on Black Friday so this first brush with death was not to be her last.

I didn’t notice Tuffy was missing until I called for her and Susie to come in the house for the night.  John got home from a hunting trip about 9:00 p.m., and I asked him if he’d seen her before he left.  He said that he hadn’t, but he did notice that the dogs had been barking and digging around the pile of utility poles a few hundred yards from the house earlier in the day so that would be the logical place to start looking.  At this point you probably need a quick explanation as to why we have approximately 50 utility poles lying on our property.  When our rural electric cooperative replaced most of them in our area this fall, I thought it was odd that John told the workers they could pile as many as they wanted in the clearing, but he has a unique ability to find a useful purpose for things most people would throw away.  I can’t count the number of times he has needed a pipe joint, specific type of screw, or countless other assorted items, and he has been able to dig around his shop and find the required object.  However, even if he decided to build a pole barn, 50 utility poles dumped in a haphazard pile seemed to be an eyesore destined to occupy that spot until the day the kids settle our estate and try to figure out why they were ever piled there in the first place.

One benefit of living with a coon hunter is a plethora of very powerful lights, so we had no problem heading out in the dark in search of our missing pooch.  I started calling her as we neared the pile, and we could hear her muffled cries long before we got there.  It took longer than I expected to pinpoint her location.  At one point John even crawled in a very narrow opening in the stack of poles trying to get a better view.  His love for Tuffy was put to the test as he battled claustrophobia to get his light to shine at an angle that would illuminate her position.  Somehow she had wedged herself once again into a spot she couldn’t get out of, but this time it was under several tons of timber rather than up a tree.

Her cries grew more pitiful as we assessed the situation and discarded one course of action after another.  Any attempt to move the poles on top of the pile risked shifting ones below and crushing her.  She was too far back from the ends of the poles to dig her out, and at one point John suggested leaving her there for the night and calling the utility company in the morning to come out and use their equipment to move the poles.  I was a little embarrassed that the simplest solution was the last one to come to me particularly since we had been cutting wood earlier in the day.  I said, “Why don’t you get your chainsaw and cut off the ends of the poles until we can get close enough to dig her out.”  I could tell John experienced the same embarrassment when he ducked his head and said simply, “That’s a really good idea.”

It wasn’t quite as simple as it sounds as we had to gently lower the ends of the poles as they were cut, and some of them were extremely heavy.  I had the task of keeping Tuffy back so John could cut as close to her as possible, but eventually he cut the last one, and I started digging with my hands in the frozen ground.  With Tuffy digging from the other side, it didn’t take long to create an opening large enough.  She was cold, tired, dirty, and very happy to be free.

The next day we went for a walk and as we neared the clearing, Tuffy nervously jumped into my arms.  I tried to put her down and she jumped back up.  I’m not sure how much dogs understand, but she knew that was not a place she wanted to be.  Most people spend their Saturday nights going out to eat or watching a movie.  On that particular Saturday night, we starred in our own action adventure drama, “Cheating Death.”

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