The Best Of 'Strange Thinking' With Author Rodney Strange
It's Saturday night as I sit down to write this and, well...I'm all alone. The house is eerily quiet and empty and I sense it deep within my very being. Aw...no, this isn't a pity trip. Not an 'I'm so lonely I could cry' story, some country 'cry in your beer' ballad. My daughter has reached the age of freedom, has her own wheels, and is frequently absent. I've grown accustomed to spending time alone most every evening as she spreads her wings in search of her very own life apart from boring ol' Dad. Heck, I would worry about her if she never left the house...it's just not natural for a teen to stay home, especially on a Saturday night. So. I'm good with all that...except for this one fact: she took the dog!
I hate to admit this, but after spending five years together, I've grown fond of that damn dog. It's always here, granted asleep most of the time, but tonight the dog is gone! And doggone it, I miss it! Never thought I'd reach this point. In fact, I recall the first week my daughter and her little dog came to live with me. Me, not accustomed to having another living thing to watch over, managed to lose that dog just days after it showed up in my life. I'll tell you the story...pull up a chair...
She stepped through the kitchen door, me following behind, my arms laden with clothes on hangers, a suitcase, and her backpack. This was not an every other weekend visit nor the customary summer vacation with dad. This time it was different…it was for good. A change in her life had brought this little city girl to the country, to a new life…a new adventure.
She brought along baggage. Yes, the typical baggage that follows a teenage girl, but then there was the dog. I’d not had one of those underfoot in years and had not had one who resided in my house in even more. I eyed the bug-eyed Boston terrier and she eyed me. As we sized each other up, it appeared we both came to the conclusion at the same time. It was the girl who had brought us together and as she was the most important person in either of our lives, we would just have to tolerate each other.
And after ten days, with the girl and her dog and me, my life had not been the same. When the weekend rolled around, she entrusted her loyal pet to my care as she headed off to a friend’s house for a sleepover. I could handle watching over this city dog, I promised. How much trouble could a canine standing a mere fourteen inches tall get into? Yes, run along and enjoy yourself, I told her. Me and…what’s its name again? …we’d be just fine.
It was a beautiful Friday evening and I decided to take full advantage of it. I cooked myself a steak on the grill and a weenie for….um….the dog, whatever her name is. Then, with the sun sinking into the western horizon, I settled into a chair on the patio and sipped on a glass of sweet tea. With a magnificent sunset, a cool breeze, and a puppy dog frolicking around the yard, what more could a man ask for, I asked myself. Before I had finished that thought, my cell phone rang. Ah, that’s what would make the evening better…a good conversation with a good friend…a good, smoking hot friend.
Dusk settled upon us as the conversation carried on. The talk turned to the dog. Yes, I was dog sitting on a Friday night. No, the little critter was no trouble at all, in fact…
The dog! Where was the dog? My eyes scoured the backyard of my country home, which consisted of around ten acres.
“Hey! Dog? Here Dog! Where are you?”
OMG, I’ve lost the dog!
“I’ll call you back!” I thrust the phone in my hip pocket and stepped off the patio. What was that dog’s name?
“Here puppy! Damn you dog! I can’t lose you…not on my watch!”
I frantically circled the house then expanded my search area. With just moments left of dim light, I began to panic. I leaped into the pickup and backed out of the drive, heading through the pasture. When I found no sign of the black dog in the blackness of the night, I turned into the pecan orchard, driving slowly as I called for the nameless dog.
Precious moments had passed when I turned onto the highway in front of my place, headlights illuminating the road. Fear swept through me as I prepared myself to find the Boston terrier splattered on the asphalt. With no sign of the pooch, I turned onto a side road, driving through a cotton field where I prayed I’d not find my daughter’s pet slaughtered by a pack of wild coyotes. My mind raced, visuals of every dog I’d ever had passing through my mind…and their demise, some on the highway, some at the jaws of the coyotes, and two from buckshot fired from a shotgun when they had ventured too close to the edge of that cotton field where a double-wide trailer sat.
Do dogs go to heaven when they die? I asked that question as I searched the darkness. It was the very same question I had asked as I buried so many of my loyal companions throughout the years. The Bible leaves it a mystery, but could heaven really be heavenly without dogs? Well, maybe just a few dogs. We wouldn’t want heaven to be overrun with packs of dogs that had met their fate in the middle of a highway while munching on roadkill. What would I tell my daughter? She was a bit too old to be pacified with, ‘But honey, your pet is now in heaven. It crossed over the magic rainbow…”
I winced as I imagined the fury of my child when I told her I had let her dog escape.
“Dad! Dad, you let my dog die! How could you? You had one job, just one!”
She would be devastated! Heartbroken! Tears would flow for days! She would be pissed! Our relationship would be forever changed.
After an hour of futile searching, I turned onto the dirt road leading back to the house. As the headlights of my pickup lit up the patio, my eyes lit up even brighter than the high beams. There sitting on the step with tongue hanging sat the little Boston terrier. I leaped from the truck and dashed toward the critter, swooping it in my arms and hugging it, tears of joy running down my face.
The dog licked my face then paused and looked into my eyes and…I swear I could read its mind…”So why did you run off and leave me here all alone? It’s spooky out here in the dark!”
I gave the pup an extra helping of Old Roy and a bowl of fresh water, then stood and just watched it. A text came in from my daughter:
“Dad, how is my dog? Are you taking good care of her?”
“Oh yes, sweetie! It’s been quite an adventure! We’re just…bonding.”
At that very moment, a putrid odor filtered through the kitchen making me force back a gag.
“BTW…your dog’s farts really stink!”