Last week, as is my daily habit, I took my dogs on a little nature hike around the rancho. A jolly, carefree crone left the bunkhouse that day, but a broken woman returned. Why? Well, we don’t call it Dreadful Acres for nothing. I allude, of course, to another close encounter of the venomous kind with a Western diamondback rattler (see banner, above). Hear my tale.
The dogs are just a couple of doofy retrievers, a yella lab and a golden, cavorting in a big hay field. Suddenly the yella lab leaps 2 feet in the air, startled. I’m 20 yards away, but from the dog’s posture I know what it is even before I hear the rattle. Sure enough, the serpent uncoils, rising a foot and a half off the ground in strike mode. The lab is maybe 3 feet from the snake, and the golden is rushing over to investigate. I try to impersonate a happy and delightful crone, keeping the terror out of my voice as I call them back, but horribly, the rattling snake is more interesting than I am (says a lot about me, I agree), and both of those flippin’ dogs totally blow me off!
Note to Crone: shit, we gotta finish that obedience class.
Finally the lab decides to heed my desperate cries. She is followed reluctantly by the golden, whose recall is notoriously the worst in all of Cottonmouth County. Immediately I stuff their faces with the emergency organic chicken hot dogs I carry in my mouldering pocket for moments like this, hoping they’ll remember, for future reference, that (running away from rattlesnake) + (toward me) = cured smoked sausage. Tragedy averted, narrowly.
So that’s the backstory. The current status is that I am now too freaked out to let Fran and Bert out of the yard, with the result that they have cabin fever. Well, there’s a fairly snake-proof fenced-in acre that they can access through a doggy door, but that’s a pretty crummy arrangement when they’ve been used to what the great poet Oliver Wendell Douglas called “land spreadin’ out so far and wide.” Unfortunately, I know all too well from past rattlesnake episodes that it will be a couple of weeks before I can face taking them out again, and possibly months before I’ll be comfortable bringing them down to the hay field.
Even if I actually installed a decent recall on those dogs (heaven forfend!), it’s no protection against the vipers they find when they’re out snuffling around on their own. What’s a crone to do?
BTW, if you’re gonna suggest that I turn to drugs and alcohol: I already tried that, and it’s awesome, but it for some reason it doesn’t seem to fix my irrational fear problem. If, on the other had, you’re gonna suggest that I either suck it up or move to a serpent-free zone such as Antarctica, that’s no good either, due to my having been born without that crucial part of the brain used to make sensible decisions (see “drugs and alcohol,” above).
A version of this post originally appeared as a thread at the CoTH forum. I only mention this because I am informed that in this post-Jayson Blair age, it is considered bad form even to plagiarize oneself. Anyway, the CoTHers, ever wise, suggested that I enroll the pooches in a rattler aversion therapy class. My Google fingers are like wings.