Meet Scout. We just adopted him. Yes, I know: “That’s not a very original name.” My daughter already told me. But Atticus seemed a bit of a mouthful, Calpurnia was out of the question, and Jem sounds like “Gem,” and I didn’t want to be accused–again–of implying that we have the perfect dog. Although he might be, when he recovers from one tiny flaw. If I thought she had time to read, I wouldn’t cop to that either, since the same daughter expressed her hope that “the perfect dog,” would chew through a wall or two the first night he was home. She doesn’t want to be the only one with a Lab that will chew through any substance known in the universe.
Scout–named for his bright, curious nature as well as the literary allusion—had been deliberately abandoned. A vet found and took him to a shelter. The best guess is that he’s eighteen months old, all yellow Lab. He sure retrieves. He’s loving, great in the house, with people and other dogs. We’ve been keeping him leashed even though we hike in a natural area where dogs play off-leash. (He won’t until we have him reliably trained, even though he’s now microchipped and wearing identification.)
He’s been thrilled to run around our big back yard and fetch balls anyway. It’s fully fenced. Everything was going just perfectly. Until a workman at our house accidentally let him out the front door. Here’s what I learned: this dog can run. I mean, a greyhound has nothing on this Lab. Not only can he run, he thought he’d invented the most fabulous game ever. I charged off after him, then decided it would be a fine idea to go back for shoes, since it was about five below zero with seven inches of snow on the ground.
As I ineffectually chased, held out treats and called, implored, begged, demanded that he “Come!” in three languages (you never know!), Scout flew behind houses reappearing on the other side, tail wagging mightily as he stood to look at me before he took off running again. I tried sitting on the road, thinking he wouldn’t be able to resist a wrestling target. No dice. I swear he laughed. Then he dashed off again, thoughtfully circling back to see if I was crying yet. (Doubtless difficult to discern because the tears had frozen on my face.) Certainly my language as well as my ungloved hands had turned blue.
Thus I had an intimate tour of three cul-de-sacs. Long cul-de-sacs, all wooded. By now, every dog in the neighborhood was barking outraged jealousy. And Scout ran on. Until…
Until he ran through an open carport down a steep slope into a wooded ravine. There was no chance I could follow him down there, given the ice and no cleats or climbing ropes. He appeared back at the top, wagging an excited challenge: “What are you waiting for?”
Well, in this carport belonging to people I have never laid eyes on, was a Jeep. I was already in their carport, mind you, and their dog was heaving his body against their front door in a frenzy while making a great deal of noise that sounded like, “Come on, let me out you dummies, this exact moment is why you got an attack-trained Doberman!”
It was a desperation move. Most of my genius moves are born of initial stupidity and total desperation. I turned my back on Scout and opened the door of the Jeep. (Sheer dumb luck that it was unlocked and no alarm went off.) Then I glanced around and, faking total nonchalance, said, “Wanna go for a ride?” He instantly covered the fifty feet between us, and in one bound was in the strangers’ jeep. I snapped the leash on him, closed the Jeep door as quietly as I could, snuck back down that long driveway while the Doberman threats echoed in the woods. We headed home.
Yep, the perfect dog.