52: Bringing Up the Rear

52: Bringing Up the Rear

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: I Can't Believe My Dog Did That!

Bringing Up the Rear

When it comes to skiing, there’s a difference between what you think it’s going to be like, what it’s really like, and what you tell your friends it was like.

~Author Unknown

For sixteen years my family and I shared our lives with an amazing Beagle named Brandy. I say amazing because although he astonished us, horrified us, humbled us, delighted us, inspired us, and at times downright exasperated us, he never once ceased to be a little devil-may-care rake. His was the spirit of the swashbuckler, never to be bowed or broken. We could not help admire it. His escapades became legend both in our city neighborhood and in the fields and streams around our cottage. One of Brandy’s adventures the second winter he was part of our family is indelibly etched in my mind.

It began one beautiful day in early March, that time of year when the snow crust was as hard as pavement and sun-glazed to the slipperiness of an eel’s back. Skiing conditions, both downhill and cross-country, were in the treacherous to suicidal range. Undaunted by the precarious footing, my friend Christiana and I set out to walk our dogs — Brandy and Christiana’s Boxer named Ross.

We headed through the woods and across a meadow glistening with snow diamonds and framed by spruce and pines iced in ivory under a perfect sapphire sky. The sun warmed our faces, awakening pleasant thoughts of spring, but also glazing the snow’s hard surface with a treacherous liquid sheen. Several times Christiana and I caught each other’s sleeves to prevent falling. Even the dogs were finding it difficult to remain on their four paws.

At the far end of the meadow the land dipped downward into a long, sweeping slope of virginal white that terminated in a cluster of alders and dogwood. When we reached a vantage point, all four of us paused to view the panorama.

Suddenly I saw Bran’s ears prick into that alarming stance that indicated “the game” as Dr. Watson would say, “was afoot.” Following his line of vision, I saw a rotund lady in a pink ski suit perched atop the hill about fifty yards away. On her feet was a pair of cross-country skis.

“What can she be thinking?” Christiana, a veteran skier of the Austrian Alps said as she, too, caught the object of Bran’s interest. “Cross-country skis . . . on this slippery crust . . . on a hill?”

As we watched, the lady plunged her poles into the crust and then squatted to adjust her boots. Her pink bottom hung between her widely spread skis.

And then disaster struck. A howl went up from the smallest member of our company. Before I realized what was happening, Brandy was off, charging toward that pastel bundle as if someone had just yelled, “charge!” or he’d discovered the Energizer Bunny slowing down within his reach.

There was a scream, a frantic scratching. The lady, still in squat position, plunged down the slope, pink rear end bouncing over each natural mogul with an accompanying shriek.

Christiana, Ross, and I half-slid, half-staggered down the slope toward the crumpled mound that had finally come to an abrupt halt in the thicket at the bottom. Brandy had vanished into the bush.

“Are you all right?” Christiana, a nurse, was instantly at her side.

“Yes, yes . . . I think so.” Slipping and sliding on the skis still miraculously attached to her boots, the woman hung suspended between my friend and a dogwood like the personification of that well-rounded cartoon creation in Michelin tire commercials. “But who owns that miserable little dog?”

Christiana and I exchanged glances. “We have no idea. He’s been following my Boxer through the woods all morning,” my quick-thinking friend replied.

We helped the woman unclamp her skis and assisted her to her car parked on the road below the meadow. That was that . . . we could but hope . . . as Brandy stuck his head out between two small pines.

But it wasn’t. Not by a long shot. The following morning when Christiana returned to work in the hospital, a colleague told her of an unusual case she’d treated the previous day.

“This lady had bruises and lacerations all over her bottom,” she reported. “She tried to tell me it was the result of some kind of weird skiing accident involving a dog. Now I ask you, do I look gullible enough to swallow a crazy story like that!”

~Gail MacMillan

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