For most of my life I have managed to steer clear of the local jail house. I’m not saying that I have never been to jail, only never as a resident. I have been down to visit a friend. I have been called down to get friends and family out of a tough spot. I have posted bail. I have signed in and talked to folks through the glass over the phone. But I have, by the grace of God, never had to take a ride in the back seat of a patrol car.
I wish I could say the same for Max.
This past weekend was my son’s birthday. He and I made plans to go fishing together. Not a big trip. Just a hour’s drive down to a country pond in the heart of Marion County. We were both looking forward to wetting a line for a few hours. Lord knows, it’s been too long since we last went fishing together.
When we started loading the truck after lunch on Saturday, Max was keen to the notion that “we” were going for a ride. He watched from the porch as we loaded the boat up in the back of my truck. A 12ft aluminum V-hull with three seats. Ever since I brought it home from the lake in Hampton, it has been propped up against a big Pine off to the side of my yard. It has never felt right to have the boat here. I was eager to get her back on the water.
Max circled the truck a couple times.
“Not this time buddy. Me and your Uncle Marshall are going fishing. I can’t take you with me. It’s a strange place with a lot of room to roam and get lost.”
I opened the back door to put our cooler in the truck. Max crouched like he always does to jump in. I said “No.” He slumped and walked away with his head down.
It’s uncanny how much a dog understands. You can just tell by looking at him that he knows he cannot go and that he doesn’t understand why.
He sits on the bottom step to the porch. He’s watching me. “Why can’t I go. I won’t be any trouble. You know I go with you everywhere. For crying out loud, I ride with you all over the place. I stay in my bed in the back floorboard. Have I ever once complained? Come on, you gotta let me go.”
I gather up a few last things from the kitchen and head down the steps to the truck. Max sits up and looks at me dead in the eye. It’s like all the pleas I used to get from the kids. “Can I Dad? Can I go? I’ll be good. Can I, huh? Can I?” He’s killing me. I scratch him on the head. “We’ll be back this evening. You stay here and keep Mama company.”
As we head out the drive, Max is galloping alongside. I can see him in my mirror. Most of the time he knows he can’t go and stays around the house as we go out of site up the hill. But not this time. My son is watching his side mirror as we pull out onto the blacktop.
“He’s still coming. Should we stop?”
“Naw. He’ll give up in a minute and go home.”
In my mind, I know better. Max has occasionally gone roaming all over the dang county. But that usually happens when it’s thundering and raining, and he takes a notion to run off when we’re not home. I can’t stand the idea of putting him in a pen. He’s my buddy. He goes with me more than my wife, for crying out loud. So, I get that he doesn’t understand what just happened.
The story I got is that Max did make it back home in fairly short order. He paced the house looking for me. Kept going to the door when he heard a noise, thinking I was home. Sad eyes looking out over his nose at my wife who has complete empathy for his feelings.
With us gone, Beth decides to run down to Subway to get herself a sandwich. “Why not treat myself to something different for supper?” So, she lets Max out and heads to town.
Now, I’m not suggesting that the rest of the story is her fault. She leaves Max all the time and never has any problems. He’s always there ready to jump and greet and pant all over her when she gets back.
But, I think we pushed him too far this time. He watched her leave and said to himself, “Fine. Just leave me. You can all leave me if that’s how you feel. I’ll show you. I won’t be here when you get back. I’ll run away. That’s what I’ll do. I know when I’m not wanted.”
And he left.
We left the pond a little earlier than we planned. The fish were just not biting, and we both were ready to get on home. We tried to call to give Beth a heads-up, but the cell signal was non-existent. Thirty minutes up the road, as we were coming through Talbotton, my phone rang.
“Yes sir, this is Deputy Jones with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. I found your dog wandering over on Highway 27 and I’ve got him with me in the patrol car.”
“You own a black and white dog by the name of Max?”
“Yes sir, I do.”
“Well, I picked him up over in front of Mountain Shadows just wandering down the road.”
“Yep, that’s him. He okay?”
“Oh, yes sir. He just looked lost and I knew by the collar that he belonged to you.”
“I’m about 25 minutes out. Coming through Talbotton as we speak. Where do you want me to meet you?”
“Not a problem. I’ll hold on to him. You can come by the Sheriff’s Office and I’ll be there with him.”
Don’t that beat all. My son is laughing his head off. My dog has been arrested. Well, kind of. I know Max well enough to know that he is enjoying every minute of his little escapade. No doubt there were snacks to eat. Plenty of furry scratches on his head and down his back. The last thing the deputy had said to me was, “No hurry. He’s a good dog.”
Max is known by most of my neighbors. He eats whatever they give him. He is welcomed on most front porches. I’ve gotten phone calls from miles away to let me know he’s alright. He is no stranger to strangers.
I pull up in front of the Sheriff’s Office and walk up to the door. The deputy meets me just inside. Max turns his head. “Oh, it’s you”, he says. I ask if there are any mug shots I should be concerned about. Evidently, no crime was committed. So, I trade out the deputy’s leash for my own. Thank him. Apologize for all the trouble.
“No trouble at all. He’s a good dog.”
Exactly what I was thinking.