Blame it on Baxter

By Sarah E. Reynolds | Mar 05, 2014

I think it was Kahlil Gibran who advised couples, “Let there be spaces in your togetherness.” We tried that recently, with mixed results.

Mixed, at least, from my point of view. Maureen had long wanted to try snowmobiling, and decided another winter would not pass without her fulfilling this ambition. She researched sled rentals and places to stay and tried to recruit various friends and family to go with her.

The recruiting was because I was not interested in stuffing myself into a snowsuit and “enjoying” a noisy, bumpy ride through woods where the trees might leap into the middle of the path and kill me at any moment. I mean, do you have any idea how many individuals are rescued by the Maine Warden Service after undergoing painful, bone-breaking experiences on one of these machines? A recent press release from the Wardens detailed eight different accidents in a single weekend. And those were just the ones who required rescuing.

Then there is the problem of bladder relief – a matter of no small consequence to those of us who have to look in the rearview mirror of life to see the tiny speck of our prime receding in the distance. You can hardly expect a rest stop along the old snowmobile trail, and if there were one it would take you half an hour to remove all your layers and then put them on again.

Anyway, I declined to participate in this winter adventure. Nothing daunted, my partner forged ahead with her plans. Between the cost and the travel time, she had a hard time finding someone to accompany her. It looked like she might go alone, which caused me some worry (see reference to Warden's press release, above).

Finally an old friend from high school said she would go – more fun for Maureen, less worry about frozen bodies far from help for me.

On a Sunday morning, off she went to meet her buddy at a B&B in Fryeburg. I took myself off to the Farnsworth Art Museum for a wander around the galleries, something Maureen enjoys about as much as I do playing in the snow.

Then the work week started. I left three dogs, two of them German shepherds, at home. All day long.

By the time I got home, they were very well rested and had plenty of extra energy to work off. Only I had to go out to a meeting that evening, and had only a little time to let them out, get dinner for them and myself, and leave again.

And the next day, I went to work again. And left the dogs at home all day again.

That night, a friend was supposed to bring over a pizza for dinner. Which would have been great, except for the neighbors' dog, a little Bichon-Frise/Shih-Tzu mix named Baxter. Baxter usually barks up a storm when he's outside, just to let everyone know that he is the actual ruler of the neighborhood, German shepherd claims to the contrary notwithstanding.

I know enough to check carefully to make sure Baxter is not out before letting our shepherds out, because they feel compelled to run over to his yard and dispute his territorial claim. I looked carefully over at the neighbors' yard. I listened. No yapping. No sign of Baxter. I let Nicky, one of the shepherds, out.

No sooner was he out the door than, “Yap, yap yap,” there was Baxter asserting his neighborhood dominance. Nicky took off like a shot across the icy driveway, and I was fit to be tied. I grabbed my car keys to go after him, did the quickest penguin-walk I dared across the ice, and jumped in the car.

As I headed down the driveway, who should arrive in her rear-wheel-drive sedan, but my friend with the pizza. Argh! Now Nicky was having a field day, between exchanging barks with Baxter and dancing around in front of my friend's car, forcing her to slow down and eventually stop on the slippery upslope of the driveway.

I turned the car off, got out and started to walk down the edge of the driveway, where there was still some snow left to make the footing a little less treacherous. All the while, I was hollering at Nicky, trying to encourage my friend to just gun her car up the driveway – our dogs are stubborn, but not stupid enough to stand in front of a moving vehicle – and generally getting much too exercised.

My friend was now stuck on the ice, unable to get her car up the hill. She put it in park, and it started to slide backwards. Luckily, it came to rest without sliding all the way to the bottom. My friend got out, carrying the pizza, and walked, with what seemed to me amazing aplomb, up the driveway. I picked my way back to the deck and went inside to confine the shepherds so my friend could come inside without the effusive and very excitable greeting they tend to bestow on anyone who enters. The noise, however, was deafening, the dogs making up in barking and yelping what they were unable to offer in jumping, sniffing and licking.

Eventually, we did manage to have some dinner, and the dogs even calmed down, but my friend had had enough. On the excuse that she needed to walk down the driveway before the light was completely gone, she ate and ran, successfully backing her car to the bottom of the driveway and turning around to flee what had been a rather uncivilized get-together from start to finish. I could hardly blame her.

With what joy, then, did I greet Maureen, unscathed, having enjoyed her adventure as anticipated, upon her return the next day? I leave it to the reader's imagination.

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