In the waiting area of the VA eye clinic in North Little Rock I pondered all the service of those gathered for treatment. One fellow in his 90’s wearing a U.S. Navy cap sat proudly with a young lady, perhaps his great-granddaughter, listening benignly as she explained what he certainly must have known about his appointment. There was another World War II vintage vet in a wheelchair, moving around independently, even though a 30ish rock star sporting a lot of ink hovered about him. But most of the veterans occupying the waiting area with me were of the age to have served during the Viet Nam era. One of these was a slight built gentleman in camo, wearing a pony tail and speaking sonorously on his cell.
In apologetic tones, the vet was explaining to the person on the other end that he could not meet face-to-face that day because of medical appointments in North Little Rock. He said “The dogs are only puppies, only seven months old. Sir, I am so sorry they got into your fence. I will certainly take care of that, sir.” He went on at length and I gathered that his home was back in the woods and that he had a kennel. Some of his hunting dogs (pups) had escaped during the previous night and chased some domesticated deer around. I gathered the neighbor raised venison for personal consumption and he naturally did not want the threat of invading predators. It sounded as if the apology was tentatively accepted and when the man got off his phone, he saw my interest and struck up a conversation with me. He was all about breeds of dog and what each one was bred for and how safe dogs were around children if raised aright. I think I had heard all his arguments before. Just when I was about to ask him about his service, the nurse called for him.
I thought of when I used to live in the woods out on Benton Trails, off Bellah Mine Road. I had exactly the wrong kind of dogs for a person who wants them to stay at home—beagles. Oh, they are a wandering breed, aren’t they? I started taking them down to the lake to run some of their energy off but had trouble getting them back into the truck. They did not want to go home, even after an hour or two of intense sniffing, bolting, jumping, wading and sprinting all up and down the shore. To teach them a lesson one day, I left them down there, thinking, I will go back just before dark and pick them up. But, just before I decided to leave to go back down there, I heard them coming through the woods. They both told me proudly, in dog, “Hey, man, we don’t need that truck. We have legs. And, by the way, if we want to go to the lake, we will go.”
And, go they did, on a regular basis. They also figured out where my daughter lived about three miles away as the crow flies. She had given me the dogs in the first place. When they discovered a route to her house, they found it preferable to my house, so, I guess I gave those dogs back to her without intending to. In fact, I am afraid that family has bailed me out of the pet business repeatedly through the years. I probably should stick to parakeets.