September 2014
Through the Fence

Joe’s Close Call

Country dogs are more than pets. They are good friends and valued working partners in the family. They help patrol the property keeping it safe from unwanted intruders, whether animal or human. They spend their days riding in the back of pickups, working livestock, eating disgusting things found in the pasture and rolling around in road kill. Ranch life can be dangerous for dogs, though. There are rattlesnakes lurking under rocks and water moccasins in the creeks. There are snares and poisons set out by ranchers to catch the ever growing population of predators. We love our dogs and, because our lives are so intertwined with them, we’ll go to heroic measures to save them.

The other day, one of my junior high students Cade was out enjoying the day with his big brother Cory and a few of their many dogs – Joe, Wade and Junior. They have several small ponds on their place, a large pond and a big trash pit, where they enjoy exploring. Their trash dump is quite interesting since their granddad Willard travels the state going to estate sales and auctions picking up things for his makeshift automotive museum. And all the discarded items that he can’t resell or use end up there.

That day was similar to many others they’ve spent – the two boys laughing and talking, and the dogs running around marking their territory every few minutes. Suddenly, a rabbit jumped up out of a clump of grass. All three dogs took off after it and chased it into a hole. After that, they decided to go for a swim, all but Junior. He’d had all the excitement he could take for one day and had scampered back to the house.

Cory and Cade were preoccupied with their conversation and checking out the latest contribution to the trash heap. All of a sudden, they heard a strange and disconcerting noise. It was the sound of a dog choking. They looked down at the big pond and saw Joe stagger out of the water, hacking and sputtering.

"Oh, my gosh! Help him, Cory, help him!" Cade yelled at his brother.

He adored Cory, who is 10 years his senior. In his young mind, if anyone could "leap tall buildings in a single bound," it was Cory. So surely he could rescue a drowning dog. Before the words were out of his mouth, Cory was flying down the embankment towards the struggling dog. By the time he reached him, Joe had stopped hacking and had fallen over. Joe lay still as death on the rocky edge of the pond, his wet fur glistening in the late afternoon sun.

Cade made his way down the slope, wiping terrified tears off his cheeks with the back of his hand. In a frantic attempt to save their beloved dog, Cory was trying a crude version of CPR. He was pounding the chest of the limp dog and then waiting to see if he’d respond. He did this several times without result. By this time, both boys were crying. Cory took a break and heaved a sad sigh. He looked over at his brother.

"I think we’ve lost him, Cade."

All of a sudden, Joe coughed and roused up a bit. He rolled his head over to the side and spat some water out and coughed some more. The boys’ stunned surprise turned to sheer joy, when Joe attempted to get back on his feet. He was breathing heavily. He continued hacking and spitting water out. But he was so exhausted from the ordeal that he could not stand on his trembling legs.

Realizing Joe was going to live, Cory and Cade laughed and whooped and gave each other high fives. Code praised his big brother for the heroic attempt to save their good dog. Cory confessed that no matter how much he loved him, he wasn’t going to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on a dog. The older boy lifted the weak dog up and laid him across his shoulders, and they walked back to the house.

The next time the dogs headed down to the ponds, Joe stayed on shore. One close call was all he could handle.

Lisa Hamblen Hood lives near Priddy, Texas, where she teaches English, Art and Spanish. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..