From I AM SARGE, Book 1 of THE DACHSHUND ESCAPADES
Papa and the Garden Fence
I gradually worked my way into a routine at Papa and Grandma’s home. I often woke up very early—I know this because it was still dark outside—and Papa would take me out to the backyard first thing. Then we’d come back in and lie back down. Sometimes I wanted to play, but a granddawg figures things out pretty quickly. Grandma and Papa wanted to rest a little longer, so I complied. Besides, Mama had left my soft doggie-print pillow and blanket that she had sewed just for me, which Daddy had placed in the corner of their bedroom the third day I was home. She took them for me every time we went anywhere.
When it was time to get up at home, Mama had always made sure I had plenty of water and “my” food in my special dish each morning. She told me I could eat from it all day, whenever I felt hungry or thirsty. They had bought me a dish with my picture and my name, SARGE, written on it in big letters. Mama had left that with Grandma, too, and I felt right at home eating from it. She always put that in the car when we traveled.
I played in the backyard each morning. I inspected the grass, the trees, and chased away all the intruding bugs. I even barked at the pesky cat next door, who often came prancing by, twitching her tail. I really didn’t like that black-and-white cat too much because she always acted so uppity. I couldn’t reach her, of course, because of the fence, but I could certainly see her and smell her coming.
One day as I was in Papa’s yard, minding my own business and hunting down trespassing bugs, she came up to the fence, watching me. I went over and began barking at her to leave. She just sat and stared, then yawned. What? This cat isn’t bothered by my loud bark? I wonder why?
Just then I heard the little girl next door calling for her cat: “Emileigh, where are you? Come eat your din-din. Emmy kitty, c’mon home!” What in the world is “din-din”? I didn’t have long to think that over, because the little girl saw her cat and came running over to the fence where we were facing each other. “Emileigh, you heard me calling you to come eat your dinner!” She picked up the cat and held her like a baby. “Were you bothering this cute little doggie again? I hear him barking at you sometimes.” Well, at least I’m not the only one who thinks this cat is annoying. Please take her home and away from my fence.
The little girl with blond curly hair looked at me. She had big blue eyes and gave me a friendly smile: “Hi, Doggie. My name is Ashley, and I’m five. What’s your name?” I barked, but of course, she doesn’t understand me. She said, “I am sure you have a name, so I’ll ask Grandma or Papa.” She whispered close to the fence, “They aren’t really my grandma and grandpa, but they told me I could call them that, since my grandparents live so far away. You haven’t lived here long, either. I saw lots of people here the other day. Do you belong to them or the grandparents?”
I didn’t bother to bark this time, because I knew she couldn’t understand what I was trying to say, but I did wag my tail and smile to show how friendly I was.
By now, that cat was squirming to get down, so Ashley told me, “I’d better take Emileigh home so she can eat.” That’s a great idea, Ashley. Keep her there as long as you like! “Bye, doggie! See ya later.”
Off she went into the house with her squirming cat, who was meowing rather loudly. Now I can hunt in peace without Emileigh—what kind of a name is that for a cat, anyway—staring at every move I make. I believe that cat would cramp my style if given the opportunity.
I ran around to the back yard just as Grandma was getting into the car. I heard her talking to Papa, who was working with his tools. “Robert, I’m going to the bank and then to the grocery store. I should be back in a couple of hours.” He nodded and went on with what he was doing. What exactly is he doing with that big roll of “something” he’s carrying?
As Grandma drove off, I trotted over to Papa. I saw it now—he had a big roll of barbed wire fencing. Since their yard was already fenced in, I couldn’t understand what Papa wanted this stuff for. I barked to get his attention: Papa, what are you going to do with that fencing? You already have a fence—so that cat can’t get in here.
As if he understood what I was trying to tell him, Papa answered me: “Pup, I’m getting’ tard of rabbits and even deer getting’ into my garden. I got me a fence on three sides of the garden around our property, but I’m also gonna put up this barbed wire fence around the edge of the garden to keep ‘em out.” He had several posts up, and he proceeded to nail one end of the fencing to the first post. “Well, this is gonna be harder than it looks. These points are sharp, boy.” As if to emphasize how dangerous it was, he stuck his finger against one of the points, then in an exaggerated way, yelled, “Ouch! That hurts! You be sure an’ stay away from this fence, pup. Hey, this rolled-up fencin’ wants to stay rolled up, so I gotta work hard to straighten it out,” Papa told me. It does look tricky to work with, but I don’t see how I can help except to stay out of Papa’s way. I sure don’t want to get myself rolled up inside that fencing!
By now, Papa was sweating as he worked to unroll the fence farther. He had stretched it to the second pole and nailed the fence to it with only one nail. He must have forgotten the other nails or something, because he was heading back to the first pole when that end of the fencing came loose and whipped back toward Papa, wrapping him up inside it! There he stood, his arms pressed against his chest with his hammer in one hand and a nail in the other. He couldn’t move, but I was scared he was hurt. Oh, what can I do to help you, Papa?
Papa’s face looked annoyed, and I started barking. That’s all I can do to help you. Papa said, “Sarge, run around to the front of the house and bark! Mr. Vance was in his front yard a few minutes ago. Maybe he’ll hear you and come over. Hurry, boy!”
I did as he asked and ran as fast as my short legs would go to the front yard. I saw Mr. Vance going into the house. Oh no! I began barking with everything I had, jumping against the fence and trying to get his attention. He turned around, saw me, but kept on going up the porch steps. I have to do something! So I decided to change my tune—I began a pitiful whine, punctuated with loud barks, all the time looking toward Mr. Vance and jumping as high as I could against the fence. He stopped again, then came over to see what I was barking about. Oh, thank goodness, he’s coming to help Papa!
Mr. Vance approached the front gate, stopped, and looked down at me. “Doggie, what are you barking at? You’re not scared of me, are you?”
Just then, Papa’s voice called weakly from the back yard, “Jim, back here. Hurry!” Opening the gate, Mr. Vance hurried after me as I barked and led him around to the backyard. There was Papa, still wrapped up in that fencing; he hadn’t been able to move at all.
With one quick glance, Mr. Vance asked Papa, “Robert, how in the world did you do that? Never mind—we’ve got to get you loose. You just stand still, and I’ll be careful to unwrap you as soon as I can.” Mr. Vance took Papa by the shoulders and started turning him slowly around, heading him toward that second pole.
“Jim, it happened so fast I didn’t know what hit me,” Papa said. “That fencin’ came loose an’ whipped around, wrappin’ me up tight!”
Mr. Vance slowly inched Papa along. When they reached the other pole, Papa was able to get himself free. He had a few small bloody spots on his shirtsleeves and trouser pants, he said, but seemed otherwise unharmed.
Mr. Vance asked, “Robert, why did you try to put up that fencing by yourself? Rolled-up barbed wire fencing is tricky. Here, let me help you finish it.” Both men got busy, and in no time they had that fence stretched across the front of the garden. I am so glad this is all finished and Papa is okay.
Grandma drove up just then. As she got out, she noticed that Mr. Vance was with Papa over by the garden. She came over to them and saw Papa sitting on the backyard stump. “Robert, what happened? Are you all right?”
That was all it took to tell the story of the fence and Papa’s trouble. “There I was, with my hammer in one hand an’ the nail in the other, and all I could do was stand there—I was tied up tight!”
Grandma said, “Robert, you get yourself into some fixes sometimes. Thank goodness Jim was around, or you might still be wrapped up. By the way, how did you get free? Jim couldn’t see you back here.”
Mr. Vance replied, “I was going into the house when I heard Sarge barking like he was distressed about something. I thought to myself that dogs are always barking—about nothing most of the time—and was about inside the door, when he started whining like something was really wrong. I came over to the gate, and he barked even harder, starting for the backyard. That’s when I heard Robert calling, so I went to investigate.”
“Yep, if Sarge hadn’t called Jim over here,” Papa added, “I’d sure be in a pickle right about now. How do you get inside a pickle, Papa, and why would anyone want to? “I really believe the Lord had a hand in gettin’ Jim back here, and I believe He can use dawgs, too, just like He used that donkey in the Bible to get Balaam’s attention on that mountain.” He picked me up and hugged me. “Boy, you deserve a special treat fer heppin’ your old Papa out. Let’s help Grandma get those groceries in, and we’ll see what we can find fer you.” I barked and licked his face. I would do anything to help you, Papa. But yes, a treat is exactly what I’d like!
As he headed back toward his house, Mr. Vance said, “That dog is something, Robert. I know you’ll miss him when Holly and Philip return. You folks take care, now.”
Papa thanked him again, and then he and Grandma took the bags of groceries into the house. I followed closely, because I was excited about my special treat he promised. I wasn’t disappointed, either—she had bought bacon treats, and they gave me three. She told me I wasn’t just a granddawg—I was a grand dog.
I wasn’t sure what she meant by that, but I believe it was some kind of compliment.