I have an old dog. She is what you hear folks call a “Georgia black dog,” or simply, a GBD. She is generally very friendly around other people and other animals. Just a good ol’ dog.
When we picked her up from the animal shelter as a one or two year old, we noticed a hairless ring around her back ankle. Little did we know then that this dog—we named her Melon—was a wanderer and could climb like a ring-tailed lemur.
Early one afternoon I was in the backyard when I heard the fence rattling. I turned and looked just in time to see Melon climbing “hand over foot” through the chain link. I stood there slack-jawed while my brain tried desperately to make sense of what I was seeing. I didn’t know whether to be angry as hell or proud and excited to have myself a genuine climbing dog!
Sometimes I would be out front when Melon would appear in the side yard, making it for the street. I would yell at her, and I swear she would glance a little sideways at me and grin as she turned to head up the hill. Later we would get telephone calls:
“Hi, this is so-and-so! I think we have your dog.”
“Oh goodness,” we would reply. “Thank you so much! Where can we pick her up?”
The wonderful caller on the other end of the line would reply, “We are on Southview,” or “We’re near Memorial Park,” or “We’re sitting on the Jittery Joe’s patio up on Baxter.”
Inevitably these places were far from our home, and Melon would have crossed many busy streets to get there. I had come to understand more clearly the origin of her hairless anklet.
Eventually I bought a kit to electrify my backyard fence. I spent hours one Saturday wiring everything up, and yelped like a little girl when I first discovered that it worked.
My wife was nervous, and my young children were scared when I put the collar on Melon that afternoon. We all held our breath as Melon got closer to her favorite climbing spot near the garden. Eventually she stepped a little too close to the fence and let out a yelp and darted away from whatever had reached out from the ether to zap her.
My wife sighed and hung her head. My children gasped and threw their little hands over their mouths. I pumped my fists and whooped and hollered like I had just scored the winning goal.
Later, I stood at the kitchen counter chopping vegetables, reminiscing on the day’s success. I saw out the window that Melon was making her circuit towards the garden. She approached gingerly, even apprehensively. She stopped and stared pensively across the void, through the fence to the great unfathomable universe beyond. And then, I swear that she glanced a little sideways at me up in the window and grinned as she stepped through the electric cloud, shook off the blows like Muhammed Ali and scaled the fence in world record time. She landed on the other side and never looked back.
Melon continued leading herself on adventures her whole life. She’s been lost in the mountains for days at a time. Friends, neighbors and complete strangers have brought her home more times than I can count. At least a handful of times she has wandered no fewer than 10 miles or more from where we last saw her.
But now I have an old dog. She’s just a GBD, and she’s asleep right here next to me.
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