My Longest Night

Dog and paw-prints

My Longest Night

Stuart yelled at me, "Hey, P.C. You want to go gold mining?"

I jumped up and came running. I don't know what "gold mining" is, but this dog knows what "go" means. If my people are going, I want to go with them.

Everyone wants to know how it is that I got named P.C. okay, here's what happened. When my littermates and I were just three days old Chris and Stuart came to meet us for the first time. We were brown ovals about the size of your fist with stubby legs and noses and crawling all over each other. Chris asked Stuart what he thought of me and he said, "Why, he looks like an animated potato."

Chris said let's take Jimbo, too. Jim is my boy. Remember back a year ago, when Sassy had ten puppies? There were only two boy puppies. We kept one and gave the other one to our friend Ken. Ken named both of the puppies. He named them Jake and Jim, after the two mules in "Dances with Wolves." Chris calls Jim, "Jimbo" ... though don't ask me why.

Chandra was packing a picnic lunch for everyone. She's fifteen years old now, one hundred percent teenager and she sure is getting pretty.

So we all piled into the car and drove over to old Buck's place. Buck is a friend of Stuart's. He comes into the store a lot to sell to Stuart the gold he mines; and this Sunday, he has offered to take all of us gold mining. Everybody thought it would be a great adventure, because none of us have been gold mining before.

Buck looks like Willie Nelson on a bad day, and talks like a B movie. But he was really nice to Jim and me. He went into his trailer and got us each a dog biscuit. Then he introduced us to his dog, Oscar.

Oscar looks like a cross between a Doberman and a Rottweiler. He was brown and black, and big. He looked mean, but he turned out to be as friendly as his master was.

The three of us dogs stood around and did the compulsory sniffing of one another. This is sort of like shaking hands if you are a dog.

We followed Buck's truck all the way across the valley, and started up the mountain. After a while, the paved road changed to gravel, and soon that changed to a dirt road full of potholes. It was hot and dusty, and we were bouncing around so much, we couldn't even sleep.

When the car stopped, I looked out and saw that we were in a beautiful forest.

Buck and Stuart packed the mining equipment and the picnic cooler into big backpacks, and put them on.

We started down this really steep hill into the forest. We seemed to be descending forever. Suddenly, a big buck deer crashed by the path.

Chandra yelled, "It's a wolf!" Buck yelled, "No they're coyotes!" Sure enough, two coyotes went after the deer.

Buck said, "In all my days in the forest, I've never seen coyotes chasing a healthy deer. I figure that the deer must've bedded down, and the coyotes must've been stalking it. Then we came along, and flushed the whole bunch of them."

Buck then warned us that we were descending into rattlesnake country, and to let him and Oscar go first. Oscar hated rattlers and knew how to deal with them.

As last, I smelled water. Jim ran on ahead to the most beautiful mountain stream you could imagine.

The people got out their gold pans and sluice boxes, and Buck started teaching them how to find gold. They shoveled, they panned, they sluiced until they were all hot and sweaty.

Then Chandra jumped up with her gold pan and ran over to Buck. She thrust her pan in his face and yelled, "Is this it?"

Buck examined her pan and said, "Congratulations girl! You did it; you found your first flecks of gold!"

Everybody gathered around and looked at Chandra's gold pan, and made a big deal about it. I went over and looked in it, but all there was in the pan was a little black sand with a few orange glints. Big deal indeed. I wondered when we're going to have lunch.

Oscar wondered off like he knew what he was doing, so Jim and I followed. He went to a place nearby where the rocks looked like they had come from a volcano.

Abruptly, Oscar froze, for in front of him was a rattlesnake, the object of his quest. The snake struck at Oscar, but Oscar quickly jumped to one side, charged in, grabbed the snake just above the tail and threw the snake high in the air. The instant the snake hit the ground, Oscar was on it, grabbed it behind the head, and with a vicious snap, broke its neck.

Jim, who became very excited, ran over and sniffed the snake, and then started running around the area. Buck had warned us that rattlesnakes are often found in pairs. Sure enough, Jim found the missing half of the pair.

Jim froze, the snake struck, Jim jumped quickly to one side, then charged in, grabbed the snake by the tail, and threw the snake high in the air.

Unfortunately, the snake landed on Jim's head, and promptly bit him on the nose.

Jim let out a howl like a punctured pig. All the people came running. Buck killed the snake with the shovel and went over to examine Jim.

"This dog's been bit by a snake for sure!" Buck exclaimed.

Chandra started to cry. Buck got out a first aid kit and took out a needle. He then filled the syringe with a liquid from a bottle and stuck it in Jim.

Jim yelped again. Buck then took ice from the picnic cooler and wrapped it around the side of Jim's muzzle, which was already starting to swell. Buck said, "If you want your dog to live, we had better get him to a vet. We're going to have to carry him, too. If we make him walk up that hill, it will just get his blood stirring and spread the venom."

They loaded Jim into a backpack with his head sticking out the top. Chris and Chandra put the ice and the first aid kit in the other backpack. They abandoned all the mining equipment and the lunches, and started up the hill.

Forget lunch! I don't care about lunch. I don't care if I ever eat lunch again. All I care about is Jim. I was frantic. Please let him be okay.

The trip up the mountain seemed to take forever. Even though we think of Jim as a puppy, he actually weighs over ninety pounds. The two men had to take turns carrying him. To make matters worse, the temperature was almost one hundred degrees. By the time we got to the road, both men were exhausted. Chandra was still crying.

We raced off to the vet, with Chris driving, and Chandra holding the last of the ice on Jim's muzzle.

We stopped at the first phone booth, and called the vet. Fortunately, Dr. Osley was there, even though it was Sunday. He lives above his veterinary, and takes emergencies at all hours.

He told us to bring Jim in as quickly as possible.

When we got there, the doctor examined Jim, whose nose had swelled to twice its normal size. The doctor questioned Buck about the snake and what injection he had given Jim.

Buck said, "It was a two-footer fer sure," and that he had given the dog rattlesnake anti-venom. He also explained about the ice.

The doctor told Buck that he had done the right thing. He then gave Jim another shot and sent us home with instructions to keep Jim's head packed in ice all night. If he lived through the night, he'd probably be okay. It was the longest night of my life. I never knew how much I loved that rascally puppy until this crisis happened.

Chris, Chandra and Stuart took turns holding ice packs on Jim all night. I was determined to stay with my son until we knew the final verdict.

Oh my gosh! What happened? It's daylight! I must have fallen asleep. How could I have fallen asleep with Jim so crucial? Where's Jim? They must have taken him away! Oh no! They've taken him away!

I hear voices in the kitchen. I run in. There's the family. There's Dr. Osley examining Jim. The doctor says, "He's a strong dog. Looks like he's going to be okay."

I say to myself, "Son, we're going to have us a long talk about rattlesnakes."

Keep it waggin'

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