"Are you kidding, these two hound dogs love picnics better than just about anything," We ran out wagging our tails and wiggling all over in that way that means, "YEAH, YEAH, YEAH!"
"Okay", they told us, "But first we're taking a tour of the caves and you'll have to stay in the jeep."
We had these two friends from California, Bill and Lois, staying with us. When you live in Southern California, you take visitors to Disneyland. When you live in Cave Junction, you take visitors to the Oregon Caves National Monument.
So they all hopped into the jeep, Chris, Stuart, Chandra, Lois and Bill. Chandra is twelve years old now and Sassie gets to sleep in her room at night. I sleep next to Stuart's bed and when he gets up at night he always steps on me. They put Sassie and me in the back with the picnic baskets. It was crowded, but who's complaining when there's fried chicken in the basket?
The drive from Cave Junction is about 20 miles through forests and along streams; it was really beautiful. On the way up there Stuart drove and Chris told everyone about how the Caves were discovered.
It seems that way back in 1874, 24-year-old Elijah Davidson was out deer hunting with his dog Bruno. He had just shot a deer when Bruno saw a bear and chased him into his den. Elijah heard Bruno's anguished howling coming out of the entrance. Elijah went into the den, which turned out to be the entrance to a system of caves. Elijah explored part of the caves, lighting Chinese sulphur matches until his pocketful of matches gave out.
Then with Bruno following, he followed a small stream through the total darkness until he found a way out. The next morning they found that the bear had come out of the cave and had eaten part of their deer. Elijah found the bear sleeping at the cave entrance and killed him. The white-faced bear shot by Elijah Davidson was said by him to have been a hybrid between a grizzly and a black bear, a so-called "mealy nose bear." Bruno the dog is considered to be the first discoverer of the cave. Around here, Bruno is considered a true dog hero. There are those around here who claim that when the cave is quiet and dark the ghost of Bruno still haunts those passageways and chambers. Sassie and I thought that this was a fine story--especially the parts about Bruno.
They got to the Caves and everyone piled out except us. They told us to stay in the jeep and guard the picnic baskets. When they say stuff like that it always makes us dogs feel really important. They made sure to park the jeep under some trees and roll some windows part way down. They make us feel really cared about.
It wasn't two minutes after they left that Sassie started gitting jumpy. She started bouncing around on the seats and complaining about being left out.
Sassie's not just a little puppy any more. She is starting to get kind of cute, but she's still pretty skinny. She is still totally hyper. She never settles down. She drives me nuts sometimes, and it looks like today's going to be one of those times. Up and down, head out of the window, back and forth. "I'm hungry, I'm thirsty, need to find a tree," she went on and on. "When's the picnic? I don't want to stay here." It was all I could do to keep her calmed down. I just wanted to take a nap, but with Sassie around, NO WAY! Suddenly Sassie jumped up, said that she thought she heard Chandra calling her and jumped through the opening in the window. Oh no, what should I do? I was told to stay in the jeep but Sassie's running for the entrance to the cave. I did the only thing I could--I went after her. I knew she was after our people and their tour group. We ran through the entrance passageway, into a big marble grotto, then into this area that looked like a garden except everything was made of stone. We could smell that we had almost caught up with them when we heard the tour guide announcing that he was going to turn off the lights to let the group experience total darkness.
Then the lights went out.
Everyone thinks that dogs can see in the dark. We're pretty good, but this was total darkness. Unless you're a bat--you're blind. All we could rely on was out trusty sniffers; so we ran around the tour group trying to locate our people. One lady started screaming when I brushed past her leg. A little girl put her hand on Sassie's head. Sassie licked her hand. The girl started yelling, "Mommy, it's giant cave rats, one of them tasted me!" A man shouted, "It's a dog... it's, it's . . . BRUNO'S GHOST!"
Thankfully, the guide got the lights back on and the people started calming down. The guide pointed at us and screamed, "Where did these stupid dogs come from?"
Stuart stepped forward sheepishly. "They're mine," he said. "They were supposed to stay in the car."
"Well get them out of here," he was still pretty angry.
"Where shall I take them?" Stuart asked.
"Stay right there, hold onto your dogs, don't move!" he said. He went to a concealed phone and called a ranger.
The ranger was named Carl and he was really nice. He gave Stuart and Sassie and me our own little tour to the nearest exit. We went through the River Styx, the Passageway of the Whale, a place called the Imagination Room (stone animals and objects of fancy seem to inhabit this room), and out the exit. We went back to the jeep while the others continued the tour.
Stuart started to tell us that we were both bad dogs. Then he started laughing and said, "Don't worry guys--I've been kicked out of better caves." After about another half-hour the rest of our group came back talking excitedly. Lois said she really liked a place called Niagara Falls, Bill liked the Ghost Room, Chris' favorite was the Banana Grove where flowstone drapery resembles banana clusters. Chandra liked the Grand Column where stalactite and stalagmites join to form the largest column in the cave. Chandra said that the guide told her how to remember the difference between stalactites and stalagmites. "Just remember, Ants in the pants," he told her, "when the MITES go UP, the TITES go DOWN."
We went up the trail for our picnic. We found a spot where you could see for a hundred miles. The food was great, the people were happy, the sun was warm and Sassie finally curled up next to Chandra and took a nap.