Dog Daze

I have established in previous posts that as a family we are connoisseurs of Saturday. A well executed Saturday can provide a man with a fine reserve of memories fit to be recalled when he is old, grey and not sure what day it is – or either just too old to care. This past Saturday did not necessarily place a memory in reserve, but instead recalled one from my childhood. But before I reveal a childhood scar, allow me a moment to set the stage.

This past Saturday I worked our church booth at a local event known as Dog Daze. The name is a double entendre in that it is a southern festival that honors dogs calendared in the month of August. There is no word in the English language fit to describe Alabama in August. Thus, we grapple for words that try to get a person close to the experience: nuclear, melt, sweltering, I can’t breathe, heatstroke, and one from the Bible “Hades.” Somewhere in time a southern belle also added the word “dog days” to describe the experience. I am not sure what this means but I am conditioned to know that the dog days in Alabama are a seasonal near death experience. And so everyone in our town and their dogs cuddle up to death in the Alabama nuclear festival known as “Dog Daze.” In short at Dog Daze you have several thousand people with several thousand dogs, dying together on a Saturday for the fun of it.

In addition to the nuclear heat and the gaggle of dogs there are some things about my wife and I that you should know. I will offer you a short list, stories for another day, just to set the tone for my scar:

1) Along with one of my best childhood friends, I was once chased by a bear.

2) About the time I turned double digits I went along with my dad’s Sunday School class for a horse ride in a Tennessee state park. My rent-a-horse saw the barn and commenced full sprint. Apparently for rental horses the prospects of hay is a performance enhancing drug. I know sprint is not a technical term for a horse’s gait, but my rent-a-horse would have been a fine entry into the Kentucky Derby. My rent-a-horse was much faster than a horse. He ran like a cheetah. I cried like a girl.

3) My junior year of High School I drove a pickup truck full of cheerleaders down main street for our homecoming parade. A horse stuck his head through my window and tried to bite me, or eat me, I’m not sure which. No cheerleaders were harmed.

4) The following year at what should have been a very suave moment called “Senior Prom” a buddy and I (along with our dates) rented a horse drawn carriage for a moonlit ride through the streets of downtown Chattanooga. Other than the fact I treated my date particularly poorly that night the evening took a disastrous turn as our horse aptly named Willie Nelson went haywire, almost plowed over a drunk guy and rammed our carriage into a parked car. The drunk guy saved his life by leaping vertically onto the top of the car. Apparently alcohol is a performance enhancing drug. Again, no cheerleaders were harmed.

5) As a child, my wife was badly bit by a dog. She has the scar. The scar I am about to share is purely psychological, hers is physical and psychological. She is very afraid of dogs. She also worked a booth at “Dog Daze” and used a double entendre to describe the experience. Coupled with the heat and the sheer amount of dogs with teeth she described “Dog Daze” as her own personal Hades.

And now my scar laid bare for all to enjoy.

I grew up in a neighborhood called Indian Springs. No Indians actually lived there, but we did have a very cool spring fed pond. A street over from my house lived a dog named Bear. There wasn’t a chain in Dixie that could hold Bear. On all fours Bear was as big as a Grizzly. He had jaws like a gator. He bit my mom on the fanny while she was riding a bicycle. Bear turned every bike ride into a life and death situation.

One day on a bike ride I turned off of Indian Springs Road headed toward my house on Apache Trail. Apache Trail is the only street in America that is uphill both ways. About the time I started my climb I was ambushed by a pack of dogs. People say that dogs don’t communicate, but I believe they do. These dogs had choreographed a plan to ambush me from both sides of the street. They hid behind two houses and at the precise moment I passed they jumped me. I knew two things simultaneously in a single thought. I knew I was about to die and I knew Bear had cooked up the whole thing. Bear had planed to have me killed. I climbed Apache Trail like Lance Armstrong climbs the Alps. With every downward thrust of the pedal there was a good chance I would pull up a nub. My Kangaroo sneaker was wet with Bear’s saliva. Just before I said goodbye to my right foot I took one last glance at it only to realize that it was not Bear who was trying to kill me, it was my own dog Snoop. My dog, the original Snoop dog was an Indian Springs gangsta, an Apache Trail thug.

To this day I’m still not sure what went wrong between me and "Snoop the actual dog" but I know from that day on our relationship was never the same. My childhood dog was not the best friend to man that all dogs are destined to be, my dog was my hit man. His contribution to my life was insecurity, paranoia, and an unbelievably careful demeanor anytime I ride a bicycle through a neighborhood.

A few months later Snoop lost a battle with a fast moving car on Hwy. 41 but his legend lived on. Apparently Snoop had a thing going with horses and bears because they too have tried to kill me. Until this day I believe within the animal kingdom there is a ransom on my head. I survived Dog Daze because I wore some cool sunglasses. I was incognito. The whole thing was very Clark Kent, the canines had no idea who I was. I was just a pastor handing out literature at our church booth wearing some killer sun glasses that my wife picked out for me last summer.

If I met you that day I hope you will come visit our church, but I have this word of advice for you. From what I saw on Saturday your dog did not appreciate the near death experience of an Alabama “Augustfest.” My advice to you would be to stay off your bicycle for the next few weeks. Your dog may be looking for payback!


Beth Russom said…
You crack me up! I really enjoyed reading that!

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