The dogs were able to cruise the yard at will - there was a shock collar system set up with an underground perimeter around the entire house and yard. That way they could trail us kids as we adventured. There were about 5 acres total to explore, which kept both the kids and the dogs occupied most days. We didn’t find out until after the dogs did, that if they ran through the line, the collars stopped working, and they were free to roam the neighborhood on the other side. Our dog Fanny would actually sit on that perimeter line some days. I’m not sure if she just liked toeing the line of danger, or maybe she was trying to stick it to the man, aka Dad.
The first time they ran through the line - actually every time they ran through it, they went to the river. They were Chesapeake Bay Retrievers - water dogs with thick brown curls, and the most beautiful blonde highlights in the summer. Water was their sanctuary. Buck and Fanny were a beautiful couple, they did everything together, especially getting into trouble together. They had once been puppy sized bandages for our grief of Joquo, who’s buried beside the garage. They would come back soaking wet - that’s how we knew where they went. The house must have been less than 100 yards to the river, across one Montana dirt road and through the neighbor's field, so they weren’t traveling all that far. But the river was strong, and we worried they would get caught in the current. I almost wish the current had been too strong for Buck. He would have died doing what he loved most in the place he loved most.
On the bad day, my mom was worried sick that the dogs had run away again, their third time this month. As she picked me up from school she said that Fanny had come home, but Buck was nowhere to be found. Fanny was grounded and locked up in the kennel, hopefully a beacon to home for Buck.
At home, I got out of the car and walked around to say hi to Fanny, and there was BUCK! Mom, he’s home! On the second look, I notice that he’s moving slowly. His eyes glazed over, not focusing on me. There is green mucus coming from his nose. I had never seen a dog with a runny nose before. It didn’t make sense. To be honest this is where the memory of what happened next is blurred for me. Who would want to remember any more details about the scene of your first dog's death?
A day later we got news that a neighbor's dog had met the same fate. 'Poison' said the whispers on the other side of the bedroom door. A bad man was around the neighborhood and poisoning dogs. I don’t remember if they caught the man; I do remember we eventually resumed playing as usual, so a resolution must have been found. I remember the thrill of walking down the road to my neighbor Kerry's house for the first time after all was clear. It felt like an endless and terrifying journey - really 100 yards of dirt road, but the dark woods on either side of me were obviously filled with ghouls and goblins ready to poison me next. One last thing I do remember now, was that Fanny didn’t sit on that perimeter line until the day that Buck didn’t really come home. She sat out there waiting day after day for her Day One to return. I'm sad that we couldn't tell her that he is home - he's buried right next to the garage with Joquo.