Wednesday, May 9, 2012

well, shoot!

This evening's walk started out wonderfully. We all dawdled on our land, waiting for our youngest to pick up his pace. Daddy had pup leashed - a new training scheme we're adopting until he recognizes the rules, particularly our road safety regime - and our eldest dog meandered back and forth patiently awaiting her cue to run...

At the roadside Daddy had all the family look left, right, left (rallied in Spanish of course) and baby, who by now was strapped into the double stroller (our dawdling abandoned after the headstrong little fella was hellbent on doubling back) joined in with Daddy's pointing and listening hand signals, making for one proud papa!

Once the all clear was given, our 'trained' dog ran, and our leashed pup - after safely crossing - was allowed to follow suit. Big kid wanted to run too, so we followed our little runner down the long rocky driveway of our neighbors' property (our friendly neighbours - who welcome us to walk our family and dogs on their 20+ acres). Momma started cheering him on with the following tune:

run rabbit run rabbit run run run
here comes the farmer with his gun gun gun
bang bang bang bang goes the farmer's gun
so run rabbit run rabbit run run run! 

After a few rounds Daddy joined in, and before long our eldest was singing along with the odd word here and there, while running as fast as his little legs could carry him. Each time we finished the catchy ditty he cried "more!" and so obligingly we repeated it over and over.

We didn't go far. It's about a 1/4 mile walk from the country road down our neigbours' dirt drive to our usual turning point. First we pass a man-made fossil shrine, followed closely by a big BIG ant colony, and then we stop just before an uprooted tree stump. Any further and our neighbours' trailer comes into view, so respecting their privacy we've always stopped short of that stump.

Frequently we off-road a little (only if we're all on foot) and take our time dawdling back home through the trees, but it was already 6:30pm and with Momma's hopes tagged to a 7:00pm bedtime, we needed to be heading back soon.

The dogs had been playing behind us within our neighbors' woodlands, and as we reached the fossil shrine landmark they dashed across the path in front of us, as they normally do, to explore the land beyond. Daddy and the kids and I all turned around and the running verse game continued:

run rabbit run rabbit run run run
here comes the farmer with his gun gun gun
bang bang bang bang goes the farmer's gun
so run rabbit run rabbit run run run! 

Pushing the stroller along single-handedly, Daddy reached out for mine with his free one, and together we sang out loud, watching adoringly as our eldest ran his heart out. Once the country road was in sight we slowed our pace in order for the dogs to catch up, and baby started chiming in with the 'bang bang bang bang' part of the song.

But the dogs were nowhere in sight. Daddy and I called out their names, and both kids - with their hands at their mouths - imitated as best they could. It wasn't unusual for our pooches to dawdle on the way home, so without worrying I finger whistled a little to make sure they'd heard - while Daddy and big kid pulled faces at each other, fingers stretching their mouths open wide - conspiratorially mocking Momma's whistle.

Laughingly we all 'ran' on, but this time our song was chillingly halted during the 'bang bang bang bang'.. with a loud and very real BANG!

I froze, my blood running cold as I blurted out to Daddy, "You don't think someone just shot at our dogs do you?" Our friendly neighbours' 20+ acreage is not fenced all the way round, so the dogs could have strayed beyond an invisible border, and be trespassing on hostile territory....

Daddy's instant and definite "No baby" was somewhat reassuring, and within moments of the shotgun fire our pup came bounding up the dirt path toward us, sitting obediently beside the stroller so Daddy could leash him. My heart was in my mouth as I waited only a few short seconds before thankfully our girl followed hot on pup's heels. They both looked exhausted - but our lady dog slowed to a jaunt well before catching up with us. We waited until she overtook the family, then we slowly retraced our steps home.

Daddy was the first to spot blood on her tail. She wasn't limping, and there was barely a splash of blood, but that didn't mean she wasn't hurt. She's a tough girl. Last year she gashed a ligament in her back right leg after running through a scrap metal pile - but she toughed it out - the only evidence of her injury being a blood trail.

Leaving the rest of the family to fend for themselves, I walked our 'wounded' doggy toward the house. She had to be persuaded away from her kennel so I could tell she wasn't feeling tip top. Daddy suspected she'd caught herself on a fence - or that the blood had come from another animal entirely, but neither of their mouths were bloody so that didn't add up...

With a hot washcloth I started cleaning the few dotted blood stains on her fur. There was a small splash on the underside of her tail and under her booty, and one tiny smear on her back leg. Her thick hair made it hard to see through to the skin, and she wasn't flinching at all while I wiped the blood away. It was just starting to look like a bit of a mystery - a coincidental shotgun fire conjuring up a 'storm in a teacup' - when I saw a tiny hole piercing the back of her left hind leg. It wasn't bleeding, and she seemed content to let me closely examine the already clotted wound.

It couldn't be.. could it? Daddy had just brought the kids inside, so I summoned him over to get his diagnosis. There was no exit wound, so any bullet would still be lodged inside her leg - Daddy surmised -  and, after fiddling with the hole, he concluded there was no bullet. Likely - he speculated - she had punctured it on something sharp like a barbed wire fence or a cactus. And with that, he took the toddlers up to get their PJs on.

Not yet convinced there hadn't been foul play involved I massaged her leg further, and sure enough my thumb eventually found what felt like a ball bearing floating about two inches up from the piercing.


He had to concede - one of our neighbors had doggone shot our girl!

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