High Adventure in Little Grafton
A touching missing (and found) dog story, plus our tribute to the Royal Wedding
Every year when vacation time rolls around, I am slowly but surely possessed by “Separation from the Garden of Eden Syndrome.” I do not expect this phenomenon to be understood by most of the working world, for I have had a life marked by extraordinary good luck. Surely having a great job in a centuries-old country inn situated in what is arguably the most beautiful town in New England, plus having been raised in this neighborhood and then returning here to raise my own children, well……this is the stuff of fairy tales.
So, back to vacation. With the inn shut down, my social life ends. I am, after all, a native son, a Vermonter, and without a defined role for me to play, I always feel awkward in conventional social circumstances. I’m a home body, content with my dogs, books, music and, of course, the land. About 10 days into my happy vacation, the phone rang. It was a next door neighbor (about a mile away as the crow flies) and it was truly a moment of distress. Julie is a wonderful, warm-hearted woman, and I have known her for a long time. Our kids grew up together and were good friends, and, in our household conversations, Julie always was voted “the perfect homemaker.” Nowadays, her beautiful nest is generally empty, and seeking the special companionship that a dog can bring, Julie had arranged to become owner of a young, though mature, Bichon Frise. This petite, curly haired breed is known for being especially friendly, but this particular dog, now two years old, had had, through unusual circumstances, very little interaction with people. So, Julie traveled personally to the kennel with every intention of giving this shy, lonely creature all the love it would need to blossom into the companion she longed for.
Arriving back at her mountain-top home, Julie fastened the leash to the dog’s collar, lifted it out of its crate and down from the car. As she attempted to lead it into the house the dog jerked back in fright, forcing the collar off over its head then dashing down the dirt road and off into the snow-filled woods! You can imagine Julie’s sense of panic! She drove down the road stopping frequently to call out…..what?? What could one call when the little thing didn’t even have a name? It was gone. By the end of the day, Julie had contacted all her neighbors, the state police, the local police, the area road crews, the village schools and the village store. Word spreads fast in a small town, and by mid-morning of the following day, absolutely everyone knew of Julie’s plight and sympathized with her. Day after day went by. By the close of the third day, despite a growing sense that things were not going to end well, the litte dog was sighted outside another hill-top home about two miles from Julie’s place. She went rushing over with tempting morsels and high hopes, but again the poor thing dashed off into the woods and was gone.
While no one would think of mentioning such a thing in Julie’s presence, the perils this small dog faced were considerable. Not only was the snow still deep (though the crust that had formed would likely support a creature of 10 - 12 lbs.) and the night time temperatures well below freezing, but foxes, coydogs, fisher cats, bobcats or newly awakened bears would all welcome a Bichon Frise snack!
Julie called me at around 8 pm of the fourth day of the search and left a message. A sighting had been reported to her about 2 miles from my house. I got her message at about 11 pm and immediately went outside with my two dogs, Sophie and Luke, to see if they might detect anything; but no. The weather report was for nighttime temps. of below 20 degrees. I went to bed with sad and anxious thoughts.
It was 6 am when I let the dogs out again. Almost immediately, Sophie set up a great clamor. I rushed outside where she, nose high in the air, was scurrying back and forth but not really focusing on anything. I searched the general area and concluded that a deer or moose had passed through the yard shortly before. Back to breakfast preparations. Again a doggy outburst - this time close by the house. I went to the window. Sophie was now very focused , and, following her point, I stared intently into the grey light. There, about 15 feet away, curled up in a leafy pocket between two rocks was a shivering, tattered little mop of a dog. Its head was down, and it made no response to Sophie’s barking. I ran out and grabbed Sophie who is a great play dog but was surely freaked by the fact that this odd creature was not reacting to her in any way. With Sophie secured in the house, I slowly approached the new arrival . It lifted its head, and I could hear a low, steady growl, alerting me to the likelihood of another flight into the wilderness. Instinctively, I sat down. Lord! That ground was cold!! How had this poor creature survived? Over the next few minutes, keeping up a steady steam of soft, encouraging words, I inched closer and closer. Finally I extended my hand for the “sniff check” ; there was none. Exhaustion, shock or both had drained most of the dog’s energy. I touched its ear. I touched its head. Still no reaction except for heavy shivering. So I began, very gently, to stroke it. About the fourth time, I slipped my hand beneath its body and drew it towards me. It seemed feather-light. I had not taken time to put on a jacket, and the warmth of my body must have felt like heaven, for I could detect no resistance. I stood up slowly, walked to the back door and entered the kitchen.
Just as the psychic had said. Yup. Julie had also consulted a psychic who had been used by the New York State police for various projects. She had “seen” that the dog would be found alive, and she could “see” a man carrying the dog into a kitchen. (I hope that she did not “see” that I had not cleaned my kitchen in days!). Anyway, I put the critter down right beside the woodstove, and while my two sweet-tempered dogs gently sniffed at the new arrival, I phoned Julie with the good news. It was about 6:20 am, but Julie was on the phone after one ring. I doubt that she slept much at all throughout this ordeal. She’s surely sleeping better now, and this lucky dog is in for some pampering such as no dog has ever known!
Before saying goodbye for this month, I found that as I returned to my post at The Old Tavern, a real frenzy was mounting over the British royal wedding. In that the inn has many 18th and 19th century antiques in its collection (including our president who just retired) – it seems proper that we should acknowledge this grand marriage in some way. Lodging, food and drink are our specialties, and, while our pub serves a sublime plate of fish and chips, if I were to pick one of these three as the most fitting to offer as tribute to a wedding, it would have to be drink. A good drink is not only a “bracer” to help stay afloat on the wild waves of marriage, but, consumed in moderation, an aphrodisiac, a tranquilizer or……. consumed in excess, a refuge in the rest-home of the subconscious. You can’t lose! So, here’s a warm-weather drink for Will and Kate, created here in little Grafton, with our best wishes!
The Royal Coachman
fill a 10 oz hi-ball glass with ice
add 2 oz Chambord Royale
top with fine sparkling water
garnish with thick wedge of lime
(be sure to crush the lime and plunge it into the drink to get the right balance of sweet and tart)