My wife had gone to Denver to help our daughter . . . and to get a rest from the demands of the farm and Franklin-Dog. As she left, I said, “Don’t worry, the guys (Franklin, Dennis the Kat and I) will have everything under control . . a little extra work but we are guys, we can handle anything!” . . . If everything goes as planned. Then, just a day or so after she left, it happened!
Franklin and I had gone down to our lower gate to let the chickens out. Being cautious animal people, my wife and I had built two gates leaving our property, sort of like an animal trap. They might get by the first, but not by both. Well, Franklin had been amazingly good the last few days so I violated gate-rule number one (not wanting to see his pitiful, sad face at being left behind). I fatefully let him walk me down to the second and last gate. Before opening it, I gave the firm command, “Franklin, sit!,” which he did; followed by, “Franklin, Stay,” which he also did, but only so long as it took me to open the gate slightly. As I went out the two-foot opening, so did he; then, pausing only to look over his shoulder as I said, ”Franklin, Heel!” he went down our driveway wagging his tail, and he kept going into the creek and wilderness forests.
This was no joke. Several neighbors had lost dogs going walk-about, to serious predators, to getting lost, or to some very strange people who shot stray dogs on sight.. Southern Oregon is mostly trees, rocks and streams with slippery boulders the height of your knees, and blackberry thickets of impenetrable density. I followed as best I could, called regularly which started with “Franklin ? ? ?, then Franklin ! ! !, then, to Franklin? ? ? ?” with a sigh after almost an hour of searching. Afraid that I had lost my little friend, due to my own carelessness. My huge amount of loving, unpredictable joy was gone.
Then, as I came out of a thicket into a neighbor’s yard, in this case a neighbor with lots of guns, one who jealously guarded his privacy, there was Franklin — on the back porch, wagging his tail. “Oh! God ! ! Franklin, Come, Good Boy.” Come, he did not. Rather he started circling this somewhat strange man’s house, again and again, several times more, each circle being a little wider; and always wagging his tail and just outside my reach. I kept calling out, hoping not to get either Franklin or me shot. Thank God, no one home. Finally, Franklin widened his circles, headed down the road, and up our driveway towards that fatefully open gate. In he went, on his own. Time for a pond swim . . . after the little walk-about!