Saturday, February 9, 2008

Going to earth

Thinking all problems temporarily solved, I discovered that Keeper had crawled under the part of the house beneath the mud room and was making desperate clattering and scraping sounds. This projection is bordered on one side by wood lattice screwed into the siding, on the other by a wood wall and entry stairs, and on the side where she crawled in by two very heavy, large, long wooden planters. Filled with dirt and plants, of course. I heaved one away from the house near the corner where Keeper had crawled in, and peered underneath.

Airedales are terriers; terriers are earth dogs. They are at their absolute happiest when digging after small animals. Even a 60-lb Airedale can crawl through a very small space, just as a mouse can crawl through a space the size of a nickel. Or is it a dime?

I called to Keeper and she came over to me, putting one foot on the brick wall on which the planter had rested. That was as far as she got. Her head bumped the overhead rafters.
There was nothing for it but to heave both planters off the brick wall and lie down full length to see if I could fit some of myself through the opening but it wasn’t even large enough for my head.

Sign of intelligence: having no desire to get stuck under the house, I stopped there. Instead I got a full view of the amazing junk a previous owner had left there: long planks of wood, empty soda cans, a thin metal strip, bits of asphalt roofing, a nearly full gallon jug of concrete bonding adhesive. I pulled out what I could reach while Keeper tugged and ripped at a plastic tube of drain pipe firmly stuck in concrete. (Drain pipe is rippled like an accordion and about six inches in diameter.) Occasionally she left the pipe and scrabbled through the other bits of debris. I saw a spot of blood on one hind leg and worried that she’d get hurt on something sharp and nasty in there.

So I took a look at the front side and discovered I could remove the lattice with a Phillips screwdriver. (BTW, the house is yellow but used to be blue. There are nice little blue lines where the lattice used to be.)

Now it is time to congratulate me. I don’t like crawling among bugs, I don’t like getting cobwebs in my hair, I don’t like crawling full-length on damp dirt and heaven knows what other crap. And I’m a middle-aged writer who shouldn’t have to be doing these things.

I did these things. I pulled myself in, grabbed Keeper’s collar, and forced her to come out. When we got inside, I tore off my yucky clothes, shook the scary things from my hair, and dragged Keeper upstairs to be washed in my shower. No treats for her! I just threw her in and hosed her down.

Results of a day of chicken-chasing, pen-building, and spelunking with the dog: two scraped shins, cracked fingers, a cut on my forehead. Not so bad.

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