Do not take this blog seriously, and don't drive and read!

Monday, January 31, 2011

A Dog Named Dean in the Eye of the Storm

           It’s the last day of January 2011 and the news media/ weather service is expecting an exceedingly large snow & ice storm to pummel the Midwest. According to reports about 100 million people could be affected in the next couple of days. I truly hope people are prepared. SO, here’s some advice: check the mood of your pet to see if your area will be affected- seriously! This is a true story about an unexpected storm where people had no preparation time, but one dog took action.
            The worst of the storm hit the small town of Jarrell, Texas in the spring of 1997. I was working in south Austin as a glorified secretary. I mean no disrespect to secretaries or their profession.  I was literally a “GLORIFIED” secretary. My boss, Kathy, loved me! The owner was also genuinely fond of me as he would ask, “You holding down the front desk area?”  In fact, he always asked if I wanted to go golfing with him and his friends after lunch. 
            The only problem with going golfing in the middle of the week is the fact that a big part of my job; I’m sorry, the main part of my job was answering the phone. That’s hard to do from a golf cart. It’s even more difficult to transfer calls. So it became a “running gag” every morning for the owner, John, to ask me if I wanted to get in a round of golf after lunch.  For some reason I would always chuckle to myself every afternoon about 2pm (during the slowest part of the day).
            John was one of the greatest bosses I’ve ever had and his daughter, Kathy, was also a delight. Even though it was a family run business, they were bringing in some BIG cash!  It’s a rule that everything has to be bigger in Texas, and even though it was considered a small business, the full name of my workplace was six words. I’ll not go into any further detail.
            But as I was saying, since things have to be bigger in Texas, that also includes “dangerous weather patterns.” I say “weather patterns” in case any meteorologists read this.  To the average person that’s just the fancy way of saying “a big ol’ storm” is probably going to be blowing through here so you better take cover. 
            When we heard the radio reports that day, we all stepped outside to take a gander. I worked in south Austin and it was shocking to look up to the north.  We were introduced to 30 mile an hour winds and an ominous black sky that gurgled with what sounded like a well orchestrated disdain for all human life. “Mother Nature” was north of our building, and she sounded frustrated while spewing advice that shook the asphalt under my feet. In a low voice I think she asked us to “move.”  I understood that I had no leverage over her intentions.
            To me, taking cover meant getting in my car and driving east toward Houston.  But my boss, John, in a smooth Texas drawl laughed at my intentions. He said he had lived in Austin all his life and had never even seen a tornado.  I’m not sure if he was just trying to settle my nerves or if he was telling the truth, but I had a tough decision to make. I trusted John, but should I ride out the storm in that big metal building, or should I get in my car and head east out of the darkness.
            That’s the preface to the story, but here’s the meat! The fact is I was “house sitting” for my brother that week.  He lived in north Austin where wind damage and power outages had been reported.  In no way was I worried about my brother’s house.  I was, however, worried about his dog.
            So, what do I do? Do I take a chance with my life and try to save this beautiful white dog or do I just leave him in the back yard and hope for the best.  Pets and especially dogs will make a person do stupid things. But the few dogs I had growing up did, literally, save my life on more than one occasion.
            There was a German Sheppard named Angel who almost overdosed on snake venom after a powerful strike to the front of her neck.  My ankle might have been the intended target of the copperhead’s assault. I was inches away from taking the hit myself when Angel pushed me aside to grab the snake.  She killed the venomous creature but suffered a seriously infected wound.  Angel was overwhelmed for days, but she finally pulled through. I was a careless kid who didn’t notice the camouflaged reptile meandering beneath the fall leaves.
            And, there was the time I was three years old and Angel’s pal Solomon, saved the day. Solomon was a big white extremely protective German Sheppard.  I don’t remember the experience but according to all accounts, as the story goes, Solomon pulled me from the road to the ditch just seconds before a car went flying past our house.
            For some reason, I’ve always been fond of large dogs.
            So that brings me back to my dilemma in Austin. Should I face my fear of tornados and make that drive north to check on the dog?  Should I listen to my boss who tells me not to take a chance just to save a dog?
            The weather reports are dismal and disturbing. The traffic reports are horrendous. Emergency management is warning drivers to stay off the road.  There is flooding, power lines down, and of course smaller tornados spawned by the F-5 twister that has leveled Jarrell, Texas.  The television stations are off the air and the few radio stations broadcasting these horrific events are mentioning roads and landmarks near my brother’s house. 
            I have no choice but to drive up there and check on the dog. I’m not going to let him get hurt or killed because he is trapped in the back yard where ten foot wooden fences have him hemmed in; he’s basically caged with no protection from flying debris.
            I don’t get six miles up the highway before spotting fire trucks and downed power lines. The electric lines adorn the road lighting the way for emergency personnel as they yell and point at me to drive toward some mall parking lot.  I give them a “thumbs up” and proceed to go behind the parking lot to hit the side roads I know so well.  The road has large tree branches and various bits of debris flying about.  I have the only car on the road, but I spot one that apparently tried to park upside down on a tree.
            Somehow I’m able to make it up to the west end of  “Aloe Vera Lane”- NOT KIDDING…  That was the name of the road.  For some reason the jittery street sign made me laugh. I began thinking to myself; ‘if a big old branch comes flying through the window, I’m going to need a lot more than Aloe Vera.’
            I come in the back way to bro’s house when I hear what sounds like an explosion. I can see items flying through the air and then I see where the explosion has occurred. A transformer right up the street is smoking and my guess is, “fried.”
            I whip the car in the driveway crashing over branches and limbs on the concrete. I jump out and into the wind and head straight to the front door.  There is a large tree branch on top of my brother’s house, but inside things seem fine. I run to the back door and slide it open to find chairs and kids’ toys scattered about around the back yard. But there is no dog.
            I run back out the front door to the neighbor’s house on the left but they’re gone. Then I run over to the house to the right.  After banging on the door, the owner lets me in and says, “Are you looking for your dog?”
            My heart sinks because I feel he’s going to be the bearer of bad news.
            I sigh and say, “Yeah, I don’t suppose you’ve seen him, have you?”
            Then he laughs and says, “You’re not going to believe this.”
            He proceeds to tell me that as the storms begin, he hears the dog barking and he tries to open the gate to the fence. It is either locked or jammed.  The wind picks up, and he has no choice but to skirt back to his house.  The next thing is barking at his back door. And there he is… a big white dog scratching away.  He lets the drenched creature in and the dog runs directly to the bathroom.  The dog jumps in the tub and stays put just like one is supposed to during a tornado warning.
            We both inspected the fence once the weather cleared a bit, and there were no holes and no apparent way for the dog to climb the ten foot fence.  Just like Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz,” Dean made it to a magical place where he was safe from the winds. Oh Yeah, “Dean” was the name of the dog and he went on to live long; finishing his life in Alaska. Dean was named after Coach Dean Smith, best known for his successful 36-year coaching tenure at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  For a time, Coach Smith was the NCAA Division I men's basketball record-holder with 879 wins. I still wonder how Dean (the dog) left his court in the back yard to jump a ten foot fence to safety. 

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