During this past Easter weekend visit from my four grandkids, it became clear that my two new dogs were in terror of them. My wife and I decided to try to remove their fear of small children. We came up with a great idea, an idea that came from our love of both our grandchildren and our dogs; an idea that ultimately went straight to hell.
Our grandkids live too far away to visit often, so we decided on using a child size doll. The doll would allow us to teach the dogs there was nothing to fear, and could be used when it suited our busy schedules. My wife loves yard sales and gauged that it was the best way to buy a doll while also enjoying one of her favorite pastimes. She brought back a used ventriloquist dummy instead, kind of a Howdy Doody looking thing that had been modified with some crude electronics, its body made of soft dense foam material. She was so proud.
Feeling a little foolish, I took the dummy outside and sat on the porch steps holding it in my lap, thinking that would be the least threatening position. That would allow my dogs a chance to associate a child directly with me, since they trusted me. After a lot of calling and soft talking the dogs slowly crept closer. I was thinking this could actually work, when things went bad. Just as the dogs got close enough to sniff the dummy I accidently hit the voice switch.
The sound of demonic childish laughter issued from the dummy. It gave me goose bumps. I don’t know who had modified this thing, but he was a weirdo. The dogs backed off and started growling. In my haste to turn off the voice I hit the mouth switch. The dummy started snapping its jaws like a demented snapping turtle. My dogs went into attack mode. I now think they were trying to rescue me from being bitten by the dummy, as they didn’t bite me; however the dummy was severely attacked.
I was trying to turn the damn dummy off, while not getting bit, hampered because one hand was rammed up the dummy’s back sides. I raised the dummy over my head in a vain attempt to save my arm and the dummy from the dogs, but that excited the dogs into attacking with even more gusto while climbing up my body to reach it. The dummy was still laughing and snapping its jaws like a hell demon, and one of the dogs got bit by its snapping jaw; apparently the idea of rescuing me didn’t include either of them getting bitten in the process. The dogs ran off. For days they wouldn’t come close to me, with or without the dummy, and I had to start all over to gain their trust.
After several days my dogs decided that so long as I didn’t have the dummy they would come to me again. When I tried to re-introduce them to the dummy they wouldn’t get within fifty feet of it. I thought maybe it was because the dummy didn’t really look like a kid, it looked like Howdy Doody, and that is a pretty scary look when you think about it. I got my wife to give it a make-over, which included repainting its face to look child-like, and darkening the orange hair to a more human hue. She used water soluble dark red paint that, when overlaid on the orange hair, looked auburn. My wife is an excellent artist and made the dummy look very much like a normal human child, even up close. When dressed in baby clothes it was quite life like. The dogs weren’t fooled. If anything they were even more scared of it.
This led to the next great idea and one step closer to hell. I have a fishing problem; my dogs always follow me into the river when I go fishing. I can’t even sneak out there. They love the river and they follow me, regardless of how many rocks I throw towards them or how sweetly (think loud four letter words) I urge them to go home. Water makes them crazy that way. I wouldn’t mind their company but; fly fishing requires a lot of space for the fly line to whip around in. The dogs not only crowd into that space where they can get hooked by the zipping around fly, but they also have an innate attraction to the very exact specific precise area where I want to cast to. If they aren’t too close to me to cast, then they are romping in the water where the fish are, not only scaring the fish but making it difficult to cast there. It makes fishing nearly impossible.
I had the brilliant idea that if I took the dummy with me the dogs would not follow me so closely. Brilliant! How to carry the dummy was the problem. My wife came up with the solution. She was so proud.
One of our children had left a baby carrying backpack, a modern papoose. We put the dummy into the papoose and off I went fishing. The beauty of this; it was out of my way for fishing, and light. As soon as the dogs saw the dummy they stayed well away from me. They followed me down to the river but kept far enough away that I could fish and they wouldn’t scare away the fish. I lit a cigar and took an occasional nip out of my hip flask as I fished. The slippery rocks under the water occasionally caused me to stagger as I regained balance, but that was normal. I was in fishing heaven. I was thinking this was one of my best ideas ever, unknowingly taking one large step closer to hell.
The river is occasionally used by canoers, airboaters, and kayakers. We all normally share the river peacefully. When I see them, I pull in my line allowing them to pass without getting caught in my fishing line. This particular time though I was facing down river and two college age girls in a canoe drifted quietly up behind me. They might have been so quiet because they were trying to figure out what I was carrying on my back; or out of horror when they thought they had come up on an abusive old man carrying a poor baby around in the river while fishing and smoking and drinking and stumbling around drunkenly.
Either way, I had no idea there was anyone around for miles. I was blithely smoking my cigar and occasionally taking a nip out of my hip flask and generally enjoying a blissful day of dog free fishing.
The ladies were close, but not close enough to see that it wasn’t a real child on my back, only the dummy. They only saw an old man smoking, drinking, and stumbling around with a baby on board in the middle of a river, which set their maternal instincts on fire. One of them, in an angry voice, shouted at me. It scared the hell out of me and I spun around, which caused me to slip on the slippery rocks and begin to fall. I bent my legs and fell to my knees, which caused water to splash up on the dummy, which caused electrical connections to be made that were only meant to be made by the switches, which caused the damn dummy to break out in maniacal laughter while snapping its jaws in rapid fire succession.
Three things were now happening simultaneously. I was twisting around trying to shut off the dummy while having no idea of the thoughts running through the canoer’s heads. The canoers saw a baby being nearly drowned and going into a seizure, not knowing it was a dummy. My dogs came charging in to my rescue by attacking the dummy.
I managed to pull the papoose far enough around to get my hands on the dummy, but could not reach the inside where the switches were. The dogs were in full snarling attack on it. The lady canoers by now are in a full hysterical frenzy, believing they see me beating a baby while dogs are attacking it. One of them had a cell phone making a 911 call. This was all bad enough, but it got a lot worse.
The dummy’s head started coming off. The red paint that my wife used on it mixed with the water and looked like blood. Wild screaming and wailing issued from the canoe. Wild curses issued from my mouth. Loud snarls and barks issued from the dogs. Maniacal laughter and jaw clacking issued from the dummy. I yanked on the dummy’s head and it came off in my hand. The dogs attacked with renewed vigor. I was still unaware of the canoer’s thoughts, and only barely aware they were even there as I dealt with crazed dogs, slippery footing, and a damn dummy’s head dripping bloody looking paint all over me.
I wanted the dogs off of me and the dummy was beyond repair, so I threw the dummy’s head as far as I could, hoping the dogs would chase after it. Believe it or not, it gets worse yet again.
Unthinkingly I threw the head over the canoe up the river. The dogs did chase it, unfortunately, right over the canoe. The canoers, just having seen a baby’s bleeding head thrown over them and splattering them with blood as it sailed over were now being attacked by crazed baby killing dogs. They rapidly abandoned the canoe, overturning it. They regained their feet, but then found themselves trapped between the horrible baby killing man and the horrible baby killing dogs that were fighting over the baby’s head – which was rapidly being carried by the current towards them.
It only took them a split-second to determine that I was the lesser of the two evils they faced and they ran right over me. I was knocked completely under water, and pounded into the rocks by their stomping feet. The dummy came free from the papoose and started floating off. It was now floating towards the two ladies. So there they all go; an upside down canoe, two crazed women, a floating body, and a floating head being fought over by two dogs as I struggled to my feet gasping for air while coughing out water. I didn’t know what the hell had happened, but I suspected it wasn’t good. Then the game warden’s air boat came roaring up the river. The 911 call was transferred to him and he was already close. He came up to the canoers first and stopped.
They were all far enough away that I couldn’t make out words, but there was a lot of yelling and arm gesturing and pointing at me. I could see the game warden’s look of shock as the floating body drifted by and then his look of extreme shock as the head with the fighting dogs went by, red streams of paint that look like blood still coming from it. Getting a grim look on his face he fired up the air boat and it hurtled straight at me. I didn’t know what the hell was wrong, but he looked like he was determined to run me over, so I ran too.
I got to the bank and shinnied up a small tree with his boat coming to a stop directly beneath me. He was pointing a gun at me in shaking hands. I was beyond wondering what was going on, reduced to only wondering if I was about to get shot out of the tree. He started yelling at me, but I couldn’t understand what he was yelling, it sounded something like murderer and monster, which didn’t make any sense so I figured that I was not hearing him correctly over the air boat’s roaring engine.
It took quite a while to straighten all this out. It took all of us riding down the river in the airboat, with me handcuffed to the rail, to gather up the damn dummy's parts. Then it became clear to all of us what had just happened. I thought the game warden and the ladies should have been embarrassed, but surprisingly they weren’t. Instead they were still, quite illogically, angry at me.
The game warden gave me a ride back to the river bank in front of our house. My wife had come home and was standing on the back porch; she only saw the getting off the boat part.
She asked “Making new friends?” She was so proud.