Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Rex hates hats.

The interpreter was walking in the deepest part of the forest, where the Sitka spruce and western hemlocks allowed in only tiny fragments of sky. He had just received a new ranger hat from his supervisor. He didn’t much care for wearing a uniform, but he did enjoy his hat. He looked great in a ranger hat.

He heard the jingling collar of a running dog. A black-and-tan shepherd-cross bounded from the shadows and trotted up, not in a friendly way. The dog should not have been alone. Abundant signage made it amply clear that off-leash dogs were not allowed in the park -- yet there were those dog owners who, knowing there was no fine attached to the breaking of this rule, chose to disregard it.

"Hello, Rex," said the interpreter. The interpreter had been told he had issues with dogs. After many years of dealing with their destructiveness – trampled salmon spawning grounds, maimed, flightless waterfowl-- and their leavings, he felt his issues were justified. Nevertheless he was trying to address them. He would try to pretend to like dogs. It wasn’t the dogs, after all; it was the irresponsible owners.

It was also the dogs.

The dog stopped, raised its hackles and barked and snapped homicidally. The interpreter stood still. He was not afraid, but not pleased either, and definitely in no mind to turn tail and run, because that would be an instant invitation for an ass-bite. He expected that at any second the delinquent owner would appear from the trees and sheepishly snap the leash onto the collar. But the owner was sluggish, far behind the maniac dog, which continued to bark and snap homicidally. The interpreter spoke slowly and softly, "Rex, you go away." This had no effect. Rex did not understand English, apparently. Fortunately, Rex wasn’t coming any closer, so all the interpreter had to do was stand still and wait for the owner to arrive.

Finally it, the owner, emerged from the shadows, a woman whose face flashed shame, because she had been caught with her uncontrollable dog off its leash. (There was a leash dangling uselessly from her hand.) But she then seemed to sense a position of advantage, for the authority figure in the ranger hat was at the wrong end of a threatening, possibly dangerous animal. Plus it’s not as though there was a fine or anything for having a dog off leash.

With admirable calm, the interpreter said, "Please put your dog on his leash."

The woman shrugged, and stepped toward the dog, who continued to bark and snap. Rex sidled away from her; he was busy, captive to his predatory pack-animal instincts.

"Well it’s because of your hat,” the woman said. "She hates hats."

“It’s because he’s off his leash. Leash him,” said the interpreter.

“No, it’s because she hates your hat.”

It was a ridiculous
non sequitur, but intriguing. “Why does he hate my hat?” asked the interpreter.

The woman said, “She just does. You should take off your hat.” She extended the clip and made a half-hearted lunge, which led to more, louder barking as Rex resisted being collared.

“Put him on his leash,” said the interpreter, angrily. The woman then realized she was dealing with a tough customer, a hat-wearer who would not back down. She made another ineffective attempt to corral her dog. Rex dodged her and circled behind the interpreter, snapping and snarling. The interpreter turned with him.

“She hates hats! She has always hated hats! Take off your hat!” cried the woman.

The interpreter said, “I will not take off my hat unless you explain to me why he hates my hat.”

“I don’t know why she hates hats,” said the woman. She seemed worried now, as if sensing that injury and lawsuit were all but inevitable. She added, unhelpfully, “She also hates hoods!”

Why would anyone want a dog that hates headwear? wondered the interpreter. But hell if he was going to take off his brand new ranger hat. It was a matter of principle.

Rex again avoided the clip, and came at the interpreter, head down and growling.

Suddenly the interpreter knew what to do. He remembered the part about pretending to like dogs. He crouched, and extended his hands to the beast as if to a beloved toddler, another species with which he had little experience.

“No, please don’t do that...” said the woman, “She’ll...”

"Come here, Rex," said the interpreter. Rex stopped growling and crept forward. He sniffed the back of the interpreter’s hand. The interpreter grabbed his collar.

The owner clipped the leash into the ring, said nothing, and dragged Rex away.

The interpreter stood, and proudly adjusted his hat. He said, "Any day I don’t get bit on the ass is a relatively good day."


Aunt Debbi/kurts mom said...

I would agree, "not being bit in the ass would make for a good day."

Northern Shade said...

Think of it from poor Rex's point of view. If your goal is to sink your fangs into someone's scalp, then a hat really slows you down, especially a distinguished ranger hat.

cedrorum said...

Unfortunately this sounds all too familiar down here in the south. Whether it be on the beach or in the forest. And we have this species called hunting dogs that really suck.

Kim said...

I work on the mesa--on top of a 400-foot cliff. Dog owners who like their dogs should keep them on a leash! In the past dogs have jumped over the protective wall, and their owners learned the hard way to always leash their dogs.