The following was originally published (The Boise Weekly) April 21, 1998.
Late in the day…
… as I prepared myself for what I considered a very important evening, my %#&@*£º! dog ran off. She’s actually my daughter’s dog and as upset as I was the mutt had skipped, multiply that by eight years-old to understand how upset my kid was.
My upsetness was mostly anger. Here I am, trying to primp up pretty for the first night of the Gene Harris Jazz Festival—pressing my Dockers wrinkle-free and making sure the sweater I pick makes me look not too paunchy—and then I’m standing on a street corner with wet hair screaming, “MOLLY! (thweet, thweet) MAAW-LEEE, COME HO-UM!”
You’d be mad, too.
Then there’s my daughter, worried about her missing buddy and even more worried her father may be serious about what he says he’s gonna do to that %#&@*£º! dog when he finds it. “Calm down, Dad. Besides, Molly won’t fit in there. Not even if you take the ice trays out first.”
Did I learn anything from the experience?
Yes. Definitely. I learned dogs have no respect whatsoever for jazz festivals.
* * *
That’s just like nature, isn’t it? To not give a hoot what humans are up to? Even your domesticated nature—your family dogs and talking birds and Elsie the friendly milk cow—they aren’t concerned if Dockers ever get pressed or what time I’m supposed to be someplace or whether those four dams on the Lower Snake provide the Northwest with seven percent of its total hydro-power or 700 percent.
Ask any anadromous fish and you’ll see what I mean. Your average salmon doesn’t anymore care if Lewiston is a seaport than it cares about Lutheranism. A steelhead doesn’t give a rat’s ass one way or the other if the scientific evaluations don’t conclusively—beyond a shadow of a doubt … no question about it—support tearing down those dams or leaving ’em be. It’s just not in the nature of fish to worry about their own extinction.
I suspect maybe that’s one of the reasons we’re around—to do the worrying for things like anadromous fish and my daughter’s dog.
* * *
Believe me, I thought about letting Molly figure out for herself how to get home. This wasn’t the first time she’d taken off, you see. Every afternoon, I let her run unfettered around the backyard a little, just so’s she can feel free for a few minutes. It’s my belief every living thing needs to experience that dingo/tax-protester vibe now and then.
But sometimes I forget she’s loose and if I forget long enough, sooner or later another dog meanders by, or a jogger, or maybe a kid on a BMX, and off Molly goes. I chalk it up to her being a teenager, as dog-years go. Her ovaries have been yanked, yes, but there’s not a lot the vet can do about “itchy paws.”
And when it comes to finding her way home, my daughter’s dog is no salmon. Once, she managed to find her way to Eagle Island, about seven miles from the house. No kidding. In human teenager distance, that’s like running away in Meridian and being found at a Spice Girl’s concert in Oakland.
So anyway, by the evening in question, I was so fed up with chasing Molly down, I seriously considered letting her go. Leaving her to her own devices. You’re on your own, kiddo. And don’t take any wooden chew toys!
By the time a few days had passed, though, and the idea was sinking into my kid’s head that there may be no Molly in her future, I was making regular stops at the humane shelter to see if they’d turned up a teenage dog. I’d started thinking about how much pleasure and companionship Molly had given my family, and how sad we would be were she to go extinct on us. I’d started thinking how life was richer with her than without her, and how it wasn’t Molly’s fault she has no respect for jazz festivals or my schedule or the way we humans always have something more important than nature going on.
Above all, I started thinking how I didn’t want my daughter to know I could have done something, but didn’t.
* * *
Everyone’s coming up with an opinion on why the once mighty flow of salmon and steelhead has dwindled down to an irregular drip. To advocates of the fish, the problem is obvious: the critters can’t get through, over, under, or around the last four dams erected on the main drag to their spawning grounds.
To advocates of aluminum production, hydroelectricity, agri-business and the mighty Port of Lewiston, the problem is also obvious: the goddam fish ain’t all dead yet, so they still have to pretend they care about finding a solution.
The vested interests and their house-trained political puppies drone on about how science hasn’t proved conclusively—beyond a shadow of a doubt … no question about it—that breaching those dams will work, knowing good and well science hasn’t even proved conclusively that gravity will work. Truth is, they could do something to save the fish, but won’t. It’s just not in their nature to worry about any extinction but their profit margin’s.
* * *
P.S. We found our %#&@*£º! dog. She was in the pound and she cost me money to get her out. But it was worth it. I can make more money, but I can’t make another Molly.
April 21, 1998