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“Hemlock Stories” by Ira Briggs

Freed From the Jaws of Death

By Ira Briggs

6 February 2015

Uncle Jimmy, a friend of mine and an avid hunter, fisherman and trapper, was always accompanied by his inseparable canine companion, Canadice, named after one of Uncle Jimmy’s favorite lakes. Once a domestic animal, Canadice had been shunned by man and reverted back to his natural habitat and instincts. He and Uncle Jimmy were brought together by Jimmy’s Blake and Lamb muskrat trap.

Back then Canadice was so thin he didn’t cast a shadow under the midday sun and a pitiful song of sorrow could have been played on his exposed ribs like a xylophone. He was nearing starvation during a harsh winter when his leg was grabbed by the jaws of Jimmy’s muskrat trap in the abandoned burg of Dixon Hollow. Upon first meeting with hulking, grizzled stature of Uncle Jimmy, the dog arched his back and snarled, showing his teeth, as anyone would. With many strips of dried deer jerky and much love and coaxing, Jimmy befriended him and freed him from the trap. That day, a union was born.

The dog’s pedigree was that of a large German Shepard mix. His estimated age was only a few years, but a harsh life had aged him considerably. The fur had been permanently worn from his tail and lower legs, the result of constant foraging for food. All of his teeth were worn and broken due to gnawing on anything edible. Bite sized pieces of flesh were missing from his ears and nose, reflecting a lifetime of altercations. The pads of his paws and his many wounds never had a chance to properly heal, causing them to bleed at the slightest touch. Uncle Jimmy tended to the wounds with Bag Balm Salve, and with much patience re-domesticated him.

Canadice’s most outstanding feature was the partial absence of one eyelid. His body language indicated that he was sleeping with one eye open. However, when he reached a state of deep slumber, the pupil of his injured eye would roll upward into the socket, leaving only the white of his eyeball exposed. Although the appearance was unsettling, it would beckon to your sympathy.

Uncle Jimmy felt it best that Canadice be corralled in the garage at night for a short duration of time following his feral life. However, the next morning Uncle Jimmy was bewildered to find the dog had not only escaped his accommodation, but was found napping on the seat of his truck! After a few days’ time, Jimmy discovered that Canadice would wedge his nose under the garage door and gradually work his way under the door as it lifted, until he was free of incarceration. How Canadice managed to get into the truck remained a mystery, until Uncle Jimmy witnessed the dog flipping the door handle upward, unlatching it, again using his nose and mouth he managed to wedge himself between the door and door jam, thus entering the truck cab. The door latched behind him due to the vehicle being parked on a slight incline.

During the early stages of his re-civilization, Canadice was struck by a car. The vehicle’s front tire flung the dog into a ditch. While shaken, he miraculously escaped serious injury. Uncle Jimmy felt this was a good learning experience for the dog, possibly curing him of his obsession with chasing cars. Canadice, however, was known to hold a grudge. From that day forward, whenever a vehicle was parked with its front tires turned, exposing its tread, Canadice would chew on the tire and growl, and then relieve himself on it.

Half a dozen years have passed since Canadice tasted his first strip of jerky, and he now casts the shadow of two dogs combined. He seldom leaves the shelter of his master and savior, except to chew on an occasional tire and to do his business.

Editor’s Note: Ira Briggs is a well digger, writer and Arc Living Skills Assistant and a University of Rochester employee who hails from Hemlock. He writes short stories from his memories of the people and events of Hemlock NY.