Mr. Adventure. That’s the nickname I have given to Blackie Chan, the eight-year-old chihuahua that came to join my household last May. I’ve called him other names: “my boy,” “my best boy” and “good, good boy,” and they suited him for a quite a while.
I’ve said more than once that he is the best-behaved dog in my household. For a long time, that was true. He stayed close to me when we walked. If I lost sight of him, I only had to call his name, and he’d leap up and run to me. In the yard, he limited his wandering to an area close to me, or close to the door to go back in.
Then, something changed. I can pinpoint the day. I had walked, with my three dogs, down to the end of Cotter’s Trail. The dogs spread out to explore the clearing. They wanted to see what might be under the up-side down boat, suspended between sawhorses. They each wanted to smell the fire pit, to decide what might have been cooked there. The perimeter of every small structure had to be checked out, too.
When I turned to go home, I called each of the dogs, and started down the trail. Sometimes it takes them a few moments to realize I’m leaving, and that they should follow. On that day, Blackie Chan didn’t come. I walked back, looked him right in the eye, and told him to come. Stubbornly, he didn’t. I, also hard-headed, continued down the trail. When he didn’t catch up, I stopped to call him, so often that I made myself hoarse.
By the time I got home, I’d imagined a hundred awful fates for poor Blackie Chan, and chastised myself for walking away without him. I put the other dogs inside, and took the car to go back to get him. Halfway down the trail, there was Blackie Chan, on his way home. I was heartened by the fact that he was at a dead run, with a worried expression on his little face. I gathered him up and greeted him warmly, certain that he’d learned his lesson.
Instead, it seems like that was the beginning of a life of high adventure for little Blackie Chan. Walking down the Fox Lake Road, he abandons me to walk down the neighbors driveway. He seems deaf to my calls. In fact, he seems anxious to explore every single driveway, path or trail that diverges from the road. Sometimes he realizes what he’s done and catches up; sometimes I have to go back to get him. Two weeks ago, while I was outside mowing the lawn, Blackie Chan left the yard all by himself, and went over to see the neighbors!
Last week, while I was sitting at the computer, Blackie Chan jumped up onto one of the dining room chairs. A few minutes later, he stood up on the chair to peer over the tabletop. “No,” I told him, “you get down from there.” The next day, when I got home from work, I could see that the little dog had been on the table top. A small vase was tipped onto its side; the tablecloth was rumpled; the folder for bills that had been on the table was now on the floor, its contents spilled.
“This is not okay,” I said aloud. Getting up there was bad enough, but how had he gotten down? He could be hurt, jumping from that distance! The next morning, I pulled all the chairs away from the table, and moved them into the living room. That evening when I got home,once again Blackie Chan was on the table! He was whining, and dancing from one foot to another, wanting down, wanting to run, as usual, to the door to greet me, yet afraid to make the leap.
I ran to retrieve him, and lifted him to the floor. How had he gotten up there? That tabletop is thirty inches straight up from the floor. The nearest chair was four feet away. He must be part cat, I thought. And, what if he had jumped? I was horrified at the possibilities. I put the chairs back around the table. Until I think of a better solution, at least he’ll have a safer way to get up and back down.
So, that’s where we are: my “good, good boy” has become a teen-aged, danger-loving rebel, and my job has become keeping my precious Mr. Adventure safe!