Teddy
by
Chris Maser


     It wasn't too long after Jhamuna died, that I left to work on the coast of Oregon conducting an ecological survey for the Puget Sound Museum of Natural History that was located at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. And it was during the three years (1970-1973) I spent on the coast that I took care of Teddy.
     Teddy was a large, gentle, loving Golden Retriever for whom I "dog sat" for a month. Teddy loved everyone. In fact, his sole duty in life was to be loved, a love he always returned with enthusiasm. And considering his size, his enthusiasm could be overwhelming to the point that his tail regularly swept vases, cups, and saucers off of the coffee table. He also loved to go places and would get into anyone's car for a spin--destination immaterial.
     One day in mid June, I took Teddy with me as I went to check my small-mammals traps. We went down an old logging road lined with red alders and young Douglas-firs that were complemented with salal in the understory. It was a beautiful, soft, balmy day when the young animals of the forest world were just getting out on their own, which caused a problem for Teddy.
     Always filled with exuberance, Teddy raced ahead of me down the sandy road. He had no time for the little, yellow violets called "Johnny jump-ups" or for the gentle blue of the Douglas iris. He didn't see the white trilliums or the budding foxgloves growing here and there along the road's edge.
     While Teddy was in a hurry, I was not. I took my time and enjoy the day, one of those rare, gentle days when I recognized Heaven on Earth and all was right and just in my world.
     Then it happened! I came around a curve in the road as it dipped toward the creek, and there was Teddy--frozen in place with his nose to the ground. His quivering hind legs were tucked under him, poised for instant flight. I stopped in bewilderment and looked at him because he seemed suspended in stark terror, yet I saw nothing that appeared even mildly threatening anywhere near him. I walked quietly around him, but saw nothing, nothing at all that could possibly have immobilized such a big dog, rooting him to the spot.
     Poor Teddy, he looked so pathetic and helpless that I walked up to him, only this time I looked closely at the ground by his nose. And there was the source of his terror--a baby rufous hummingbird that had fallen out of its nest situated in the tree above where we were standing. The hummingbird had the tip of its slender, pointed beak flush against Teddy's nose, but judging from Teddy's behavior, one would have thought that the baby bird was holding him at bay with a lethal rapier.
     "Well Teddy, for heaven's sake, I really don't think this bird's going to hurt you." But then, big, gentle Teddy had never before seen or even imagined seeing a hummingbird, so how was he supposed to know that.
     He stood transfixed until I picked up the hummingbird, at which time he fell over sideways and backwards, but swiftly recovered and moved off to a safe distance from the perceived danger. I tried showing Teddy that the tiny bird wouldn't hurt him, but he wanted no part of the demonstration. So I placed the hummer back into its nest, and we left the scene of Teddy's terror.
     We started back up the road toward home about mid afternoon, and as before, Teddy's boundless energy took him at least ten times farther than I walk. As I rounded the bend, not far from where the hummingbird had held him captive, I heard a sort of scuffling in the salal bushes that surrounded a small, grassy opening alongside the road.
     As I approached the opening, I saw Teddy standing with tongue hanging out looking wild-eyed. I couldn't figure out what he was doing, so I stopped and watched. Suddenly, out from under his shaggy belly dashed a baby brush rabbit, which made a beeline for the salal, with Teddy crashing after it. Teddy bounced around in the salal but to no avail, because every time he got too close to the bunny for its comfort, it dashed under Teddy's belly, and Teddy, hopelessly confused, lost track of it. The baby rabbit was thus perfectly safe.
     Teddy never caught the bunny. If he had, I doubt seriously that he'd have known what to do with it. I think the worst damage Teddy could possibly have inflicted on the bunny would have been a resounding licking.
     As long as I knew Teddy, I never saw him intentionally harm anything. After all, big, joyful Teddy truly was a messenger of unconditional love toward all living things, albeit a messenger that sometimes had me in hysterics, such as the day he accompanied me to the creek. I always tried hard not to laugh in Teddy's presence, because I knew it would hurt his feelings, and he'd droop in humiliation. As for me, Teddy's gift was joy, a gift that was always in abundance and in season.


© chris maser 2002. All rights reserved.

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