This story is a sequel to 'Who's Shadowing Who?', and is third in a series.
John Gage grabbed his wallet and hurried out the front door of his apartment, his young dog Shadow at his feet, anxious to go with him. Johnny turned the lock on the knob inside, then closed the door and checked to make sure it wouldn’t open. He and Shadow then happily made their way down the outside steps and to their Land Rover. An olive green canvas tarp was draped over and tucked under some of their camping gear, and it was secured by ropes to the rack on the roof of the vehicle. A few remaining supplies were inside on the floor behind the back seat.
“This is gonna be great, Shad.”
Gage opened the passenger side door and the dog jumped up inside on the floor, then onto the seat. Now that he was over a year old, he’d reached his adult size, which was close to a Beagle’s or Cocker Spaniel’s.
The paramedic had found Shadow on a freeway months before, where the puppy was obviously abandoned and in danger of getting run over. He adopted the black-furred animal and ended up having to eventually move to an apartment at a place that allowed pets. In the meantime, his aunt had taken care of the dog.
Johnny was already on his third pet sitter since moving to the apartment and becoming a full fledged dog owner. The first claimed it was too much work taking care of both her dog and his while he was on duty. Another wanted too much money for the part-time task. The latest one was more of a cat-type person, but he had hopes she would last awhile.
But for now he, two friends from work and Shadow were going on a three-day fishing trip farther north in California and it was time to cast any concerns away for awhile.
Johnny and Shadow’s first stop was Roy DeSoto’s house, Gage’s partner at Station 51. They were going to pick him up before going to Chet Kelly’s apartment, the other friend and co-worker of Johnny’s.
The dark-haired paramedic brought the Land Rover to a stop near the curb in front of the DeSotos’ home and glanced over at his dog.
“You wait here. It’s too early for the kids to be awake and we’re just gonna pick up Roy and his stuff, and be on our way, okay?”
With no choice in the matter, Shadow remained on the passenger seat while Johnny closed the driver’s side door. Now big enough to see out the window from where he sat, he watched Johnny trot up the sidewalk. Once his buddy disappeared inside after being greeted at the door by Roy’s wife Joanne, Shadow lay down and sighed.
Johnny walked beside Roy, a small duffle bag in one hand, as the two men made their way to the white Land Rover. Roy carried a rolled up sleeping bag and fishing rod with an open-faced reel on it.
“Did you call Chet to make sure he was up?”
Johnny shook his head. “Nah, but he said he was gonna set his radio alarm for five-thirty, so he’d be ready when we got there. If he has it up as loud as usual, the people in the apartments on either side of him are likely to be awake too.” He opened the back end and tossed in the duffle bag. “Maybe even pounding on his door,” he added with a grin.
Roy set the sleeping bag behind the seat, then slid the rod in beside another up against the left interior side of the vehicle.
“Should we take these rods apart till we get there?” Roy wondered.
“They should be okay like that.”
Johnny closed the rear door, then headed for the driver’s side while Roy walked up to the passenger door and opened it. He leaned inside and eyed his partner, who had just opened his door as well.
“Don’t tell me I’m riding in back with Chet. . .”
“No, no,” he said with a lopsided smile. “Shad, you know where you’re supposed to ride.”
The dog raised his head and looked at him as if to ask, ‘Do I have to give up my seat?’
“Shadow,” Johnny said firmly, and pointed to the back.
Roy just shook his head. He couldn’t get over how close the two had gotten. Shadow was more like a kid to Johnny than a pet.
Finally the dog got up and put his front paws on the back of the seat. Johnny
gave his hind feet a boost and soon Shadow was sitting in the seat behind them. Roy lightly brushed off the where the dog had been laying and climbed in.
“You really think he and Chet are gonna get along back there? You know how little love there is between the two.”
“Yeah, well, maybe this is just what they need to settle their differences before we get to our destination.”
Roy was silent a moment before he stated, “Chet doesn’t know Shadow’s coming along, does he.”
Johnny shook his head, his eyes never leaving street. “Nope.”
The older man glanced over his shoulder at the dog, then turned to look out the passenger window. This ought to be interesting. I don’t know who to feel bad for most, Shadow or Chet.
“Look, see?” Johnny said as he pulled into the parking lot of the apartments where Chet lived. “The door’s even open. I told ya he’d be up.”
Roy looked up at the second floor apartment and nodded. “So far so good.”
“You wanna let him know we’re here or do ya want me to?”
“I think I’ll wait here. That way I’ll get a better view when he goes to put his stuff in the back and sees who his backseat buddy is gonna be.”
“Roy, it’ll be okay,” Johnny assured. He climbed out of the Land Rover, then leaned back inside, a slight crooked grin on his face. With a hand splayed on his chest, he added, “Trust me. I know what I’m doin’.”
His friend just eyed him in doubt, then watched as he headed for Chet’s place. Johnny disappeared inside a moment, then emerged carrying another rolled up sleeping bag while Chet followed behind, a fishing rod still in two pieces in one hand and small tackle box and duffle bag in the other. The curly-haired fireman set the items down a moment to lock and close his door, then hurried to catch up to Gage.
Roy looked at Shadow, who was watching his owner and Chet come down the steps. Though he wasn't growling, he didn't seem very happy about the turn of events either.
"Sure he knows what he's doing. . .”
“I hope we catch more fish than the last time we did this,” Chet remarked just as Johnny opened the rear door to his vehicle. The conversation was interrupted by the sudden sound of barking.
Startled, Chet jumped back, then scowled when he saw the source of the noise. Shadow was standing with his front paws on the back of the seat.
“Tell me we’re dropping the mutt off at your aunt’s.”
“We’re dropping the mutt off at my aunt’s,” Johnny said loud enough to be heard over the barks. He then immediately admonished, “Shadow! Bad boy! You__be__nice!” as he placed his friend’s sleeping bag just inside to the left.
“Now say it like ya mean it.”
“I thought I did.” He looked at the dog again, who was now quietly growling. “Be__nice!”
The paramedic grinned knowingly. “Ah, I’m just kiddin’, Chet. I know whatcha meant.”
“He’s not going to your aunt’s, is he.”
Johnny took the duffle bag and tackle box from Chet and piled them in with Roy’s things. So far Shadow had listened to him and the dog was silently observing them. “Don’t worry. Look, he’s already calmed down. Now lemme have the rod.”
Chet handed it to him, his eyes still on Shadow before they shifted to Roy. “You in on this too?”
“Only by association.”
The senior paramedic had been watching the exchange from the front seat. He was anxiously waiting to see Chet’s response when he realized he was going to be the dog’s ride-a-long companion. And it didn’t take but a second more for that to come about.
“Wait. Tell me I’m not riding in back with him too.”
“Well, I can say it. . .”
Chet held up a hand to stop Gage. “But you won’t mean it.”
“We’re all gonna be together for the next three days. You guys gotta learn to get along some time. May as well start now.”
“If he bites me,” he said, his attention now on Johnny, “just promise me one thing.”
“He’s not gonna bite ya, Chet.”
“Sure. What ever. But about that promise.”
“Okay, okay. Shoot.”
“Promise me you’ll let Roy treat me.”
Johnny rolled his eyes and closed the rear door. He shook his head, a slight grin on his face. “Just get in.”
Chet walked around to the passenger side where Roy waited, now out beside the vehicle. The back of the front seat was pushed forward so that Chet could get to the rear seat. But when he went to climb in, he saw that Shadow was already sitting there. “No problem, man,” he said with a forced a smile and shrug.
The fireman walked around the front of the Rover to Johnny’s side. But Shadow was now on that end of the back bench seat. “Now wait a minute! Where’m I supposed to sit? You can’t have the whole seat!”
Roy smiled at Johnny, who also was amused. They’d seen Chet talk to their station canine mascot plenty of times, but hadn’t expected him to get in a verbal altercation with Shadow. Not this soon into the trip anyway.
“Gage, tell your dog to move it.”
Another eye roll and the paramedic leaned in and pointed toward the other side of the seat. “Shadow, over there.” When the pup didn’t budge, he stated firmly, “Shadow, move.”
The dog reluctantly got to his feet and walked across the seat where he sat just past halfway.
“Climb in, he’ll move again.”
Chet gave Johnny a wary look, then did as he suggested, giving an annoyed glance at the fishing rods he had to duck under to get in. “It just doesn’t get any better than this,” he mumbled.
Once Chet was set, Roy returned the seat back to its upright position, and he and Johnny climbed in.
“All right, let’s blow this popsicle stand,” Johnny said as he turned the key in the ignition. He pulled out of the parking space and headed for the street when a low growl sounded from behind Roy, followed by one behind him. Johnny stopped the Land Rover, put it in ‘park’ and turned in his seat, an amazed look on his face. “Did you just growl at the dog?”
“Yeah, but in my defense, he growled at me first.”
“Well, what’dya do to ‘im?”
“Tried to scoot him over a little. That’s all.”
“Chet--” Johnny cut himself off, after all it wasn’t entirely the curly-haired fireman’s fault. Shadow was being stubborn. He let out a brief sigh. “Just tell me this. You two gonna keep this up the whole way there?”
“That depends on him,” Chet said, indicating Shadow, who once again let out a small growl.
Johnny turned his attention to Roy, an apologetic look on his face. “Maybe I was a little off in my judgment.” He cocked an eyebrow as if in question.
Several blocks from Chet’s apartment, Johnny glanced in the rearview mirror. “You okay back there?”
“Good deal.” He then glanced at his passenger beside him. “See? I told you it’d all work out.”
Chet looked over his shoulder at Roy. “Wait till his mutt cops an attitude. You’ll be singin’ a different tune.”
Roy just wondered if Chet and Shadow would really work out their differences in the three days together, or if he’d be riding in the backseat on the return trip as well.
Well over two and a half hours into their trip, a conversation between the three men was interrupted by the whining of their canine companion.
“What’sa matter, boy?” Johnny asked as he glanced in the rearview mirror.
“You talking to me or him?” Roy wondered. “Because if you’re talking to me, I don’t wanna become a dog’s relief post back here.”
“Okay, okay, I’ll pull over. There’s a gas station up ahead on the right. It’ll give us all a chance to get out and stretch our legs while I top off the tank.”
“I think it’s more like your mutt needs to lift his,” Chet reminded.
Johnny shot him a quick glance, then sighed. It’s gonna be a loooong three days. . .
Chet leaned against the Land Rover and folded his arms across his chest. Johnny had finished refueling the vehicle and parked it near the corner of the station before heading to the men’s room for a much needed nature break of his own. Having already taken their turns, Roy and Chet were now keeping an eye on Shadow for their friend.
Chet shook his head as he watched the dog make another pass over the same ground and weeds in search of a place to relieve himself just to the edge of the pavement.
“He must not’ve had to go too bad if he hasn’t done anything yet.”
“You’d be surprised.”
“Well, in the time it’s taken one of him to look for a place to go, two and a half of us‘ve already gone!”
“Two and a half?”
“Well,” Chet shrugged. “Johnny’s in there now. . .so. . .”
Roy just nodded, a slight grin on his face.
Both men looked up as Gage came around the corner of the building at the other end.
“Your dog won’t go.”
The dark-haired paramedic looked at Shadow, who was finally cocking his leg over a weed nearby.
“He’s goin’. What’re ya talkin’ about, Chet?”
“Yeah. . . now he is.”
Johnny walked to the rear of the Rover. As he opened the door, he commented, “it just takes dogs longer; they gotta find that perfect spot. You remember Boot had his one place at the station he always went to out back.”
Chet shifted his gaze to Shadow again and his eyes widened. The small dog still had a steady stream going.
“I guess he really did have to go.”
“And that’s just part one,” Roy reminded him.
The curly-haired fireman glanced at his watch. “At this rate, I say we oughta get there by . . .oh. . .maybe sundown,” he said with sarcasm.
Once Shadow had finished his nature break at the station, Johnny set down a bowl of water near the rear tire of his Land Rover. The pup got up from his squat and ran happily to the refreshment.
“What’re you doing?” Chet wondered.
“What’s it look like I’m doin’?”
“Re-filling the mutt so we can do this all over again.”
Johnny cracked a grin and looked at Roy before returning his attention to Chet.
“He’s gotta have water. You don’t want ‘im to dry up and blow away, do ya?” Before Chet even had a chance to utter one word, Gage rethought his question and spoke up. “Never mind. Don’t answer that.”
After a couple of more hours of travel, with one more stop along the way, the men were nearly to their destination. It was a river located in a hilly area located in Santa Clara County, several miles south of San Jose California. A few other firemen they knew had recommended it for fresh water fishing.
As Johnny drove his Land Rover along the dirt road, green grassy fields on either side, the others looked in awe at the scenery. The mountainous hillsides on either edge of the peaceful valley were thick with green shrubbery and added to the beauty of the area.
“Now this is what I call a great place to get away from the city,” Roy remarked from the back seat.
“If we could just get away from. . .” Chet glanced at Johnny, who shot him a warning glare. “Okay, I’ll be nice to the mutt. After all, it’s only for two and a half days now, right?”
“Right. And don’t forget. I’m your ride outta here.”
“You wouldn’t leave me out here by myself.” He glanced over his shoulder at Roy. “Do you believe what he just said?”
“I may not leave ya out here, Chet. But I can fit the camping gear in here and tie ‘someone’ to the roof.” He smiled in the rearview mirror, anticipating DeSoto enjoyed the teasing remark as well.
Chet brought his gaze forward and shook his head. “That’s the thanks a guy gets for saving ya from a rattlesnake bite a few years ago.”
“Ah, you know I wouldn’t really tie you to the roof. To the back bumper maybe,” he added, with a slight grin still on his face. “But never the roof.”
Roy looked at Shadow who was sitting on the seat sniffing the breeze coming in from Chet’s open window. “Just between you and me. If I had to bet on it, I’d say you and Chet would be more likely to survive together on a deserted island than the two of them.”
The dog just blinked before returning his attention to the clean smelling air.
“Now to find a good spot to set up a camp,” Johnny stated. They’d gotten off the regular dirt road and onto one that led close to the river. Only tire tracks visible through sparse grass had been their road for the past few miles.
When they could hear the steady sound of water flowing in the near distance, Johnny took a left turn onto a dirt clearing that lasted all the way to the river’s banks. He parked the Land Rover several yards from the body of water and sat back.
“How ‘bout we take a look around here?”
Chet was already opening his door as Roy responded, “Sounds good to me.”
Johnny climbed out and with Chet standing at the front of the vehicle, pushed the back of the seat forward to let the backseat passengers exit. But before Roy could react, Shadow dashed across his lap and jumped down to the ground.
Roy just looked at his legs that had been nothing more than a springboard for the dog. Johnny shrugged. “I guess he didn’t wanna follow behind Chet.”
The older man rolled his eyes as he climbed out. Once he was beside his friend he commented, “You’d better hope he doesn’t figure out whose idea it was they spend a few days together or he’s liable not to be too happy with you either.”
Johnny glanced over at his pet who was several feet away happily searching for an appropriate place to relieve himself.
He wouldn’t hold *that* against me, would he?
He had to suppress the sudden notion to pull the dog aside and blame the weekend on Roy.
It wasn’t long before the men decided on a spot to set up their tent, not far from where the Land Rover was parked. There was enough grass to soften the cloth floor, but plenty of dirt ground between the tent and the river to allow for a safe place to build a fire when desired.
The three friends began to unload the camping equipment, Johnny loosening the rope that secured the supplies on the roof while Roy and Chet set to work on clearing out the back.
“Hey, can one of ya give me a hand here?”
Roy looked to where Gage was having trouble removing the green tarp. It was caught somehow on the passenger side of the rack.
“I’ll get it.”
Johnny waited until Roy signaled it was free, then pulled the canvas cloth off.
“You got it okay now?”
“Yeah, man. I can get the rest.”
With that settled, Roy returned to helping Chet. “One of the grommets was snagged,” he explained.
But as soon as Gage got the tent down, Shadow ran up to him with a stick.
“Not now, boy. I’m busy.”
The dog just sat with the stick still in his mouth and looked up at his owner expectantly. Johnny brought his rolled up sleeping bag to the ground, then glanced at the waiting pup.
“I said ‘not now’.” But with those sad eyes locked on him, he had to give in. “Okay, but just once.”
He took the stick, then threw it a good distance away from the vehicle. Shadow chased after it and within seconds was back for another try. Johnny looked down at his furry buddy and sighed.
“You really wanna play. . .”
He glanced at the others. They had everything from the back of the Land Rover gathered near where the tent was going to be.
“You’re holdin’ me up, ya know.” He took the stick and once again sent it sailing through the air.
Chet watched the wooden item fly toward the edge of the river and Shadow run after it.
“Wouldn’t ya know it. . .we’re here working our tails off and he’s playing fetch with the mutt.”
Overhearing the comment, Johnny shook his head. He reached up for his duffle bag that looked rather flat with just a few clothes in it and not much else.
“He’s been ridin’ all morning, Chet. Just like a little kid, he needs exercise to work off all that energy he saved up. Ask Roy. Roy knows what I’m talkin’ about.”
Chet glanced at the other paramedic.
Roy shrugged with, “He’s right. Besides, look at it this way. He’ll wear ‘imself down and sleep a lot more later.”
Chet stood in thought a moment, then trotted over toward Johnny and Shadow.
“Hey, Gage! Let me throw the stick for awhile!”
Johnny glanced over at Chet and Shadow as he and Roy finished setting up the three-man tent. With a shake of his head, he commented, “Man, I don’t know who’s havin’ the most fun. . .”
“You mean between us or them?”
“No. . .no. I mean Kelly or Shad.”
Roy watched a moment from his squatted position as the curly-haired fireman threw the stick for what seemed like the fiftieth time at the very least, it dropping to the ground at a shorter distance than earlier.
“I don’t think Chet’s having fun.”
Johnny eyed the two, then shifted his gaze to Roy, who reached for the mallet in his friend’s hand to pound in the final stake. “You gotta be kiddin’.” Gage again looked at the dog and Chet. “They’ve been at it too long ta not be havin’ fun. Roy, a guy doesn’t stick with somethin’ that long unless he’s enjoyin’ it. Especially Chet.”
But the older man wasn’t convinced. “I don’t think he’s enjoying it.”
“I don’t see how you can say that.”
With the stake firmly in the ground, Roy stood. He was about to comment when Chet turned and came toward them while Shadow ran in a wide arch with the stick in his mouth.
“I guess we’re about to find out who’s right.” So sure he was, Johnny spoke out again as Chet neared. “Looks like you two were really havin’ a lot of fun there.”
“Well, yeah. . .fun. That’s what I said.” He glanced at Roy and frowned slightly at the knowing grin. With his attention back on Kelly, he added, “We were just talkin’ about how much you and Shad looked like you were having fun.”
Roy rolled his eyes at the last comment, but remained silent as he waited for the response from Chet. In the meantime, Shadow was once again in search of a place to relieve himself with the treasured stick still in his mouth.
“If you call my arm feeling like it’s gonna fall off ‘fun’.”
“Oh c’mon. . .”
“I’m serious, John,” Chet said as he rolled his right shoulder and gave an exaggerated wince. He rubbed at it with his left hand. “If I had anymore ‘fun’, you. . .no, make that Roy. . .would be treating me for a strained shoulder.”
Johnny let the reference to Roy being the one to treat him slide and questioned with exasperation, “Then why’d you keep at it all this time? Oh wait. . .lemme guess. To get outta puttin’ up the tent.”
“I was just trying to wear the mutt out. You two said he was like a kid. . .just needed to run some energy off. Roy said he’d sleep the rest of the day.” He glanced at Roy, then looked to where Shadow was waiting for someone to come play more, his tail wagging in anticipation. “That dog’s got more energy than a classroom full of kids combined!”
“He’s young. He’s a pup.”
“Yeah, a pup that once again takes after his owner. Why, I bet if he could talk, he’d even give you a run for your money if he got on a rant.”
Johnny shook his head and looked at Chet with a sigh. What could he possibly say that wouldn’t dig his hole any deeper?
Once they had their duffle and sleeping bags in the tent, Roy sat on the rear bumper of the Land Rover, the door still open, while Chet rested in a fold-up lawn chair across from him. Johnny placed a dish of food down near the tent for Shadow, then joined the others, plopping down on the ground. Although they’d eaten at the last stop prior to arriving in the area, they’d all worked up an appetite since and were ready for sandwiches Roy’s wife had made for them.
“So, you guys wanna hit the river after this?” Johnny questioned.
Chet nodded in agreement. “Maybe we’ll catch enough for dinner.”
“That’s the idea,” Gage reminded. But they’d brought enough food along if the fishing didn’t go well.
When lunch was over, the three gathered up their fishing gear. Johnny tossed the stick for Shadow a few more times before joining Roy and Chet at the river’s edge.
“Just tell me one thing,” Chet commented as he sat on the lawn chair he’d carried over.
“Your dog doesn’t like water. . .as in to swim.”
“He isn’t too fond of the garden hose,” Roy offered first as he recalled when his little girl had soaked Shadow with theirs. “Not anymore than Johnny is of your water bombs.”
Gage shot him a look of disapproval. Man, he had to toss in a comparison. . .
Chet snickered, but soon stopped, his mouth open in protest when he saw Shadow sit down in a shallow section of water at the edge of the river just a ways down from them. The pup looked around, his tongue hanging out as he panted.
“He’s just coolin’ off.”
“He’s in the water! He’ll scare any fish away.”
Johnny shook his head. “All he’s gonna do is sit there. You’ll see.”
“What kind of mutt just sits in the water in one place and is happy with that?”
Still on his feet, Roy cast his line into the deeper water in front of them. He was finding it easier to tune the other men out when they were on opposing sides.
“Look, as long as his behind is cool, the rest of him is.”
Chet stared at Johnny a moment before shifting his gaze to the dog. After a few seconds he returned his attention to the paramedic. “You know, I could say something here. But since you own the only shelter we have with us. . .and, as you said earlier, you’re my only way back to civilization. . .I think I’m gonna cut ya some slack this time.”
Johnny rolled his eyes, suddenly wondering if he was going to be able to tolerate Chet for the remainder of the weekend.
Johnny was watching his line for a sign of movement on the other end when he heard Chet comment, “Don’t look now, John , but I think your mutt just went to doggy heaven.”
The paramedic quickly snapped his head around to look in the direction where Shadow had been near the water. A slight panic set in when he didn’t see the little dog. “Chet, what’re you talkin’ about? Where is he?”
The curly-haired fireman pointed down near Johnny’s feet, where the dog was lying on its back, feet straight up in the air. His focus had been so intent on his line, Gage hadn’t noticed him there.
“Oh for pete’s sake. He just wants a belly rub!”
“I knew that.”
“Well, then don’t scare me like that, Chet. I thought somethin’ really happened to ‘im.” He squatted down, careful to keep his fishing rod as steady as possible and patted Shadow’s tummy with one hand. He then returned it to reinforce his hold on the pole and reel. “That’s gonna hafta do for now, boy.”
Roy had been half-listening to his friends, but a tug on his line took his attention away. He jerked on the line in hopes of securing the hook in a fish’s mouth.
“Hey, we’re doing better than I thought we would,” Chet said as he placed his second catch of the day in a creel. “I mean, they’re kind of small, but not bad considering our last time out like this we came up empty handed.”
Johnny was putting new bait on his hook, having recently caught a fish as well. He glanced at Shadow who was now asleep close by, then looked at the others.
“See? I told ya this was gonna be a good weekend. I knew it would all work out.”
Roy reeled in his empty line. “I think two’re gonna do me for the day. I’m gonna go gather up some rocks for a fire pit.”
“Okay. You want help?”
He shrugged. “Only if you want to.”
“I’ll help,” Chet offered. “I could use a chance to stretch my legs.”
“And give up the thrown?” Johnny teased. “If you’re gonna go with Roy, I’ll take the chair for awhile.”
He settled in while the others took their fishing gear back toward the Land Rover. Shadow lifted his head and looked at the two, then his owner.
“If you wanna go with ‘em, go. . .”
The pup was up in an instant and trotted off toward Roy.
“Don’t think about it so long next time!” he called out sarcastically to his canine pal. Now that he was alone, he could faintly hear children playfully squealing farther up the river.
I guess someone else liked this area too.
At least they sounded a good distance away.
It wasn’t too long before Johnny gave up. His line had been in the water for over twenty minutes without another tug and he was ready to stop for the day as well. It was time to join the others in preparing a place to build a fire.
Roy and Chet had already found enough rocks to create a ‘u’ shaped design on the gravel surface away from the tent. The next step would be to gather kindling. With all the bushes around the area, dried twigs would be easy to locate.
Johnny placed his rod and reel up against the rear of the Land Rover, the creel of fish in his left hand. “Where’s Shadow?”
Both Roy and Chet glanced around.
“He was with us a few minutes ago,” Roy offered.
“Don’t ask me. The mutt obviously still doesn’t like me. After all that time of playin’ with him and he never came to me for a belly rub. Not that I’da given him one anyway.”
“That’s ‘cause he knows you had an ulterior motive, Chet,” Johnny smirked. He set down the creel. “Dogs can sense things like that. Just like kids can. Ask Roy.”
“No thanks. I’m not fallin’for that one again.”
In the meantime Gage was still wondering where his dog had gone.
“Shadow!” he called out as he walked along the edge of their campsite. “Shadow! Here, boy!” He gave a whistle, but there was still no sign of the pup.
Johnny looked in the direction of where he’d heard the voices from earlier. I wonder. . . He narrowed his eyes in scrutiny. If Shadow heard kids’ voices. . .would he. . .?
But before he could give it anymore thought, Shadow bounded into the clearing from another direction, his tail wagging. The dark-haired paramedic breathed a sigh of relief. They didn’t usually split up while out in the wilderness and he’d been a little worried. . .again. He pointed a finger at Shadow.
“You stay with us. Ya got that? Stay__ with__us.”
“Let me guess,” Chet said as he looked at Roy. “They listen to stuff like that. Just like kids.”
Roy shook his head.
“Hmm mm. He may be absorbing what was said, but I can’t say the same for my kids half the time. I think they only hear about forty percent of what Jo or I say, and most of the time they drop thirty percent of that processing it. We call it ‘selective hearing’.”
Chet just shrugged. Roy would know. . .
As nightfall came, the three men rolled out their sleeping bags inside the tent. With lack of extra space, they had to line them up alongside each other with only a few inches between them. A battery operated lantern hung on the frame above for light.
“When they say ‘three man tent’, they really mean three men,” Chet remarked.
“I just hope none of us decides to snore,” Roy put in.
Johnny opened up his duffle bag and took out a stuffed plush snowman about ten inches tall. The bottom of it was shaped like the end of a bone, the top covered with a green winter hat with white trim that matched a green sweater on it as well. A smiling face peered back at him, a plush carrot for a nose.
Both Roy and Chet looked on from where they sat on their sleeping bags.
“Don’t tell me you gotta sleep with that thing,” the mustached fireman remarked.
“Not me.” He squeezed the toy, which made a squeaky noise. Shadow shot in from just outside the door, his tail wagging.
“What? It’s his favorite.”
Chet looked to Roy first, then back to Johnny. “I thought he’d outgrow the stuffed animal thing.”
“Well, you thought wrong. He’s still got his teddy bear an’ then my aunt Ruth got ‘im this for Christmas.”
“Your dog’s a sissy.”
“He’s not a sissy, Chet. He’s just a . . .” Johnny looked to Roy for support, but could see by the smirk on his face, his partner was enjoying the exchange too much. With his attention once again on Chet, he responded, “He’s young. He’s just over a year old. Anyone knows a little kid likes to sleep with certain toys. Didn’t you?”
“Well, yeah, but--”
“An’ didn’t you, Roy?” Johnny interrupted.
The older man shrugged. “Probably.”
“And I’m sure your kids do.”
“Most of the time.”
“There, ya see, Chet? He’s no different than any other little kid.”
The comment brought a smirk to both his friends’ faces.
“Other than he’s got a lot more hair, ears that stand up, a snout, poops in the outdoors, and can’t talk, sure, John, he’s no different at all.”
“You know what I mean.”
“You know what I think?” Chet asked.
Gage couldn’t wait to hear what was coming next.
“You’re losin’ it, man.”
Johnny sighed audibly and patted Shadow as the dog nibbled at the snowman in an effort to make it squeak. Chet just didn’t get it. Shadow wasn’t so much a pet anymore, but rather family.
Chet hadn’t been too thrilled that the three-man tent was going to become three-man-plus-one-dog tent when they all settled in. But it wasn’t unexpected. He decided to make the best of it for his own sake as well as the others.
But a sudden whimper, followed by another had him bolt upright. He slipped out of the sleeping bag and got to his feet. With a flick of the switch, the lantern was on.
The sudden brightness had both Johnny and Roy peering up with squinted eyes.
“Wha. . .?”
“Your dog. . .” but now that he could see Shadow with his feet moving as if in a run and his nose twitching, Chet realized what the cause of the whimper was. “He’s dreamin’! The mutt’s dreamin’ and talking in his sleep!”
Both Gage and DeSoto pulled themselves up to a sitting position. Shadow was awake, his head up and looking at them in return. He appeared just as confused as they were.
“Whataya’ mean he’s talkin’ in his sleep?” Johnny wondered. “He’s awake. The dog’s awake, Chet.”
“Yeah. . . now.”
“You woke us up to tell us he was talking in his sleep?” Roy asked.
“Well. . .yeah. . .”
Johnny shook his head. “Chet, I think you were dreamin’ Dogs__ can’t __talk. They can’t talk,” he shrugged. “You even said so yourself.”
“Okay, he was crying in his sleep. . .whining. . .whimpering?” Still with a doubtful look in return, he questioned, “C’mon, you haven’t heard him before?”
“Not for a long time.”
“Maybe it’s being in the great outdoors,” Roy offered. “The fresh air’s getting to him.”
“Well, try gettin’ back to sleep, would ya, Chet? I’m sure he won’t do it again.”
“What makes you say that?”
“I don’ know. I guess I just wanna get back to sleep and unless you do too, none of us will.”
“What if he does it again?”
“Remember when I was takin’ care of that little dog Bonnie? The one for Paula Slaton?”
“Who could forget. . .”
“Right. Well, what did I do when she was makin’ too much noise at night?”
“Joined her in your bus in the back lot and slept there.”
Johnny snorted a laugh. “You almost got it right. ‘Cept I didn’t sleep. . .not much anyway. Or if I did, I never was awake to know it.” After a brief pause to try to make sense of what he’d just said, Johnny shrugged and continued. “Anyway, if he does it again, I’ll go sleep in the Rover with ‘im. Deal?”
Johnny turned to Roy on his other side. “Deal?”
“Sure. But you’ve got the back seat installed. I don’t think there’ll be much room.”
“You let me worry about that. But we’ve got a deal?” he asked again, looking from Roy to Chet.”
They both agreed again.
“Good deal. Now let’s get some sleep. Chet, turn out the light since you’re already up there.”
The mustached fireman complied and slid back down into his sleeping bag. He lay there waiting for another sound from Shadow. He had no idea when he drifted off to sleep, but next thing he saw was the brightness in the tent from sunlight. And an empty sleeping bag beside him. Johnny and the dog were gone. He suddenly felt guilty. And he wondered how cranky Gage would be after an unexpected night in the Land Rover.
Roy rolled over and rubbed at his eyes after a wide yawn. He noticed Chet staring at the snowman dog toy on Johnny’s sleeping bag.
“Wishing you had one too?” The corners of his mouth moved upwards in a slight smile.
“Don’t you mean ‘snowman’?”
Chet looked at Roy. “Ha ha. You’re about as funny as John. . .Nah, I was just thinking. If the toy’s still here then maybe he didn’t sleep in the Rover.”
Roy sat up and halfway out of his sleeping bag glanced down at his wrinkled t-shirt and jeans. He liked camping but never could get used to sleeping in a full set of street clothes.
“I don’t think he did. I woke up a couple of times and he was still here. So was Shadow. I could tell by the breathing. . . and snoring.”
“So I won’t be walking home after all.”
“Not yet,” came an answer as Roy got to his feet. He slipped out of the tent with a grin once again on his face, Chet soon following behind.
“Hey, it’s about time you guys got up,” Johnny hollered when he saw his friends emerge from the tent. He was several yards away, Shadow running toward him from the river’s edge. The two made their way over to join Roy and Chet.
“You guys ready for some coffee?” Gage asked as he approached.
“It’s only around seven o’clock. How long have you been up?” Chet wondered.
The dark-haired paramedic looked at Roy. “He answers a question with a question. . .” He then eyed Chet. “Long enough I’m ready for some coffee and breakfast.”
“Let’s get a fire going,” Roy shrugged.
Soon the men were sitting near the fire, Chet in the lawn chair, the three enjoying their morning brew with some sweet rolls Joanne DeSoto had given them. Johnny broke off a piece of his and gave it to Shadow, who was lying close by with his snowman toy between his front feet.
“You sure that stuff is good for a dog? I mean, we never gave Boot or Henry any. Hot dogs, sure. But donuts or sweet rolls?”
Johnny looked at him in surprise. Could it be Chet was warming up to Shadow? He decided the subject was better left alone.
Chet’ll probably deny it anyway.
But he noticed the dog give the mustached fireman a not so pleased look. Perhaps he understood what was said just a little too well: given the choice, Chet would take away his treat.
I don' know if these two'll *ever* get along *completely*.
"Once in awhile won't hurt," he explained. There. That answer oughta keep 'em *both* happy.
After a morning of fishing with even better results than the day before, the men placed their catches in a mesh container they’d secured in the water. It was connected to a line that was tied off to a metal stake Johnny had driven into the ground near the river’s edge. Having finished lunch, they’d decided it was time for a hike, Johnny wanting to get some decent pictures with his 35mm camera.
“You really think they’ll be okay there?” Chet wondered.
“Unless someone or something decides to steal ‘em.”
“And then we just go for plan B,” Roy offered. “Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.”
“Oh boy. Like we didn’t just have that for lunch.”
“Hey, at least it’ll stick to your ribs,” Johnny finished with a giggle.
“How far do we wanna go?”
“Just a few miles. We don’t wanna get too far from the campsite,” Gage suggested. “Besides, the farther away we go, the more chance we have of running into some of the wildlife here. I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve got no desire to face a mountain lion anytime soon.”
“Okay, three miles it is,” Chet quickly put in.
The three men headed off on their short adventure, each with a canteen filled with water. Shadow trotted slightly ahead of them, occasionally coming back to Johnny for a few pats on the head.
Though there wasn’t a clear trail to follow, other than a few branches from bushes having to be pushed aside to pass by, the three friends found it easy to hike around the area. They enjoyed the beautiful scenery that was even more in view as they climbed one of the hills the field behind their camp led to. Trees and green shrubbery covered the hills, and gave a solid lush appearance in the distance. The men could see more of the river as well.
“Incredible,” Johnny stated as he aimed his camera at another scenic shot. “Just incredible!”
“I may have to bring Joanne and the kids up here someday.”
Chet glanced around, wondering to himself where the wildlife was. They hadn’t seen a trace of any. No mountain lions, nor gopher or rattlesnakes, all of which were known to be in the area.
One rustling of grass had him turn around in a hurry. But it was just Shadow running about as he made up some game of his own.
“Stupid mutt,” he grumbled to himself. But he had to admit, he felt like the dumb one for having thought it was something else.
“Well, we ready to head back?” Johnny asked as he lowered his camera.
“Sure,” Roy said. “We don’t want to leave our fish unguarded too long.”
Johnny first poured some water from his canteen into the palm of his cupped hand. He let Shadow get a drink from it, then brushed his wet hand across his pant leg to dry it. The others took a drink from their canteens as well, Johnny from his, and the group then headed for camp.
Just a short distance away from their destination, the men heard a series of girls’ screams from farther up the river. They certainly weren’t the sounds of children playing like Johnny had heard the day before. The three quickly exchanged concerned glances. No words were needed. They scrambled off in the direction of the sound of distress.
When the three friends got to the other campsite, a red-haired man was helping a blonde woman over to a station wagon parked beside two tents about the same size as Johnny’s. She was hunched over and coughing dryly as they made their way. Three little girls, none older than nine years, followed behind in tears.
After a very brief exchange to let the people know who they were and find out exactly what was wrong, the firemen offered their help.
What they’d discovered was that the mother had just been stung during a commotion caused by the girls when a few bees began to hang around them due to the popsicles they were eating. One of the bees had landed on the back of her hand and when she smacked at it, simply reacted in defense. But the urgency of the situation was heightened by the fact she was allergic to bees.
After a quick check of the swollen site and her vitals to determine her immediate condition, it was decided the husband would drive to the nearest medical facility while Roy rode in back with the woman. The rear seat was folded down to make room for both. With nothing more than a basic first aid kit available, Roy hoped things wouldn’t grow serious before they could get her better care.
Johnny and Chet were going to their camp with the girls so that they could all follow behind in the Land Rover. But when they went to head out, Gage noticed something was missing. He scanned the family’s campsite.
“What’s the matter?” Chet wondered.
“Where’s Shadow? Didn’t he follow us here?”
Chet shrugged. “Maybe he’s at our camp.”
Johnny called out for the dog a couple of times. Nothing.
“I hope you’re right.”
Either way they didn’t have time to look. The others were already on their way.
Much to Johnny’s disappointment, Shadow wasn’t at their campsite either. A few more calls out once again didn’t bring any results. He tossed Chet the keys to his vehicle.
“Take the girls and catch up with Roy. If he needs any help, he can direct you on what to do. I’ll go find Shadow.”
Chet nodded and got the little girls settled in their seats. As he drove away, he glanced once in the rearview mirror to see Johnny heading back through the grassy ground in the direction they’d gone for their hike, his camera still dangling from a strap around his neck.
I sure hope that mutt didn’t get himself into some kinda trouble . . .
Johnny’s worry grew as he walked along hollering for Shadow without any sign of the pup. Surely he’d come running if he was able.
He stopped and scanned the hilly terrain in front of him.
“Shadow! C’mere boy!” He then whistled and waited a moment for any sound in return. When he didn’t get one, he continued on. He wanted to hike faster, but knew he had to be careful. There was no need to rush and end up in need of help himself.
Fifteen minutes into his climb, Johnny heard a rustling in the brush several feet away. The paramedic stopped again and waited. He hoped it was Shadow, but it could be something else he didn’t need to run into.
“Shadow?” he asked in a wary tone.
The rustling returned and his faithful four-legged companion emerged with his tail between his legs. He looked up with sad eyes, as if with apology on his face.
Johnny’s jaw dropped.
“Ah no. . .”
The forward left side of Shadow’s snout was swollen and two bloody puncture wounds were visible. An assorted wave of emotions washed over the paramedic at once. Regret, fear, anger. Not anger at the dog or the attacker, but at himself for not making sure Shadow was with him and the others, safe. And he felt sick at his stomach; sick because one lapse moment could cost Shadow his life.
Roy watched over the mother with concern. She was still doing okay overall, but her eyes had begun to itch and the tissue around them was slightly swollen. It was clear her body’s reaction to the bee’s venom was spreading.
He glanced out the back window. The Land Rover wasn’t in sight, but he figured Johnny and Chet had to be close behind.
With luck it wouldn’t matter and they’d be in town where they could find the help needed before the victim’s condition worsened much more.
Johnny hurried over and squatted down beside Shadow to take a closer look.
Blood was dripping freely from the puncture wounds which indicated it was a venomous bite. The deadly substance was known to interfere with coagulation. The swelling was another, though that could occur from a dry or non-venomous bite as well.
“Man, you really got yourself in a spot this time.”
Time. . .
How much ‘time’ did they have? Minutes? Hours? Would a dog’s system react to a bite as quickly as a human’s? Or being a smaller animal, would it be faster? He figured it had to depend on the amount of venom, and that was an unknown. He just knew he needed to get his dog to a vet and soon.
He lifted Shadow up and cradled him in his arms. The camera he’d forgotten about got in the way and rubbed against the wounds, which elicited a whimper.
“I’m sorry, boy.” Man, am I sorry.
Johnny adjusted his hold so that the camera was clear from Shadow, to the side. He then held him close as they made their way back toward the camp.
A short distance along, he stopped in mid stride.
Shit! Chet’s got my Rover!
An ill feeling washed over him again.
He had no way to get them out of the place, and no idea on how to treat a snakebite to a dog. A comment he’d made when Henry the Bassett Hound showed up at the station suddenly came to mind.
‘We’re not dog paramedics.’
He sure wasn’t.
At least if he could somehow keep the dog still, perhaps it would work like with people and if there really was venom in his system, it wouldn’t work its way through as rapidly.
Johnny hurried on toward the camp with Shadow still in his arms.
As the camp site came into view, Johnny glanced toward the road. Despite the bad situation he and Shadow were in, he couldn’t help but wonder how the woman was fairing.
“I hope she didn’t take a turn for the worse,” he mumbled to himself and Shadow.
Another part of him couldn’t help but wish his Land Rover would just come back into view. He knew it hadn’t been very long since Chet drove off in it, but not knowing exactly how much time he had to work with, it was only natural to want to get Shadow to a vet as soon as possible.
He looked down at the black dog still in his arms. “Man, what’re we gonna do?”
Not sure of the answer, Johnny headed for the tent as he weighed the options he had. There weren’t very many.
When Johnny got inside the tent with Shadow, he set him on the floor surface, then squatted down to take another look at the wounds as he removed the camera from around his neck. One hole had stopped dripping and was now a dark spot; the other seemed to have slowed down. But the swelling had noticeably increased.
Johnny let out an audible sigh.
Shadow was afraid of snakes and would never go after one. The fact he hadn’t had heard him barking at all was evidence of that.
“You must’ve surprised the thing,” he muttered as he reached for his rolled up sleeping bag. The paramedic certainly knew how easily that could happen. He’d done the same thing when he was bitten a few years earlier.
And he sure hadn’t forgotten the pain in his leg that soon followed as the venom traveled through his system. Only when he lost consciousness did he get any relief from it. And then he’d nearly died.
If Cap and the others hadn’t gotten me to Rampart so soon. . .and if Chet hadn’t. . .
He vaguely recalled how Chet had worked to suction out the venom from the bite. Mostly he remembered Chet starting to, the rest was a blur in his memory and what he’d been told. But he didn’t even have his first aid kit available now. So other than the water he, Chet and Roy had gotten from the river and purified with the use of tablets, there wasn’t anything handy to treat Shadow with.
Johnny had left his dog’s side to unroll the sleeping bag and was ready for him to lay down on it.
“Okay, c’mon, boy.”
But when he turned around, Shadow had already lied down in the front right corner of the tent. The paramedic let him stay where he was, instead going over to sit by him, the open sleeping bag forgotten.
Johnny stroked Shadow’s back and just hoped the slowed bleeding meant that it wasn’t a venomous snake that bit him after all. Or that it was at least a dry bite. Still, he’d never felt so helpless and worried about the outcome.
After making sure his dog was content for the moment, Johnny had gotten one of his shirts from his duffle bag and dampened it with water. He then gingerly cleaned the wounds as best he could.
When he was done, Johnny sat back and glanced at his watch. He and Shadow had only been back at the camp site for nearly twenty minutes, but it felt like it had been longer. The dog seemed to be doing okay so far, there were no outward symptoms to indicate his condition had deteriorated, thus the paramedic allowed himself to relax slightly.
But one puncture mark suddenly started bleeding again and the worry returned in an instant. Knowing dogs often picked up on human emotions, Gage was determined to hide his. He forced a lopsided grin and sat beside his furry buddy again.
“Hang in there, Shad. Hang in there. It’s gonna be okay,” he soothed as he stroked Shadow’s back.
Johnny instinctively took another glance at his watch as he wondered if Roy and Chet would get back in time and if things really would be okay.
It had now been forty minutes and still no sign of Chet and Roy in the Land Rover. Though the only symptoms still present in his dog were swelling and a slow drip of blood from both wounds again, one less than the other, he still worried over what the effects of this long of delay in treatment would be.
Would there be permanent nerve damage? Was something going on inside that wouldn’t show up until later and he’d get word that it was only a matter of time before Shadow would die?
“Dammit,” he muttered under his breath.
Anger at himself grew as he continued to pet Shadow, who’d moved onto his lap several minutes earlier. He was not only disappointed that in an indirect way he was responsible for this situation. But also that here he was worried about his pet while he knew very well the woman who’d been stung by the bee might not have survived and if not, there would be a husband and two kids with their world turned upside down.
I should’ve gone. . .
But then what would’ve become of Shadow if he’d been left alone this long, wandering around in his condition? What if Chet had stayed behind instead? He could’ve done just as much for Shadow. But with the personality clashes, would the dog have come when he called?
Johnny tilted his head back and closed his eyes.
God, I hope she made it. . .
Roy and the others had located a local hospital several miles away. Though the facility was smaller than Rampart, the qualified staff on hand was all that mattered. And by luck, the woman’s condition hadn’t become life threatening by the time they’d reached their destination.
The paramedic had been surprised to find out it was just Chet and the girls in the Land Rover. But he understood Johnny’s decision to stay back and look for Shadow. They didn’t have proper medical supplies to do much for the mother, nor legal clearance to treat a victim. Chet could’ve easily done as much as Gage with the limited capacity they were in.
With the family already settled in the waiting room and the victim in good hands, Chet and Roy headed back. They were sure that they’d find Johnny and Shadow having a good time playing near the river.
The closer they got to camp, the more Roy had doubts Gage would be relaxing near the river. In fact, knowing his partner, he’d likely be struggling with a guilty conscience about staying behind to find his dog and worried about the mother.
*Shadow* might be having fun. . .he’s probably driving Johnny nuts about now.
He glanced at Chet, who was in the front passenger seat fiddling with the radio. Now that they could relax, the curly haired man wanted to listen to a good station, but couldn’t get anything to come in clearly.
“Relax, we don’t have that much farther to go,” Roy told him.
“I know, but after seeing civilization again, I don’t think I’m ready to go back to the wild.”
“The wild?” He had to fight back a grin.
“You know what I mean. The ‘great’ outdoors.”
“It’s just one more day. Actually not even that exactly. Another morning here after today, then we head back. I think you can hang in there.”
“Only if I know I don’t hafta ride with the mutt again.”
Roy sighed. “I figured that. I was looking forward to the backseat ride home anyway.”
Roy glanced at him. “Not really, but it beats you and Shadow ‘arguing’ behind us.”
Johnny looked sharply to the right at the sound of a vehicle approaching. He glanced at his watch. It had been well over an hour and a half since he’d discovered Shadow’s plight.
The dog was calm, but obviously not feeling well at all. He hadn’t moved from his owner’s lap and didn’t react to the arrival of the others.
“Alright, boy,” Gage gently moved him aside. He got to his feet and bent over to pick the dog up as Chet came inside.
“Well, we got her there in time and she’s gonna be—O__kay. . .what’s wrong?”
Roy had been right behind and stepped around him.
“Shadow got bit by a snake. I don’t know what kind, but I’ve got a feeling it was a rattler.”
“How long ago did this happen?”
“While we were with the family at their campsite, I guess. She’s really all right?”
Roy nodded, his gaze on the dog. “It never became life-threatening. We’d better get Shadow to a vet, though. And soon.”
The news about the woman brought great relief to Gage. Now he could focus completely on the other problem. “I’m ready.”
As they hurried toward the Land Rover, Chet glanced at the ill pup in Johnny’s arms with worry.
“I’ll ride in back with ‘im.”
When the other two looked at him in surprise, he shrugged and directed at Johnny, “Hey, I didn’t do too bad taking care of you.”
The paramedics exchanged brief grins at the remark.
“No, I guess you’re right, Chet, you didn’t.”
Johnny placed Shadow on the back seat, Chet climbed in from the other side. The fact the dog didn’t object or give his travel companion any hassles was another sign of just how badly he felt.
The dark-haired paramedic backed up the Rover and headed away from camp. The trio decided they’d have to leave their gear since, given the urgency of the situation, there wasn’t time to pack it all up. They’d come back for it later.
A short distance down the road, Roy looked over his shoulder as Johnny glanced in the rearview mirror. Chet was gently stroking Shadow’s back as he carefully dabbed at the bleeding wounds with a damp cloth, quietly giving him words of encouragement.
Chet stared down at Shadow’s sad brown eyes. He wondered what was going through the animal’s mind, if he had any notion of the potential seriousness of the situation.
The lack of the usual sound of banter from the front seat indicated both Johnny and Roy were more than just concerned.
Roy looked to the back seat while Gage turned his head slightly, his eyes still on the road. “What is it, Chet?”
“If Shadow was bit by a rattler. . .is there an antivenin for dogs?”
“I don’ know. I’ve never heard of it being given to a dog. I don’ know what they’ll be able to do. How’s ‘e look?”
“Like he’d rather be doing anything but what he is now.”
Johnny sure knew the feeling. “Can’t say I’d disagree with ‘im.”
Even stuck home in his apartment for the long weekend sounded better to Gage at the moment.
What’m I gonna do if I lose ‘im like this?
When they finally reached town, Johnny realized another problem. He had no idea where he was going to take his ill dog.
“Hey, you guys didn’t happen to notice a veterinary office when you were here before, did ya?”
Roy shook his head. “No. But pull into this gas station up here on the right. There’s a phone book hanging down near the phone in the booth.”
Johnny glanced over and ahead, and saw what his friend was talking about. The telephone book was connected to a small chain and dangled from the shelf under the payphone inside. He drove into the station’s lot and pulled up beside the booth.
“I’ll stay with the mutt.”
“Thanks, Chet.” Johnny turned around in his seat and peered into the back. “The swelling’s a little worse. . .”
“But the bleeding hasn’t increased.”
“It’s the fact that he’s still bleeding at all that worries me,” Gage said as he climbed out of the vehicle.
When Chet got a curious expression on his face, Roy explained, “The venom from a rattler interferes with blood coagulation.”
The curly haired fireman shifted his gaze to Shadow. All of a sudden he felt kind of sick.
After returning to his Land Rover to get a quarter for the phone from Roy, Johnny dialed the number to the local vet’s office. He let it ring several times before he hung up in frustration.
“Dammit. . .” A glance at his watch reminded him how late it was as opposed to most business hours. Clinics for animals often closed around 4:00 in the afternoon and they were past that time now. He grabbed the phone book again and thumbed through the yellow pages in search of the listing again. Once he located it, he scanned for an ‘after hours’ number.
With renewed enthusiasm, he dialed again and sighed with relief when a person picked up on the other end. But that relief was short-lived when he reminded himself, this wasn’t a guarantee his dog would come out of the ordeal okay. He knew from experience that there was such a thing in the medical field as being too late.
Johnny stood beside the exam table and watched as the veterinarian examined Shadow’s bite. The doctor gently lifted the young dog’s left side of his lip and held it back slightly, peering at the lining with a penlight.
“I’d say between the bruising inside and the bleeding from the puncture wounds, it was a rattlesnake that got him.”
The paramedic didn’t like hearing it officially, but it was expected.
“So is there antivenin for dogs? Did we get ‘im here in time?”
“It hasn’t been used on dogs as of yet. But since he’s doing even as well as he is, I’d say he didn’t get a full dose of venom anyway. The biggest worry now is probably infection. Snakes carry a lot of bacteria in their mouths. So what we’ll do is give him some antibiotics here and send some with you to give him over the next several days. Your vet in Carson can prescribe more later if needed.”
“How long till we know how he’s gonna be?”
“Well, that’s kind of tricky. If he has any permanent nerve or muscle damage from what venom he did receive, that’s something you’ll just have to keep an eye out for. It likely won’t present itself right away. It’ll be things such as slight incontinence, mostly while he’s sleeping. Or perhaps a weakened heart muscle.” He folded his arms across his chest, reminding Johnny of Doctor Kel Brackett at Rampart when he explained things. “Your dog’s very lucky. I’ve seen too many carried into my office in bad shape and not make it. Some even shortly after being bitten. It’s all in the grade of bite. But I guess being a paramedic, I don’t have to tell you that.”
“That and I was bit myself. It was a grade four. I’d say I was in a little worse shape than Shadow when they got me to the hospital.”
Man, was I *ever*.
“Fortunately I had medical supplies out where we were, I could treat myself in the beginning, and had a good group of guys to take care of me on the way in. Especially one in particular,” Johnny said with an inward grin. Chet was a frequent prankster and could be annoying to the point where Johnny would love to have the chance to lock him in the station’s supply closet at times. But all in all, he was a good friend and reliable crewmate.
“And of course antivenin. I probably wouldn’ta made it without that.”
After the vet was done with the examination and had given Johnny the antibiotics Shadow would need, the paramedic carried his still sad pup into the lobby area where Chet and Roy had been waiting. Both got to their feet when he entered.
“Well, is he gonna be okay?” Chet wondered.
Gage explained what the vet had told him. Both Roy and Chet were relieved, although the fact residual damage could pop up later was a bit unsettling. Rattlesnakes definitely were nothing to mess with.
“You need to borrow any money for the bill?” Roy wondered.
“Nah. He’s gonna send it to me and I’ll take care of it then.”
“Do ya have to bring him all the way back up here for a follow up or is this it?” Chet asked.
“I’ll just take him to the vet in Carson.”
“Well, I guess we’re set then, huh?” Roy looked at Shadow again and gently scratched him behind the right ear. He wondered what similar situation the dog would get into next to keep his ‘John Gage’ like traits going. At least he doesn’t have to go into burning buildings, he thought to himself. Johnny hasn’t always faired too well with those himself.
While Roy was thinking about it, Chet couldn’t help but bring it up in conversation as they headed out the door.
“You realize the dog’s done it again; he’s pulled another Ga--”
“Chet! Don’t say it.”
“Hey, I’m just making an observation. . .”
Roy shook his head as he followed the others out, the verbal spars going back and forth.
When they arrived back at the camp, the men decided to stay the one more night, with Shadow under close watch in the tent. They’d head back home early in the morning.
As the sky turned to dusk, Chet started toward the river to check out their catch of fish from earlier in the day.
“Hey, they’re all still alive!”
“Lettum go, Chet!” Johnny called out.
The fireman turned around in disbelief. “What? After all we went through to catch these babies?”
Johnny nodded, Roy doing the same beside him in agreement.
Chet stood looking at the fish in the small confines of the basket in the water and shook his head. “Turn ‘em loose? What’re they thinking?”
But he did as the two friends had suggested. He watched as the fish swam away and out of sight. He slowly walked back to the others. Shadow was sitting beside his owner, and Johnny and Roy were patiently waiting for Chet to reach them.
“Why’d you guys say to lettum go?”
“Well, it's not like we can eatum right now,” Johnny shrugged. “Besides, I don’ know about you, but the hamburgers and fries Roy got us’ll hold me till morning.”
“But the fish. . .we had a great catch! We could’ve put ‘um in the cooler, got some ice and taken ‘um with us. It would’ve been great showin’ those guys to Cap,” he added with a sly grin. “You know how much he hates fish.”
Johnny put a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “We had our fun fishin’, Chet. They served their purpose.”
“Besides, it’s been a rough day for all of us,” Roy added. “Why make theirs even worse?”
It was Chet’s turn to shrug. He couldn’t argue when it was two against one.
The following morning, the foursome was in the Land Rover, everything packed up, and on their way home.
Ten minutes into the drive, a low growl behind them caught Johnny and Roy’s attention. The driver peered in his rearview mirror while Roy looked over the back of the seat.
“Chet, did you just growl at my dog. . .again?”
“He’s takin’ up too much of the seat, man. He won’t scoot over. Even his stupid stuffed snowman has more room than I do!” he exaggerated.
“I thought you said you two could get along now.”
“I guess he had other plans.”
Johnny sighed and pulled the vehicle over before bringing it to a stop. He then looked at Roy, who was now looking at him as well.
Without a word, the older man opened the passenger door and climbed out. Johnny got out as well, and both pushed the back of the front seat forward and waited as Chet climbed out.
Soon Roy was in back with Shadow, with plenty of seat space, and they were once again on their way.
Johnny smirked as he drove down the road. Shadow still was just so much like him, even when it came to Chet Kelly. He was sure the dog appreciated everything Chet did for him, but since he was feeling slightly better from the antibiotics, he obviously couldn’t show just how much he did. He apparently had an image to uphold. Chet likely did too.
Oh well, it was nice while it lasted. . .
And knowing deep down they seemed to like each other after the weekend venture was enough for him. Besides that, he appreciated both Roy and Chet’s help enough to make up for Shadow’s lapse.
Good friends and a dog already on the mend. At the moment, he couldn’t ask for more.
I don’t know if antivenin was available anywhere to dogs back in the 1970s, but for story purposes it wasn’t. It is now and costs roughly $2,000, at least at the emergency vet clinic here. And it’s still no guarantee that it’s going to save the dog.
It’s true that the rattlesnake venom interferes with blood coagulation and the puncture wounds will still be dripping a few days after the initial attack. It’s also true that snakes carry a lot of bacteria in their mouths and infection can be a big threat. Irreversible damage can be done from the venom, such as the incontinence and maybe heart weakening, plus more I don’t know about. I don’t plan on having Shadow suffer any of that in later stories, but I wanted to bring awareness to the after affects with this story.
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