Wednesday, October 30 2019
Though it was a Wednesday, I left Ramona at home because Neville would not be going to the bookstore. Gretchen would be coming back from her Pittsburgh book tour, though she'd slept at a Red Roof Inn somewhere west of Scranton (Wilkes Barre?) and would be going directly to work. So, as I had Friday and yesterday, I watched the dogs using Raspberry-Pi-based surveillance robots. And, as they had yesterday, they spent nearly the whole day in bed in the upstairs bedroom. At around 2:30pm, as I prepared to show off the app I'd migrated to Angular 8 (mostly a complete success), I happened to see that the dogs were sitting in the bed clearly barking. I had no audio and the janky remote-feed video never actually showed them opening their mouths, but I could tell from the way they were holding themselves what was happening. So I clicked a different browser tab to watch the feed from another camera, the one with a fixed view from the front of the woodshed. From there, I could see that the natural gas delivery truck had arrived and was refilling the small tank that supplies fuel to the stove top in our kitchen island. I knew it was just a matter of time before the dogs went zinging through that pet door. What I didn't know was how they'd react to the gas delivery guy. Our dogs are generally friendly towards random visitors, but only if they act friendly. If they become too defensive or start panicking then the dogs become more menacing, and a positive feedback loop develops.
It took a bit longer than expected, but the dogs eventually emerged from the pet door, and they walked out to the middle of the driveway, where they were probably doing a lot of barking (though at this point, the resolution was fairly poor). When the gas guy appeared on screen, returning from where he'd been hidden by the house, I quickly got my answer about how he would be handling the dogs. He discharged some sort of device that instantly produced a opaque white cloud as big as a car. That was all Neville needed to see to decide he didn't want to stick around, and he ran back into the house through the pet door. Ramona, though, is fearless in the face of even mortal danger (I remind you of her many interactions with bears, including mothers with cubs). She remained nearby, causing the gas worker to discharge his weapon at least two more times before she retreated to the part of the yard between the garden and the woodshed. She remained there, clearly confused by the antics of this strangely aggressive human. At some point she pissed, and then she went back into the house through the pet door after the gas truck left the driveway. Moments later, Ramona reappeared on the camera in the bedroom. But Neville did not.
When I got home from work at the end of the day, I found Ramona still in bed. She seemed perfectly normal and there was no evidence of any white powder. (Though I have seen the dogs in the past after a gas delivery when they did seem to be covered with a fine white dust.) As from Neville, he was nowhere to be found. So, with ever-increasingly anxiety, I began searching the house. I got to the point where I looked in all of its many possible hiding places, including the basement walk-in closet, the boiler room, all the dog-sized voids in the laboratory, and even both floors of the greenhouse, above the mass of pine needles in the dog house, beneath the deck of Gretchen's screened-in porch, and even the small void beneath the house's entryway, where the floor juts out past the foundation over a tiny crawl space (one I have actually been in as part of an ultimately-unsuccessful varmint-proofing).
I did these searches with ever-increasing thoroughness over the course of a couple hours, punctuated by several walks in the forest (the first of which designed to give Ramona her daily walk). As had been the situation on Monday, it was hard for me to do anything else while worrying about Neville. Had the clouds of dog repellant freaked him out so badly that he'd run away from home? Or was he somehow wedged into a spot in the house that I hadn't thought of?
As the last light of day faded into dusk, I went on yet another outdoor Neville search, this time southward down the Farm Road. For some reason, Diane the Cat decided to tag along, rubbing enthusiastically against my ankles in that way that cats do that makes cat walking a slow, unnecessarily deliberate process. As I walked, I called out for Neville, even though I knew he pretty much ignores such calls. Diane and I made it further down the Farm Road than the two of us had ever gone before, making it nearly to the Chamomile Headwaters Trail. Diane was having a great time in this strange unknown territory (which was full of babbling temporary rivulets). But then she started growling, which I immediately interpreted as a possible indication that Neville was nearby. And then, there he was, looking spectral in the nearly-nightlike darkness. As you might imagine, I was overjoyed. Diane was still a bit skeptical, but had Neville been a strange dog, she would've darted up a tree.
Back at the house, it seemed prudent to get started on making dinner so Gretchen, who'd been working all day after driving three hours, wouldn't have to do it herself. As I was running hot water into the big pasta pot, Gretchen returned from the bookstore, having missed both of the various dog crises. We ended up having slightly-overcooked rice pasta with a red sauce containing tempeh, onions, and mushrooms.
Gretchen had had a great book tour, with prisoners so impressed by her prison poetry that they asked her if she'd ever been behind bars. Strangely, though, Gretchen didn't end up selling many books, though this was partly because many of the students she lectured to already had copies.
Neville (in a red hunting season collar) being suspicious about sounds in the driveway while I am at work.
I didn't have presence of mind to snap a picture when the gas guy deployed his anti-dog measures, but I got this picture of a confused Ramona preparing to go back into the house as the truck drives out of the driveway.
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