The Trouble With Hitch...
As my grandma used to say, a porcupine in the hand is worth a trip to the ER.
Unfortunately for a dog, a hand is not always readily available. With a snout full of quills and a whimper in his breath, Hitch limped towards the house under the shade of the poplar trees with his spiked head down and his tail hidden between his legs.
He had been asking for acupuncture therapy all week, poking his sniffer in the brush, nudging and disturbing burrows that would better off be left alone. But Hitch was not the leave well enough alone type. Once he got caught wind of a scent, he would spend hours searching for the source.
And it certainly appeared that he had found it. I could only shake my head as I watched him trudge up the hill from a distance, sneezing and moaning, as my grandma’s words lingered in my head.
This wasn't the first time he had gotten himself into a bit of a bind. The old dog had a hankering for pain. Last year it was that stinker he had chased down and cornered between some rocks, earning him the deluxe spa treatment bubble bath involving hydrogen peroxide and baking soda, with a drop of dawn just to be sure.
Yep, old Hitch knew his way around mischief quite well. He had always done things the hard way, usually learning little if anything for all his trouble.
The mix breed dog was one third Husky, one third German Shepherd, and one third crazy. A rare breed of playful exuberance and personality that if nothing else, made things interesting.
I had come to know Hitch from my old mail route on 46. I first noticed him tied up to a rusted out Ford F150. A semi circle of well traversed dirt revealed that he spent most of his time there. After a month of driving past him, seeing him tied up to that old truck, I pulled my jeep to the side of the road. The skinny pup cocked his head to the side, as if confused by my visit.
“Hey boy, it’s okay.”
He let out a high pitched bark, and I could tell he was starved for attention as well as food.
He was maybe 6 months old then, give or take, and it didn't take long for him to warm up to me. I took in his surroundings, a rusted bucket of murky water sat next to an assortment of engine parts and wayward rags. After only a few minutes I was checking my billfold.
I knocked on the door, and ended up buying the dog for $26 that day, coming up with his name as I untied him from the trailer hitch on the back of the Ford. Our bond was immediate, and I noticed the dog had some spunk to him as he was more than willing to jump in the jeep with me.
Hitch grew large and grew fast, but he never seemed to grow up. I suppose to townsfolk it may have looked a bit strange, the large Husky in a mail truck. But for ten years he joined me on my mail route, sitting in the back, drooling on important documents as he tried his hand at being a working dog.
A postal dog, Hitch has never been normal.
Overall he did quite well. Sure there was the occasional mishap, like the day he jumped out of the window for Miss Jennings’ orange tabby, or shredded Dr. Kemper’s tax documents, but for the most part people were happy to see him. Some still asked how he was getting along or even sent treats his way.
Now in his retirement, Hitch was content to hang out on the couch until I arrive home, greeting me every afternoon with a toy in his mouth while performing this little wiggle he does when he gets excited. Jenna calls it the Hitch shuffle.
He wasn't shuffling now. My accident prone friend limped towards the house with clusters of painful whiskers as evidence of a battle lost in the trenches.
“Looks like he gotcha pretty good boy.”
He stopped at the edge of the porch, perhaps embarrassed about his predicament. It was dusk, and under normal circumstances he liked to be out prowling around for deer in the woods. But not tonight, he hung his head low, his sapphire eyes petitioning for mercy.
“You know what we have to do Hitch, there’s no other way.”
His back stiffened, as if to brace himself in case I tried to drag him inside. We were 30 miles from the nearest vet, but past experience and Google always came in handy as I had patched Hitch up on more than one occasion.
I tried not to scoff at his displeasure, but still, whose dog comes home with a face full of toothpicks?
The door opened and Hitch turned his head, debating on whether to stay or bolt.
“Oh my word!” My wife Jenna came out on the porch, stifling a laugh.
“I need you to get my needle nose pliers. I think they’re under the sink. And grab two beers.”
“Poor thing, you would think he would learn his lesson.” She went inside to get my tools and anesthesia, I looked to Hitch.
“When are you gonna learn?”
The door swung open and there was a sudden flash, I turned towards Jenna, tapping at her phone, the screen illuminating the amusement on her face.
“You’re not posting that on facebook!”
“Now you've done it, this one may go viral.”
The sun dipped below the tree line, and we used the lure of bacon bites to coax our patient into the bathroom. Jenna held him between her knees, scratching the spot just behind his ears that he enjoyed so much as I—with the precision of a rural veterinarian-- pulled each and every one of the 37 quills out of the dogs snout and neck.
Hitch howled a few times, but no more than he did during bath time. For a dog who spent hours in the creek, he could wail like a banshee if there was a drop of soap involved.
Taking the last dart out, I set it on top of the pile, standing up as we released our squirming patient. Hitch bolted out of the bathroom, and from the sound of things took a few laps around the house, sneezing and snorting and making a fuss. I washed up, taking a sip of beer for my trouble before coming out to the living room. Hitch was curled up on his bed, gently pawing at his snout as Jenna stroked his head.
“157 likes already, Hitch is really something.”
“He’s something alright.”
I looked over at my longtime friend, tuckered out from his long day. Since he was a puppy he could find trouble like no dog I had ever seen. It was a gift unique to him, and I wouldn't change him for the world. He certainly made it interesting.