Boomerang, the Dog of Many Returns
Many years back my adult son and his girlfriend came out to the house with a young, black (mostly) Labrador Retriever they had found in a dump. They lived on an un-fenced property in the city and had no place to keep it. We lived in the country. Of course they wanted to know if I wanted it. My wife and I had already inherited several cats in this same manner, so I said, “No, no more pets. Absolutely, positively no way that I’m taking it.” “Two weeks,” my son said. “Let me leave it here just two weeks until I find him a home.” I said, “No!” My wife said, “Don’t be so stubborn. It’s only two weeks.”
The year before I had laid to rest my last aged English Setter, one of the finest bird dogs that ever lived. It was a pretty rough time for me. So, I was in no mood for another dog, especially a duck dog, since I didn’t duck hunt. But it was agreed—only two weeks. Five weeks passed, before I told my son I was waiting no longer, the dog had to go. It was chewing everything it could get its teeth on, including shrubs, lawn furniture, even the propane tank for the fish fryer. Reluctantly my son agreed.
Now, I want to make it clear that I deplore people who simply dump animals on the side of the road, but after a couple more weeks of chewed garden hoses, chewed welcome mats (I could go on), and having unsuccessfully begged dozens of people to take what was potentially a good duck hunting retriever, I gave up. That’s when I thought of a community on a nearby lake with a duck boat parked in every yard. Yes, shamefully, I must admit I did it. I went to the lake one morning with the black lab, let him out at the ramp and launched my boat.
The plan was that I would get in a little fishing while the dog did a “meet and greet” with the local duck hunters. Speeding away across the lake (several miles wide) I looked back after a minute or so only to see something strange—a distant black speck behind me in the water. I realized then that it was the young lab steadily swimming my way, now several hundred yards off-shore. I shut the throttle down and turned the boat. There was no way I would let this poor animal drown. Going back, I pulled the sopping wet dog over into the boat, and he promptly thanked me by drenching me further when he shook from nose to tail. We returned to the bank, and went for “Plan B.” This time, after setting him free on dry land, I turned the boat and sped up the side of the lake. He crashed through the brush, attempting to keep up, but finally gave up the chase.
Late that afternoon, I returned to the boat ramp. No dog in sight. Great, I thought to myself. I tied up the boat and walked up to the pickup truck, looking about in hopes that he wasn’t still around. No dog. This is good, I thought. Probably found himself a good home with a duck hunter by now. That at least was my hope. The young lab with a new home and me with one that wasn’t being chewed out from under me, would leave us both happy. But, as I approached the pickup, he raised his head from the bed of the truck and wagged his tail. There were several deep scratches on the tailgate where he had apparently struggled to climb into the truck. After patting him on the head, I was beginning to resign myself to ownership of a new dog. I hooked up the boat and we returned home.
A few days later a phone call came from a friend who I had called about the dog a couple weeks prior. He said he had a change of heart and would take him. Happily, I drove the ten miles or so down to his place on the river, and when I departed, he waved goodbye while holding the dog by its collar. There was about a mile of gravel road to drive before I reached the highway, so I thought the dog would have plenty of land to roam without the danger of reaching the highway. Satisfied I had given him a good place to live, I was feeling relieved as I walked in the door only to be greeted by the wife wearing a scowl on her face.
“Your buddy,” she said, (which is always an indication of her desire to distance herself from an unsavory situation) “just called. That poor dog went crazy after you drove away. He said it spun and jumped until it got away from him, and the last time he saw it, it was heading up the road toward the highway.”
“I’m sure it will go back to him when it gets hungry,” I said.
“You need to go see and make sure that dog doesn’t get to the highway and get run over.”
“Of course I do,” I said, with unmasked sarcasm. Obediently I drove back down the highway, figuring the dog was probably somewhere along the gravel road, but I had barely driven over half of the ten miles or so to my buddy’s place when I spotted the dog. He was trotting along on the shoulder of the highway. I was incredulous. The mutt had already covered better than four miles, and was steadily making his way back “home.” After turning around, I had only to open the tailgate. He did the rest, taking his rightful place in the back of my truck.
When we got back home, the wife said I needed to name the dog, and stop trying to get rid of it. I named him “Boomerang.”
That was over eleven years ago. Boomer has since lived in our carport. Recently, he began showing his age. Arthritic and barely able to get up and around, he began losing weight. He wouldn’t eat. I carried him to the vet, who tested him for worms and a few other things. He could find nothing and suggested a high protein diet of warm foods. A week ago, I went outside to find Boomer gone. He was not in his house, in the carport, nor on his favorite cedar pillow. I searched far and wide, leaving flyers in mailboxes and walking the surrounding woods for several days. By the weekend I had given up, and after several more days had passed, I was resigned that old Boomer had gone somewhere and died alone.
This last Tuesday morning as I sat in the kitchen with a cup of coffee, I heard a low moan outside in the carport. No way, I thought. He was already too far gone when he disappeared. Couldn’t be. I opened the door and there he was! Old Boomerang had done it again. He had returned. Pretty much a skeleton of a dog, dusty and rheumy-eyed, Boomer wagged his tail pathetically as I held his head. He’s eating a little better, and now stays on the back deck inside the fenced back yard where he seems to be doing okay, especially since his new buddy “Blondie” a yellow lab puppy keeps him entertained. It’s funny. I was determined to never own another dog after my last setter died, but Boomer proved more determined.
A post script: Boomer, the Boomerang Dog of many returns, passed away this spring. He was a good dog.