Private Idaho

It started out as one of the most eery and quiet July Fourths I’ve experienced.

Several years ago, my town banned fireworks. Didn’t stop many for a while, but seems that there’s been some enforcement in the past few years, so the holiday is typically pretty quiet at my house these days. Even the neighbors with kids, who used to at least have sparklers, don’t do that anymore. I think they actually go out of town now on all major holidays as I never hear or see them during holidays. And the “party house” up the street must have sent the last kid off because even that place has been quiet of late.

The parents must still drink a lot though. I regularly hear the clinking of numerous bottles going into the recycle bin. Or maybe I was wrong all along and it was the parents and not the kids? Hmmmm.

It’s so dry here that I halfway joke about spontaneous combustion. Only halfway. Seriously, I’d be terrified if anyone was shooting off fireworks. My lawn would explode.

I actually like fireworks. The professional kind. I like to “oooh” and “ahhh” with everyone else. In fact, I find synchronized ooohing and ahhhing hysterically funny and soothing all at the same time. Such a shared human experience.

These days though, I make sure I’m home on July Fourth because I have scared dogs.

It all started with Sylvie.

Sylvie was a somewhat nervous dog. For the most part, she didn’t have much reason for fear and in general was a pretty happy girl. Then I moved to SoFla. That’s South Florida. Land of afternoon thunderstorms nearly every summer day. Land of hurricanes and tropical storms. I’m not a big fan of the latter either, and luckily during my time there only experienced a couple of tropical storms and one very weak baby hurricane. In fact, Sylvie was able to catch squirrels for the first time in her life during that hurricane and one tropical storm. I think that turned a potentially negative experience into a miraculously cool one for her. So, interesting scientific fact here, squirrels hydroplane in standing water, making it much more difficult to cut across, say, a lawn and up a tree. That lack of traction enables a fairly fast dog to actually grab ahold of a squirrel and violently shake its body until its neck is broken. That in turn leads the dog, who has been trying to catch a squirrel its entire life up until that point, to drop the dead squirrel in complete disbelief.

Thunderstorms in SoFla are loud and violent. But at least they move out pretty quickly. Didn’t help Sylvie. She started heading for the safest spot in the house – under my clunky huge work desk. Until the end of her life, that spot remained the safest and was her “go to” place whenever anything upset her.

Today, I’m blessed with not one, but two noise-phobic dogs.

Brady has been noise-phobic since I’ve had him and Youke, after careful observation of Brady over the past few years, has figured Brady is on to something and has also decided he too is scared of thunderstorms, fireworks and gunshots. In all truth, Youke has shown a tendency to be sound sensitive since I had him as a puppy, but I did all the right things and cajoled him out of any nervousness. But it was there all along.

Jasmine should’ve been a hunting dog or a police dog. Blowing up shit, either by Mother Nature or by dumbass humans, doesn’t bother her in the least. She’ll get a bit concerned as to why the boys are cowering or want to turn back on a trail, but the concern doesn’t last too long, especially if there’s a critter scent ahead.

Cross my fingers, Camm so far is also nonplussed. She’s a very perceptive dog, so she becomes a bit more distressed over the boys’ fear, but the actual noise itself doesn’t worry her. But, because she’s a border collie, I worry that I’ll soon enough have three noise sensitive dogs.

This July Fourth, I was able to sleep in thanks in large part to a fun match at a friend’s house the day before that I took all four dogs too. It was too hot to do much, but they all got to do some playing around and I got to hang out with nice people. The heat seems to make doing anything more tiring for the dogs, so while it really wasn’t a lot, it was apparently enough to take the edge off for them.

Because I’d done not only to the fun match, but had met up that evening with another friend, I was ready for some Private Idaho time. The agenda called for sipping coffee, reading, doing some writing, intense napping and then maybe taking the dogs out for a bit before the evening festivities started. I wasn’t worried really about fireworks during the day, but the town does a professional show and the location is about 2.5 miles from my house.

JaYoBaCa were all too happy for Private Idaho time. While I read outside for a while, they napped inside. When I brought my book inside, they were all too happy to gather around the couch and nap. All that quiet led to my own nap.

Sometimes the problem with daytime napping is that it gets surreal. I find I often sleep harder during a daytime nap than at night. Maybe it’s the shorter duration and the REM sleep, which often leads to bizarre dreams. Not sure, but I awoke to the kind of intense quiet in which the only sound is that of the sun frying the atmosphere. Seriously, I didn’t even hear any insects buzzing about.

I covet my time alone, but even that kind of quiet was a bit weird.

After I roused myself, I decided the plan of action would be to take the dogs on a walk and then maybe for a swim. My thinking was that after some physical activity, I’d give them some bennies – code name for Benadryl, to help them relax a bit during the fireworks show and to help them sleep afterwards when the occasional dipshit decided to celebrate with a personal firework or two late into the night.

Sometimes, I don’t have the best laid-out plans.

The walk turned out to be a bit stressful. Somehow, in my own Private Idaho where things were quiet and peaceful, I’d forgotten that the rest of the world, even at 7:30 pm, would be likely shooting off celebratory cannon shots in recognition of our rights to freedom and dumbassery. Brady heard one cannon-like shot, got all white-eyed and dropped his ball. Never a good sign when the ball is forgotten. I quickly leashed him up since he was starting to exhibit a wide-eyed stare and desire to head off in a safe direction. Since I couldn’t be assured that we’d agree on which direction was safe, I opted for the leash. Youke kept looking at me and asking if going on a walk was really such a good idea. Camm got worried about her brothers and opted to walk very close to them.

Thus began our funeral walk. I seriously did not know until yesterday just how slowly three dogs could walk. At least Jasmine walked ahead most of the time. The three border collies gathered in formation around me and proceeded to keep my pace as slow as possible, or to trip me. Because clearly walking that slowly doesn’t make you a target for anything. Or maybe it was a preview for 10 years from now.

There was a break thankfully in the slow death march. Youke decided he was really hot and dashed off into a ditch filled with water. Except it wasn’t. It was filled with slimy mud.

I took one look at Youke’s mud-caked body and decided that despite how miserable the outing was turning out to be, I still had to take them swimming.

We proceeded onward, covering roughly two miles in an hour when ordinarily we’d cover that distance in at least half the time, all the while me trying to convince the border collies that we could walk faster. I don’t think my swear words helped with the convincing. The only time we stretched out at a decent pace was when the dogs saw the car. Brady acted as if he’d just met up with a long-lost friend.

The second part of the evening was probably not my brightest idea.

I couldn’t fathom Youke sleeping in my bed with that mud caked to himself and I haven’t replaced my warped and broken hose yet. So off to Lake Sammamish we went.

Somehow, I figured that at 8:45 pm the party would’ve ended and people would be flocking to area fireworks shows and the park would be quiet.

Ah, no.

Dumbstruck, I entered the park and saw a huge crowd. A more sensible person would’ve admitted defeat and headed home.

Instead, I calculated that the dogs would be at least a little tired from the walk and we could head to an area of the park where I was sure they’d be okay to take a swim. But first, we had to navigate the crowd.

My dogs are assholes about walking on leash at the best of times. I freely admit I don’t really work on leash walking as a skill, which makes me a probable asshole. I freely admit I really should. I freely admit the situation is amplified when all four of them are on leash at the same time.

Thus, after clipping on the leashes and untangling them at least five times before I could even walk away from the car, I was dragged by the collective force of four bodies weighing an average of 40 pounds apiece in a random direction.

Know how to look especially not cool? Being dragged about by four panting excited beasts who all want to go off in different directions.

After a few muttered swear words, most involving “fuckers” in some form or another, I managed to collect the dogs into a reasonably collected group and headed for the path that would take us to a secluded spot.

But first we had to face down a pack of pre-teen girls.

The girls were gathered on a bridge we had to cross to get to the path. I saw them as I was untangling the dogs for the 92nd time. They also saw me and the dogs. As pre-teen girls are prone to do, they gathered into a formation themselves and uttered “puppies!”

Clearly, they were ready to assault us with their own oohs and ahhs and outstretched hands, clenching and unclenching in anticipation of petting.

Brady was into this. His eyes lit up and he started getting all wiggly and pulling harder to get to the pack of young humans, ready to immerse himself in their adoration.

Camm, not so much. Young humans, especially high-pitched screaming girls, frighten the crap out of Camm. Camm, when frightened, starts barking, and it’s not a friendly bark.

I asked the girls if we could get by them please. They seemed willing enough at first, although it became apparent some were still going to try to sneak in some petting, But Camm’s barks grew sharper and she started bouncing up and down, which easily persuaded the girls to move aside and let us pass. Brady was very disappointed.

At least we got to the water finally. The trip down the narrow path wasn’t without more untangling, more muttered “fuckers” and more pulling off interesting smells among the weeds.

It was all worth it though when I got out the balls and threw them in the water. Even the fact that across the lake a condo complex was putting on its own fireworks show, didn’t deter JaYoBaCa from their fun. Water and balls trumped fireworks, at least for a while.

After we played for a while and everyone was sopping wet, including me, got all four leashed up again for the walk back down the path. A homeless man who’d been watching us, and the free fireworks shown across the way, commented as the dogs walked by and said hello to him that I’d have tired dogs now. I laughingly replied that was the whole idea and wished him a good evening.

At least on the way back there were no packs of little girls to contend with.

Fed the dogs when we got back and popped them their bennies just before the big show in town started at 10:15-sh. A repeat of Diane Sawyer’s interview with Caitlin Jenner was on and I decided it was as good as anything else on television to turn up a bit loudly to drown out the outside noise while I fixed myself a tuna fish sandwich.

Just another July Fourth in my own Private Idaho.

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