Trouble Always Finds Us
He was just a little thing when he came to us. All paws and ears and lolloping tongue. It took less than a half hour to understand why the breeder had named him Trouble. In fact, it took just seventeen minutes which, coincidentally, was how long it took him to figure out how to tip over the recycling can. Trouble was a wonderful puppy.
Trouble also had a job to do, a calling in his life. He had come to us for his early training. Born of a long line of exquisite and carefully bred Bloodhounds, Trouble was destined to be a search and rescue dog. Our job was to raise him to be properly socialized and well-mannered so he’d be ready to move on to the serious training. As we scooped him and the recycling up from the floor, we could see it wasn’t too early to begin on the manners issue, at least.
We worked our way through the usual list of puppy behaviors. He learned some things more easily than others, of course. While learning not to chew on shoes seemed to be a nearly insurmountable task for Trouble, we were philosophical about it. After all, we said, it was balanced out by how quickly and easily he caught on to asking to be let out. He was housebroken in just two days. By the time he was six months old, Trouble could, if he chose, be a model of canine good behavior. However, Trouble was still, well, troublesome sometimes and everyone in the family knew better than to leave shoes out of the closets unattended. Still, he was a charming fellow and it was impossible to be angry with him for long.
When the time came for Trouble to move on to his search and rescue training, we agreed that it had never been so hard to part with one of the dogs. Trouble was the fifth Bloodhound we’d raised and there had been four German Shepherds before that who’d gone on to be truly beautiful companion animals. We loved them all but Trouble had caught us in a way that no other dog ever had. We packed his toys, treats, and favorite kibble with a mixture of pride and tears.
As with all our dogs, we would get occasional updates on their progress and we soon learned that his new trainers found Trouble as special as we had. He excelled at tracking, we were told, which came as no surprise to us. Our children had often played hide and seek with him and he’d never, ever failed to find them in record time. He soon completed his training and we did hope Trouble would be sent back to serve with our county sheriff’s department. It was disappointing to learn he’d been snapped up by the state police instead. We’d be unlikely to have the opportunity to visit him.
Several years passed and more dogs came and went. Two more companion dogs, Golden Retrievers, came to us and another Bloodhound. Each was a pleasure to have and were sent off with affectionate hugs and a few tears but we never forgot Trouble. The kids compared every dog they met to him and we all laughed at the way we tended to inflate Trouble’s excellent qualities and forget about the perforated shoes.
It was late April, just five years after we’d, as we jokingly said, sent Trouble packing. The whole family was at the city convention center for a gathering of companion animal breeders and trainers. Hundreds of us were there, visiting, exchanging stories, and connecting breeders and trainers. The unsettled weather had, unfortunately, caused the cancellation of the outdoor training games and the organizers were hustling to create a miniature version of a training area in a corner of the hall so the eager participants and dogs could still show off a few of their best tricks. When the blare of tornado sirens cut through the happy chatter, we probably shouldn’t have felt so surprised. Living with tornado threats, one learns to both shrug and to take the warnings seriously. That is, we all took precautions, carefully kenneling dogs and moving everyone over to huddle against the interior wall as far from the outer doors as possible. But it was all calmly done and the quiet chatter continued, even as we crouched together on the floor.
When the tornado struck, we were all placed just as we should be and while the front walls were badly damaged and the roof did fall in, we were all sheltered fairly well by the tables we’d pulled around us and the inner wall we’d chosen for support. Still, we weren’t going to be able to leave of our own accord. We’d have to be dug out of the rubble and there was no knowing when that might happen.
Waiting was the most agonizing, frustrating thing in the world. We’d crouched there, under the partially fallen roof beams, coughing thanks to the dust and fallen insulation for hours without hearing a thing. When we did finally hear voices, many of us wept with relief. We could hear the debris being dragged and shoved away and then came a wonderful, familiar sound. The keening howls of Bloodhounds picking up a scent is unmistakable. We began cheering, our noise adding to the din of the dogs. A short while later, we saw a space in the rubble open above us and an eager dog pushed its head in.
Our oldest son stretched up to greet the dog, tugging its ears affectionately.
“I might have known. I really should have known. Trouble always finds us.”