I recently got a call from the Cleburne Texas Animal Control Facility. They were asking if they could remove Fred, my dachshund, from their “Most Wanted” list. There’s a story there, of course.
It began several months ago when my friend Tanya called, inviting me to “Dachshund Day” in Cleburne. She knew that my back yard was full of the little beasts, and she thought I would enjoy the dachshund races, the dachshund costumes, and all the other events ill-suited for that particular breed.
First, some background on Tanya. She is probably the worst person I’ve ever known. Within six months of my starting a website, she dreamed up a parody site
complete with caption contests, ill-tempered rants, and all the other things that I was doing online at the time. She posted under the name “Fembuttx”, probably because the name “Demon Spawn From Hell” was already taken. She and her band of harpies commented beneath every post that I wrote, doing their best to shift any discussions to their own voracious, perverted appetites.
That’s what she did when she was sober. Whenever she was in her natural drunken state, she posted countless pictures of male butt cheeks.
Although we no longer work for the same company, she now stays in touch by sending me unspeakable insults on Facebook Chat.
Tanya is also a Methodist grandmother.
For Dachshund Day, I selected Fred from the pack of varmints in my back yard. Fred has a good disposition, doesn’t bark much, and is named after the great French Economist Frederic Bastiat. Fred was the dachshund most likely to enjoy Cleburne.
For reasons that now elude me, I also took The Aggie’s
yellow Labrador, Kevin.
Now a few words about Kevin…. Kevin is the only reason that I don’t believe in Darwinian Evolution. I refuse to believe that the collection of fur, slobber, enthusiasm and urine collectively known as “Kevin” is the end result of millions of years of natural selection, survival of the fittest, or gradual improvement. I think God created Kevin as a joke.
Maybe I thought that Kevin and Tanya would be a nice match for each other.
Kevin, Fred and I got in the truck and headed to Tanya’s house, where we were supposed to meet briefly before going to Dachshund Day. When I got there I discovered that…. a) there was a box truck in Tanya’s driveway because she was in the process of moving to a new home, and b) most of the people there were already drunk. I had anticipated the drunkenness, but not the moving van, and immediately wrote off all hope of making it to anything other than Tanya’s driveway.
I put Kevin in Tanya’s back yard, where he amused himself by marking every vertical surface as his territory. Since Kevin can climb a standard chain link fence in about three seconds, I was lucky that Tanya’s back yard had a very high wood fence - probably so her family can throw her back there to recover from serious drinking bouts, a safe place where Tanya won’t hurt herself or anyone else. Near the back door there was a concrete slab with a water hose, perhaps so they can strip her down and hose her off before allowing her back in the house to sleep it off.
Kevin kept trying to get through the fence to join us under the carport. He eventually wedged his head between some of the planks and got it stuck there, looking exactly the way he’s gonna look after he dies and I have his head taxidermied on a wood plaque over the television.
I met Tanya’s boyfriend Shawn, a nice guy who could probably do better. I met Tanya’s oldest son Jeffery and his wife Ashley. Jeffery is a bassoon player. (More on that later.)
Tanya’s youngest son Trevor was fascinated with Fred, so I told him they could go for a walk. As you might expect from a dachshund named after a libertarian demigod, Fred can’t stand being on a leash and doesn’t like being restrained. Trevor and Fred went off on a long, long walk. (Trevor’s walk was going to be a lot longer than Fred’s. More on that later.)
Tanya spent the next thirty minutes insulting me (unjustified) and Kevin (totally justified) because he had his head stuck in the fence.
Eventually Trevor wandered back up to the carport. He was holding Fred’s leash and Fred’s collar, but not Fred.
“Fred didn’t like the leash and he slipped out of it,” Trevor said. “He’s somewhere out in THE FIELD.”
At this point, I had been trying to catch up to Tanya’s and her moving crew’s beer consumption for at least 30 minutes. Catching Fred seemed like an easy task, best delegated to the young. I told Little Trevor that Fred was scared and that if he watched carefully, Fred would come back out, assuring Little Trevor that the dachshund’s loss was not his fault, but that God and all the angels would be very angry if Fred wasn’t located soon. Little Trevor ran back to THE FIELD to wait on Fred to appear.
Thirty minutes later, Trevor reappeared in the driveway, Fredless. But he had a little girl named Alissa with him. I patiently explained to Little Trevor that Alissa looked nothing like Fred, and described what type of animal I needed him to be looking for.
“This is Alissa,” Trevor said, looking at me like I was unworthy of dachshund ownership. “She lives near THE FIELD and she’s going to help us find Fred.”
Since we had recently spent a large chunk of money getting Fred fixed, and since the rest of my family claim that they can distinguish one dachshund from another, I decided I’d better go help Trevor and Alissa find Fred. To prepare for the journey I filled two hands and two pockets with Bud Lights so Tanya wouldn’t waste them on her own selfish self. I thought Fred might come out of hiding to see Kevin, so I undwedged his idiot Labrador head from the fence and let him come with us on the Fred hunt.
We walked several blocks and then we got to THE FIELD. THE FIELD is an unlikely 8-acre piece of land in the middle of Cleburne, covered with briars, weeds, stickers, brambles, impenetrable vines, and enough sand burrs to fill up a grain bin. It's not that different from the rest of Cleburne, really. There was a tree line on the far side of the field, and I knew that if Fred made it to those trees we’d never see him again. We went stomping across the devastation, calling Fred. Kevin was overjoyed to be in an unmarked 8 acres, obsessively urinating on every weed. I started cussing Tanya, Fred, Fred’s collar, dachshunds, Cleburne, Kevin, and THE FIELD.
We searched the whole thing as best we could, and then started criss-crossing all of the residential streets between THE FIELD and Tanya’s Den Of Iniquity, calling for my little dog. No luck. No dachshund. And my socks collected every cocklebur and sticker that they touched.
Trevor, Alissa and I gave up and went back to Tanya’s. Tanya had reached the bottom of the beer bins, but thankfully everyone was still fully clothed. I explained that we still hadn’t found Fred. Trevor looked like he was about to cry. Alissa told us how she would be willing to look for Fred all night if necessary. Tanya made snarky comments about what kind of person can’t come to Cleburne without losing his dachshund, but she eventually agreed to start a new search party.
“Allen….” Tanya said, with an evil twinkle in her jaundiced eye, “I hate to ask this, but….where is Kevin?”
I looked around, mentally going through every old Anglo-Saxon curse ever hurled onto a small Texas town. I had no Kevin. How in the heck was I going to explain the loss of not just one, but two dissimilar dogs under different circumstances within an hour and a half? Don’t get me wrong….when The Aggie first told me that she had acquired a yellow Lab puppy (because no Texas A and M dorm room is complete without one) and then when Kevin wore out his welcome at every residence in College Station, and then when Kevin had to come stay in Fort Worth and live in the bathroom because he can climb fences, well….I’ve survived the loss of better things than Kevin.
But how was I going to explain to The Aggie that Kevin had gone to live with Puumba? (Read the Puumba story when time permits. If you’ve made it this far, you probably won’t mind wasting more of your life on the Puumba story.)
I did the only thing possible under the circumstances. I started rummaging through the empty beer coolers, looking for something, anything, anything alcoholic at all to take the edge off of the day. Against all odds, Tanya’s house was suddenly under Shariah law, with not a drop of alcohol to be found. I would’ve done the 1930’s wino trick of straining a bottle of shoe polish through a couple of loaves of bread. I would’ve fermented some persimmons if drinking the stuff could take me out of that horrible place and that horrible moment.
Alissa saved me from sniffing some cans of paint thinner. “There’s Kevin !” she said proudly.
Yep. There he was across the street, frantically writing “Kevin was here !” on all of my truck tires.
Alissa involved, problem solved.
So Tanya the nemesis, Alissa the little girl, Jeffery the bassoonist, Ashley the bassoonist’s wife, Trevor the Tanya larvae, Kevin the Labrador and I went back out into THE FIELD looking for my dachshund. If memory serves, Shawn the boyfriend followed behind us in his pickup, like the guy who walks at the end of the circus parade, cleaning up behind the elephants. If he was walking with us, I doubt that he admits it. I can’t remember.
I can only imagine what the neighbors thought, with that crew walking down their streets screaming “Fred, Fred, FRED !!!!” at the tops of their lungs. Night Of The Living Dead, but with less graceful zombies. Tanya continued her insults about dachshund loss and Kevin’s danger of dehydration from over-urination. I tried to insult her back, but throwing vitriol at that woman is like throwing snowballs at Frosty. It only makes you tired, and your victim grows stronger.
I was incredibly frustrated. I needed to be somewhere else in a few hours, I couldn’t find my dachshund, and it was all beyond my control. I couldn’t take it out on Tanya, for the reasons stated above. I couldn’t pick at Trevor for losing my dog – he was already in a blind panic. So when the going gets tough….pick on the bassoon player. I dipped into my deep reservoir of musician jokes.
Hey, Jeffrey, do you know the difference between a bassoon and a clarinet? No? Well, bassoons burn longer.
We got to THE FIELD and fanned out, trying to cover as much ground as possible, stumbling through the wasteland calling Fred. Bear in mind that this patch of Cleburne real estate was covered with briars and weeds and stickers. To avoid ripping our shins to shreds we had to lift each step about twenty inches off the ground. Cleburne looked like it had been invaded by Monty Python’s Ministry Of Silly Walks.
Tanya made fun of my walking method. I responded like the Communists did, not by attacking my enemy, but by attacking the children.
Do y’all know the difference between a bassoon and a trampoline? People take off their shoes before they jump up and down on a trampoline.
Neighbors started showing up with 4-wheel drives and pickups, leading me to believe that the Fred Hunt might be the highlight of the Cleburne Social Season. Tanya would introduce me as her co-worker who couldn’t keep up with his damn dachshund. Lord have mercy, she is one tiresome woman.
Do you know what you call two bassoons playing in unison? A minor third.
Jeffery the bassoonist took it all in stride, but seemed to be wondering what sins he’d committed in a previous life to deserve that kind of abuse. Ashley looked at Jeffrey like she was expecting him to do the right thing and kick my ass all over THE FIELD. Little did they know that “the sins of the Mothers are passed on to the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:7) It was all Tanya’s fault.
What do you call a professional bassoon player who has broken up with his girlfriend? Homeless.
What’s the first thing a bassoon player says after he starts work? “Would you like fries with that?”
How do you make a bassoon player’s car more aerodynamic? Take the Domino’s Pizza sign off the roof.
How do you get a bassoon player off of your porch? Pay him for the pizza !
We walked THE FIELD a few more times over the next couple of hours. Kevin was joyfully urinating everywhere, claiming land like Columbus claiming the New World for Ferdinand and Isabella. Tanya never ran out of ways to enjoy my dilemma, or insult my dachshund containment skills.
How do you get two bassoonists to play in tune? Shoot one of them.
Define “perfect pitch”: The ability to throw a bassoon through a basketball goal without hitting the rim.
We got into nests of briars that could slow down Sherman tanks. Various Cleburnites criss-crossed THE FIELD in their SUV’s and pickups without luck. Because of them looking and sounding like a Mad Max dress rehearsal, and Frederic Bastiat’s legit fear of going back on a leash, I figured that Fred was putting as much distance between himself and that Methodist Scavenger Hunt as he possibly could.
It didn’t matter. Osama Bin Laden, a 6-foot, 7-inch diabetic Muslim in a turban, could’ve been sitting in the middle of all that Johnson County devastation, and we would’ve driven, hopped, stumbled and leg-lifted right past him.
We eventually abandoned THE FIELD in favor of canvassing the neighborhood some more. (If this had been an episode of “24”, we’d be at about the 2:30 mark.) I went up and down the residential streets hollering “Fred fred Fred fred! Fred!!!” with no luck.
And then I saw not one, but two dachshunds. Two of ‘em. One had a collar, and one didn’t. They were playing in a yard about three blocks down from Tanya’s house of ill fame. I sprinted down the block before they could run out of sight. One of them (the one with the collar) looked almost exactly like Fred, but on closer inspection, he wasn’t. Dang it.
But both of them were males! I could remove the collar from the brown one, Fred’s near-twin, put it on the blackish one, and take this brown one with me back to Fort Worth!!! I was sure that after a few days this beautiful new dachshund could be taught to answer to the name “Fred”. If the real Fred were to turn up someplace in Cleburne, I was certain that he would eventually be taken to this lovely home since they would be the only people in Cleburne looking for a lost brown male dachshund. Fred would be joyfully accepted there. I almost got teary-eyed thinking of the possible ecstatic reunion this fine imaginary Christian family would possibly have with a dog that they had never seen before.
Hey, I don’t usually think that way, but at this point there was lots of beer involved.
That’s the plan that was going through my head when a pleasant elderly lady walked into the front yard of the dachshund house. The two of us shared an awkward moment, like when Cindy Lou-Who goes downstairs and catches The Grinch stealing all the Christmas presents. We discussed the merits and demerits of dachshunds for a few seconds before we got to the inevitable topic of why my shins and ankles were bleeding so badly. I gave her a capsule version of the Fred story, a shorter version I wish I could remember because it would’ve saved me from pounding most of the previous 2,715 words of this story (so far) into a laptop.
I limped back toward Tanya’s, totally defeated until some helpful soul told me of a rumor that Cleburne Animal Control had picked up a brown dachshund. This was great news. But until that moment, I had forgotten all about it being Dachshund Day in Cleburne, Texas. With my luck, there could be multiple lost Freds running around the Crystal Meth Capital Of North Texas, each with a Grinch-like owner more than willing to take Fred as his own.
I swapped numbers with The Dachshund Search Team, thanked them for their help, and Kevin and I drove to the Cleburne Animal Control Department. After a few minutes talking to the girl in charge, I understood that Cleburne Animal Control hadn’t picked up any lost dachshunds, despite it being Dachshund Day. No dachshunds. They had a ridiculous assortment of Rhodesian Ridgebacks and Great Danes. The rumor of Animal Control picking up dachshunds was obviously a clever ploy to get relief from searching THE FIELD, to get me out of Tanya’s driveway, and to make the bad bassoon jokes stop.
I imagined Tanya loitering around a replenished beer chest, bandaging bleeding shins and laughing at the thought of Kevin and me looking on the far side of town for a lost dachshund on Dachshund Day. After giving the Animal Control girl a description of Fred that was probably interchangeable with half the dogs in town, Kevin and I made the lonely trip back to Fort Worth. Fortunately, I was the only one home and didn’t have to explain my Fred deficit. I went to a party that night, totally distracted by thoughts of Frederic Bastiat lost and lonely in wilds of Cleburne.
Sunday morning, 7:00, Tanya left a message on my answering machine.
“Hey, douchebag ! Alissa found your damn dog. Call her. You won’t see my ass there because I’ll be at church.”
I called Alissa’s house and got her father. “Yessir, you wanting the dog that all the fuss was about yesterday?” he said. “She was up half the night trying to call him in. That’s a whole lot of work for not much dog. Yessir, Alissa’s got him for you.”
I thanked him at great length and told him that he had raised a fine daughter. Kevin and I got in the truck and drove back to Cleburne. Tanya’s house looked as empty and dark as her blackened soul, so we drove on to Alissa’s place. She ran out to meet me in her yard.
Alissa waited until I had thanked her multiple times before she let loose this bombshell: “I don’t exactly have Fred anymore. I caught him last night, but he didn’t like the collar I put on him and he got away again.”
How much of my weekend was going to be tied up in locating a dachshund? How many people were going to devote the rest of their lives to this project? It was amazing, simply amazing. My face probably betrayed my internal cussing, prompting Alissa to hurriedly add….
“But I know exactly where he is,” she said. “I’ve seen him twice this morning.”
“Wonderful. Thank you so very very very much. Where did you see him?”
Alissa glanced toward the undercarriages of all the vehicles in the yard, as if Fred might crawl out from doing an oil change. She gave a looked toward the house, an old pier and beam affair that might have a Fred-sized crawl space under the floor. She looked at a tree in the yard, as if Fred might pop out of the trunk like Minerva squeezing out of the mind of Zeus. Then Alissa proudly looked at me and said….
“THE FIELD !”
There comes a point in every difficult event in my life when I give up on accomplishing my goal, and concentrate on remembering all the details of the downward spiral so that they’ll make a good story. This was that moment.
Alissa, Kevin and I, the three remaining hardcore Fred hunters, went back into THE FIELD. All I wanted was my little dog. Keeping company with Kevin for 24 hours had confirmed Fred as my favorite. I knew that if Fred was nearby he could see me, even if I couldn’t see him. But he was afraid of the leash and wasn’t coming out. We spent another hour combing the Cleburne devastation, and then sat down on a fallen tree to take a breather.
That’s when I saw a brown spot bobbing up and down in the brambles off in the distance, 75 yards from the treeline. Could it be? I yelled for Alissa and Kevin to follow me and started running through the Johnson County wilderness toward the tantalizing little ball that was expanding and contracting over the tops of the vines and weeds. Every few feet, one of us would step off into a hidden stump hole or ditch and go tail over teacups into the vines and stickers. We didn’t care. It was Fred!!!
Do you remember the old cartoons of Snoopy jumping above top of the high grass, taking a quick look around, and then falling back to earth? That’s how Fred was negotiating the impenetrable vines and weeds. He was taking a running leap at each row of plant life, flinging himself over the top like a pole vaulter, snagging himself in the upper reaches of the vines and then falling to earth on the far side of the obstacles. He was getting closer and closer to the treeline, where he knew that his liberty-loving soul would be safe from the restraints of the Statist leash. We Three Amigos were at least 75 yards away.
I was stumbling every few steps and leaving Alissa behind, but didn’t care, closing the gap between The Quick Brown Dog Jumping Slower Than The Lazy Old Fox. Kevin was so excited that he kept up with me, which means he was leaving some tree stumps unmarked. But there was no way I could catch Fred in time. No way. I felt years, briars, and Bud Lights dragging me to earth. There was no way I could catch him.
We were 30 yards from Fred, but Fred was just 15 yards from the treeline and freedom, executing flawless weiner dog high hurdles. I was totally winded, thinking about giving up, and then….
In my mind, time slowed to a crawl. All I had to do was control the time/space continuum long enough to catch a dachshund. I could see individual gnats and mosquitoes hanging in the air, and if someone had fired a bullet in my direction, I could’ve reached out and grabbed it. I was The Redneck Keanu Reaves in The Texas Matrix. I saw Fred in slow motion, thrashing through the final row of briars, just a few feet from open territory in the Mythical Free State Of Cleburne. I went horizontal and launched myself at him with one final adrenalin-fueled effort, slowly floating above the stickers as they clawed holes in my shirt.
I reached for Fred’s back legs and caught them.
Time immediately shifted from “slow-motion fantasy” to “210-pound guy thumping to the ground” with his arms cradled around a dachshund. I pulled Fred to me and he gave me some obligatory licks on the face. He was covered with sand burrs and stickers, with a few vines were wrapped around his neck. The final indignity was a tiny wreath of vine “crawlers” perfectly wrapped around his little dachshund manhood.
I just deleted 4 consecutive bad puns about the wiener dog’s wiener. Be grateful.
By the time I carried him out of THE FIELD, Fred was asleep.
I thanked Alissa profusely, loaded my two mismatched dogs into the truck and headed back to Fort Worth. Unlike a lot of my favorite stories, this one doesn’t have a good punch line. I got my little dog back.
Well, there’s this. Flash forward about 6 months. One night Kevin and I had a running accident. Here’s what I posted on Facebook the next morning:
I took my daughter's idiot Labrador, Kevin, on my run last night. He saw another dog, tangled the leash in my legs and skidded me down the road about 5 yards. I've got road rash on both legs and I think I broke something in my left hand. Anybody want a dog?
This was Tanya’s immediate response:
At least when you don’t let go of Fred's leash, he just slips it and runs into briars. You have at least two stupid dogs. Was there a bassoon player?
I’m so sick of that woman. It’s too late now, but if I’d thought of it, I would’ve responded with the following:
Hey, Tanya !! Do you know why the Labrador and the Dachshund crossed the road?
To get away from the bassoon recital.