The crack of dawn seemed unnaturally loud this morning -- kind of like a thunder clap that originated somewhere just beneath the pillow. Actually the first gun shot of deer season probably was several hundred yards behind our house. It was followed rapidly by two more blasts. It got me awake in a hurry. You see hunting season at our place is not about chasing whitetails. It’s about hunting for our dogs.
You might think that yellow labs would have a special love for the boom of a shotgun and the scent of gun powder. Not for our mutts. The crack of gunfire or fireworks or thunder sends them running. After years of training, such sounds now also get me leaping into action -- to track the dogs down. With luck I wake up with the first loud boom and race to the door to scream at the two of them home before they get too far down the lane. Usually I am too late.
That was the case this morning. There was a time when tracking the dogs following these explosive episodes was a real challenge. They might go east, west, north, south. You never knew. As they have grown older their habits have become solidified and now they just trot about a half mile down the road to the local tavern – Berne Station.
“The Berne” as local patrons know it, is located in the vicinity of the original train station that was the reason the crossroads-burg of North Berne was first settled. Early maps show the rail line that once ran adjacent to our farm was one of the first built in Ohio. It roughly followed Zane’s Trace running from Wheeling to Lancaster and Chillicothe.
Berne Station does a good business. It's open seven days a week. I’m not sure what the hours are, but I have picked the dogs up there at 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning as well as 3 a.m. on a Wednesday. I’m not sure there are any hours. The last few years it has become a real favorite of motorcyclists. They gather in the little fenced-off beer garden complete with Christmas lights strung from the trees. You can hear their Harleys heading off at all hours.
CHAUFFER SERVICE: Flash and Tizzy were happy to climb in the truck for a ride home. Taco Tuesday at the Berne is one of their favorite evenings out.
Any time of day the folks tending the bar as well as those tending the barstools seem delighted to have the dogs come in. Usually I find them curled up under one of the booths waiting for a customer to drop them a Slim Jim or some potato chips. More than once there has been a bowl of beer poured for them to lap up.
When I arrive and ask the boys at the bar if they have seen a couple of yellow dogs, the response is always, “Them yella dawgs? Yeah they’re wanderin’ round here somewhere.” I whistle for them and they are happy to get up and climb in the pick up truck to head home. I’m always relieved that they come so easily. I wonder what they’re friends at the booths might say or do if I had to drag the critters out.
Actually the dogs used to go to the bar more frequently than they do now. There was time when it didn’t even take a thunderstorm or a hunter’s blast to get them to go for a romp with their bistro buddies. An incident this summer kind of reduced their desire to make the trek, however. Late one Saturday afternoon I noticed the dogs weren’t around so I presumed they had gone for a run to the Berne. I hopped in my truck to pick them up. As usual I walked in the bar and asked the closest cowboy if he had seen a couple of yellow dogs.
“I sure have,” he told me with only a slight slur. “Those your dogs?”
I acknowledged that they were and he replied, “Well, you better get them some of that tick medicine ‘cause I had to take a tick off the nose of that old one.”
Well, the fact is I do put Front Line tick medication on the dogs regularly because ticks are a problem at our place. About this time I saw 13-year-old Tizzy slinking from the far wall of the establishment. She had blood dribbling down her nose. It originated from the remains of a small mole that used to protrude from the hair between here eyes.
“I had an awful time pullin' that tick off of her,” the bleary-eyed patron said as he swayed from his stool.
I thanked him and promised to keep track of all ticks. Tizzy walked with unusual haste as we headed for the pick-up truck.
She and Flash really had not been back until this morning, the first day of hunting season. Surprisingly only the bartender was in when I picked them up at 7 a.m. No doubt the regulars were out hunting. Sorry, dogs you are going to have to spend the next couple of weeks in the barn.