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Snowed in with two leggy redheads

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by Charles Davenport, Jr.

I have discovered and feel compelled to disclose the recipe for a magical mini-vacation. You will need two leggy redheads, a three-day weekend and hotel reservations in the North Carolina mountains. As if this concoction were insufficiently decadent, there is a fourth and final ingredient, one that cannot be arranged by mere mortals: a snowfall, heavy and sustained. If your timing is fortuitous, providence will provide the storm.

Perhaps I should identify more specifically those leggy redheads, lest I create the impression that our getaway involved some sort of lewd conduct. The first is my wife Maureen; the second is our golden retriever, Aspen Grace, who is a blue-blooded ‘“red’” (or field) version of the breed.

We left Greensboro in a miserable, cold rain at noon on Saturday, Feb. 11. As we drove north and west snowflakes danced with the rain and the passing scenery gradually whitened until, at midpoint between Wilkesboro and Boone, we entered a world transformed. The droning, sloshing sounds of rain and vehicle spray fell silent as we motored, exultant, ever closer to Banner Elk.

By the time we arrived at the pet-friendly Best Western, flakes were flying in glorious, blinding squalls and had accumulated several inches. While Maureen checked in, Aspen and I romped into a field with which we’ve become familiar over the course of a dozen or so trips to her ‘“vacation home.’”

Just as I suspected, she sprinted gleefully ahead of me and hurled herself sideways into the snow, rolling, kicking and writhing. The spectacle is reminiscent of a shark frenzied by blood in the water. It is humanly impossible to watch her with a straight face. Snow is to Aspen as catnip is to felines.

A confession: Lewd and lascivious behavior did take place in Banner Elk, but I did not initiate it. Middle-aged men are not often the victims of sexual assault, but whenever she senses that I am going upstairs or outside without her, Aspen grabs my leg and gyrates maniacally, ignoring my half-hearted ‘“No humpies!’” commands. But at least she’s faithful; I am her exclusive humpee. Or, to put it another way, our relationship is inverted: Aspen is the female dog, but I am her ‘“bitch.’” In Banner Elk, the close quarters of the hotel room ‘— and our refusal to leave her alone ‘— reduced the frequency of these amorous encounters.

Aspen Grace is fairly well trained on a leash, but peril is inherent to walking a 72-pound golden retriever. My wife and I, in our infinite wisdom, long ago purchased a 16-foot, retractable cord leash, which allowed Aspen to saunter and prance a bit. On the downside, however, 16 feet permits a golden in pursuit of prey to generate a frightening amount of speed and momentum.

In Banner Elk I was reminded of this, and the fact that snow does nothing to diminish the explosive speed of a golden. Just before bedtime Saturday night I grabbed Aspen’s ‘“bra’” (what we call her harness), attached her leash and took her for a stroll in hopes that she would conduct her business and sleep soundly. This was at the peak of the snowstorm in all of its majesty and splendor.

Lulled by the ethereal silence that engulfed us, I became lost in reverie, momentarily took my eye off of Aspen and WHAM! Face down in the snow, I felt like I had been overrun by a middle linebacker. My breath had been knocked out of me; my arm nearly severed from my torso. Once the cobwebs cleared I realized Aspen had bolted in pursuit of a rabbit (or some other temptation unseen). No autopsy, no foul.

‘“The greatest pleasure of a dog,’” wrote English author Samuel Butler a century ago, ‘“is that you may make a fool of yourself with him and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself too.’”

Butler was indisputably correct. In the midst of snow squalls Sunday afternoon in Boone we frolicked on the campus of Appalachian State University. Particularly enjoyable to Aspen were the hills, which she rolled and slid down repeatedly. At length her enthusiasm possessed me and I joined her, diving from the top of a hill and ‘“belly surfing,’” the giddy golden in hot pursuit. As we made our way, sweating and panting, back to the car, Aspen locked onto my leg and gyrated madly. Knowing what she meant, and agreeing wholeheartedly, I could not in good conscience command, ‘“No humpies!’”

Charles Davenport Jr. is a freelance writer in Greensboro. Visit his website, cdavenportjr.com, or contact him by e-mail at daisha99@msn.com

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