A Wheatie Story

I wish I could coin a word in the English language to express the humiliation I feel when my pets or children do something especially embarrassing or infuriating.  Wheatie was a sweet and silly dog, friendly with other dogs and almost all people.  He had a problem with people who walked with an unusual gait, and a rather tart dislike for those who spoke English with an accent.  He barked wildly at anyone fitting either category, whether they were outside and across the street or in the front hall of the house.  I have never been convinced that our dogs’ prejudices are based in any true experience, and I also have had little luck employing training to change their unfounded opinions.  We always knew Wheatie was not going to do anything except bark, but it is still painful to remember how embarrassing it was.
Wheatie did love the kids. One late April day we drove out to central Washington for a hike, and our oldest son led the way with his friend. They were probably no more than 6 or 7 years old. Wheatie ran ahead to be with them, and then back to the adults, over and over.
Suddenly, he stopped in front of the kids, barking at something on the trail, putting himself between the pair and the something on the trail.
We probably tried half-heartedly to call him back, knowing that once he went off on a barking-at spree, there was nothing to do but drag him away.  He was not budging. The kids came running back.
“It’s a snake!” they screamed.
Indeed it was. In fact, it was a sleepy rattlesnake, and a big fat one, basking in one of the first warm sunny days of spring.

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