Canine Happy Hour at the Fruit Drop

Oct 5, 2012

When I first met my husband, a field-trained black lab owned him.  Rebel was an intelligent canine with a once in a lifetime personality. The retriever and the man had enjoyed a rustic bachelorhood  at Meade  State Fish Hatchery.  Dog and man led an idyllic life hunting, fishing, and working fishponds located far from town and people.
Once Rebel determined I was an asset to his meal schedule and ability to lounge on the couch, this big, black beast made room in his Labrador heart for another human.  When  changed jobs and transferred from the lake to Ellis, Rebel accepted another difficult adjustment to his previously perfect life.   He traded working fishponds for retrieving evening papers and supervising a garden.
While he missed the freedom of roaming fish hatchery grounds  where he could roust game birds and help my husband feed and move fish, Rebel discovered  new delights.  We had a mulberry tree, a pear tree, and two apple trees.   You ask, “Why would fruit trees be a bonus in a Labrador retriever’s life?”
This particular dog loved mulberries, pears, and apples—especially if they had dropped to the ground and fermented for a few days.  Yes, our pet was a lush during a fruit drop.
In early summer, I’d  find him sleeping soundly amidst mounds of fallen mulberries, his distended belly rising and falling rhythmically as he breathed.  I always laughed to see dark purple mulberry stains circled his muzzle after one of his binges.  When he awoke from his snooze, he looked at me with unfocused eyes and wobbled as he rose to greet me.  A perpetually happy dog, these fruity indulgences didn’t alter his loving personality.   
In early fall, if I called and Rebel didn’t come running, I knew I’d find him sleeping off a toot under our pear and apple trees, head on paws .  Fermented fruit scent permeated the air surrounding this tiny orchard.  Low flying, inebriated wasps fed on yeasty pulp or circled tipsily above over-ripe yellow and red orbs and Rebel.  To my surprise, these relaxed insects never stung me as I collected the fruit they crawled upon . Their tranquility explained my dog’s  relaxed state.   
Certain that I didn’t want to encourage dipsomania  in our beloved pet, I found myself racing him to the fallen fruit when I got home from school.  He’d give me a hang-dog look that nearly broke my heart as I tossed his beloved apples and pears in a bucket.  We’d taken him from the freedom of the fish hatchery and moved him to town, and now I was depriving him of the one pleasure he’d found that made city  living worthwhile.
Rebel has been gone for decades, and we moved long ago from the house surrounded by pear and apple trees.  Despite passing time, the dog days of August and slow moving wasps remind me of that black dog that made room in his heart for a new family member and relocation to a neighborhood with paved streets.