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All Points West: One of the dog days of summer
August 20, 2015 Frank Marquez   

Read more by Frank Marquez
Hereís another column about nothing. But is there really ever nothing? Thereís always something.

To Jerry Seinfeld: Until you return with another TV show about nothing, give me 10 years with the Citizen, or until retirement, whatever comes first. Given the spin on some of these columns, my small meager betís on retirement.

This past week, my cute mutt friend Charley got his leg caught in a small steel trap set for raccoons. The little bandit-faced four leggers had been destroying the plastic irrigation tubes along a cornfield south of Dome Rock, along a favorite route for stretching my legs. In fact, the road has become my new treadmill. I blame the annoying little thieves for what happened.

It was just one of those days. Despite clear blue skies and a warm breeze, I had an edgy feeling even before setting foot out the door, while Charley was chomping at the bit. There are really only a few things he dreams or that pass through his little canine mind. Iím positive chasing rabbits and little doggy treats dominate his fleeting gastronomic fantasies. Fortunately, he has yet to catch a rabbit or any other class of varmint. I doubt, unlike his feline friends, heíd ever drag anything back to the house and present it as some sort of trophy. Who knows, I may be wrong.
About a mile into my run, I had to break stride to avoid a half-grown rattler slithering through a pile of dust, heading for the cool prairie grass. Charley likes to go off-roading a lot. So it had occurred to me he might be curious enough to take on a less speedy challenge. But I remembered, he was born to run, and my fears of deadly entanglement with the reptile faded. Then it happened. His howl pierced the still west Nebraska air. My mind raced, thinking he found the juvenile rattler. In double-backing, that was not the case. I saw evidence of the snakeís trail wriggling off into the nearest pasture.

Turning the corner on the road, his howls became louder. I found him on the edge of the cornfield, biting at the trap. Blood covered the rusted contraption. My adrenaline began to flow. A steely focused anger rose up in me. Not since Afghanistan had I felt this way. In an instant, I opened the trap while an anguished Charley nipped at my hand. Though I didnít feel it. My blood soon mixed with his. Still whimpering and half howling, he shot out of the trapís binding grip. Moving fast, I was glad to see him limp less and less as he galloped toward home. I kept pace with him, hoping he wasnít making his leg worse. Considering the trap, he might have cracked a bone.

Once at the vetís office, a practice shared by an old classmate, Dr. Jerry Upp, the staff seemed unfazed. Maybe they see a dozen or so hurt animals a day. Whatís one more? Their compassion was underwhelming. Though, I have to applaud the speed at which they worked through the formalities. ďHas Charley been here before?Ē That answered, the vetís assistants quickly located his file. Dr. Upp was enjoying his day off, so we saw Dr. Schlothauer instead. Her great bedside manner put me somewhat at ease.

This was Charley, my good friend. I couldnít imagine him being sidelined. Who would keep me company and keep my interest beyond a day at the Citizen? His territorial tendencies and throwing caution to the wind, seeing his ears flop and his tongue and tail wag, reminds me that taking life too seriously can be a hazard, too.

The weight of producing a weekly newspaper is nowhere near deciding world politics. In fact, a smile spreads across my face to know Iím no longer in D.C., riding a commuter train for an hour every Monday through Friday. I miss some things about this east coast seat of power, but not that, and certainly not the stress. Itís how I ended up in the E.R. with a mild heart attack. City life. Itís overrated.

Thankfully, my ticker checked out and my cardiologist asked if I was shouldering too much. Guilty. Now, Iím in a paradise south of Gering. Iíll never call this place boring, again. As a kid, I couldnít wait to leave, heaving insults at the slow pace and lack of opportunity. After so many years, guess I took the long way home.

Now, Iím living different adventures;, for one, my life with Charley. Maybe getting caught in the trap served some sort of cosmic purpose. I discovered my heart was pounding out of my chest for something which mattered much more.

Waiting at the vetís office on the Scottsbluff-Gering Highway, keeping my mind off of Charleyís potentially serious injury, I read everything on the walls, something about worms, not absorbing too much because I could hear my little friend howl again. Finally, the waiting was over. The clockís second hand began to move again. Dr. Schlothauer re-entered the exam room while I scratched my friendís soft chin and ears. He appeared with his little leg wrapped in medical gauze and tape. Iím not sure if this was for Charley or merely a prop to make me feel better. She said the tape was for support and he cried when the doc wrapped it, probably scared more than hurt.

His leg swelled for a few days and my running partner wore the injury like a badge. Sure. Who could deny giving him love? At the Citizen offices, he played it up with even sadder eyes than normal. It didnít stop him from hobbling around to visit the entire staff or anyone who passed through, for his requisite pats. And he didnít forget to collect the treats regularly dropped off by our postman.

These days, he has a few scabs but nothing to keep him from enjoying the good life. If I had a human son, Iíd worry about him trying to leave this small town for big city dreams, worse, fame and fortune. Who needs that?
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