Seven years ago this week, I was living here on Orange Springs Farm with my friend Keller. One afternoon, we were returning to the farm from the town of Orange. As we pulled in, we saw our friend Steve Vargo hanging out in the garage, welding, with his dog Elsa nearby. We got out of the truck, said hi, and realized that the dog wasn‘t Elsa, just a random stray. He was skinny, but not emaciated; dirty, but not filthy. A choke chain was around his neck, but there were no tags. He was mildly skittish, but hung out with us for an hour or so as we cracked open beers, told a few stories, and did the occasional welding. During that hour [or so], I noted how nicely curved his tail was, mentioning that it looked like a scorpion’s; Vargo immediately christened him “Stinger.”
For the next week, “Stinger” would typically repeat the process — come over, hang out, leave. I was more than happy to see him every day, because he was so beautiful — and just as friendly and easy-going. One afternoon, when he was snooting around in the field — but not joining me in the yard — I walked a few hundred feet up the driveway and left him a bowl of kibble. Maxey (Keller’s farmer) was there and said that was a bad idea; his motives, though, were to basically get dogs the fuck out of his fields.
After seven or eight days of this, a handful of people came over for Sunday dinner. Vargo and I were out on the deck, grilling. Stinger was on the grass underneath. Tossing down tidbits of venison, Vargo told me (in so many words), “that’s your fucking dog.” It dawned on me that he was right. That night, for the first time, Stinger slept in my bed.
I took him to the vet the next day. They told me that he was already fixed, and that he was probably a year old. (I would retroactively determine his birthday to be “first week in April.”) He was in pretty bad shape. We walked out the door with three prescriptions — one for an intestinal worm, one for Lyme disease, and a third for his inner right ear, to which roughly fourteen ticks had attached themselves. (Noooo! Not his floppy little Snooter ears!!!)
I trained him “come” and “sit” (calling him “Stinger”), and he was an amazingly quick learner (definitely more obedient then than the little shit is today).
Soon after, we rented the movie Jackass, which had a sketch called “Wasabi Snooters” (in which one of the guys snorts lines of wasabi, then vomits all over the sushi bar). The term “snooter” really suited (snooted) him for some reason (especially if you’ve ever seen him bury or un-bury something), and the nickname immediately stuck. (Eventually, “Snooter” would lead to the more-popular “Snoots” and “Snooty”; the latter has been his unofficial name since roughly 2006.)
We already had another dog, Clyde, living here. The two of them got along famously — so famously that they would spontaneously go on ten-hour sightseeing trips together through the fields of Orange County. At first, it was funny and endearing — you could have gone all day without seeing them, and late at night you’d be enjoying a beer on the porch when they’d suddenly roll in, filthy and wet, with big, stupid smiles covering their faces.
It became a concern when we got a phone call from a house one day saying that our dogs were there. The dogs hadn’t misbehaved or anything; the concern was that the house was 4.4 miles away. They’d crossed a highway to get there.
We started calling these little field trips “jailbreaks” and started to more actively police them. This has, over time, led to the “one dog on rope at all times” policy enforced to this day.
Clyde and Snooty can go months without seeing each other, but if you re-introduce them down here, they’ll immediately conspire together, waiting to exploit the slighest weakness in your defenses. To wit:
Friday afternoon there were six of us out playing croquet. Clyde and Snooty had been together — for the first time since Thanksgiving — no more than ninety minutes. Snooty was on the rope, tied to a specially designed hook near the corner of the Workshop; Clyde was lying down not twenty feet away. We were going to “switch the dogs up” when I got lazy. I unhooked Snoots without first grabbing Clyde in my other hand. The walk from the hook to Clyde’s neck was four paces; three paces in, as I was reaching out for his collar, he bolted. With Snoots right behind him. Jailbreak achieved. (this one lasted only two hours; they’re older now).