Tuesday, March 24, 2009


This is Walter, a basset hound that complicated my life several years ago. At the time, I was teaching elderhostel down in north Georgia at a conference center on the edge of a National Park. Walter wandered out of the woods one day and laid down by the garbage cans outside the kitchen. He was in bad shape with bloody feet and protruding ribs. The management complained, saying that a starving basset hound was not a good image for a conference center that provided guidance for troubled Christian souls and ordered that Walter be evicted.

With the help of a minister, I managed to lug Walter to my van and take him home. I gave him three baths despite the fact that my little rat terrier, Teddie only stopped howling long enough to nip Walter in the nether regions. Walter never seemed to notice Teddie. I took my new dog to the vet and he told me something about basset hounds. "They are victimized by their noses," he said, "and will sometimes follow a scent until they drop from exhaustion. I guess that explained what had happened to Walter. "You're not going to keep him, are you?" asked the vet. Why not? "Well, they eat an awesome amount and they require a lot of attention." Those were prophetic words.

Within a week, I was confident that I couldn't afford to feed Walter. In addition, while I was cleaning house, he left....just walked out to the road and kept going. I got a call from a neighbor who told me that Walter was lying in the highway about a mile away. When I got there, some college kids had managed to coax the dog to the side of the road. "He actually laid down and went to sleep," one of them said. "I guess the only reason he wasn't run over is, he is so damned big!"

A friend of mine came by and took Walter's photo. He said that he would put it in the local paper and maybe someone would recognize him. As you can see, my poor little ten-year-old
rat terrier, Teddie never quit complaining. In fact, he howled constantly as he is doing in this photo. Several days later, the minister from the conference center came by. He and his wife were on their way to Asheville for a bit of recreation. Unfortunately, Walter had been depositing mammoth piles of doggie-doo everywhere, and my yard looked like it had been invaded by giant ants that had raised numerous exotic mounds. The minister's wife stepped in one of Walter's mounds and immediately became hysterical. She sat in the back seat of the car while her husband washed her shoes and attempted to wash her violated feet. I did feel that she was over-reacting a bit. She kept gasping for breath as though she might faint. I had managed to corral Walter on the porch, but I asked the minister's wife if she wanted me to call 911. Before my offended visitors left, the husband told me that I should probably contact "Basset Rescue."
I went online and immediately found someone who would gladly take Walter.

So, Teddie and I took Walter down to the South Carolina line where a nice couple from Greenville met us. When I opened the van door, Walter got out and went straight to his new owners and hopped up in the he had done this before and knew the drill. "Don't worry about him," said the husband. "He will have his own room, and he will eat steak every night." He said that they had two sons who would "just love Walter." I sat in my ten-year-old van with Teddie (who couldn't believe his good luck) and watched the couple pull away in a new Buick station wagon and wondered if there was possibly a service for the likes of me. "Aging Mountain Eccentric Rescue." Teddie sat in my lap all the way home.


  1. No Gary, I don’t think there’s any chance they will start an Aging Mountain Eccentrics Rescue program. Haven’t you ever noticed that the people who start those animal rescue programs are misanthropes? They definitely prefer animals to aging mountain eccentrics or any other species of human. As for the ministers wife, she better cowboy up because they say all dogs go to heaven, and to paraphrase The Bard, “Golden poop by any other name is still… well, you know- poop.” Who knows, perhaps Walter was an angel in disguise like that golden retriever in “The Darkest Night Of The Year” by Dean Koontz, and you (Gary Carden) earned heavenly bonus points assuring yourself an appointment as heavenly librarian while the ministers wife was relegated to cleaning the celestial kennel for eternity.

  2. Oh, my goodness. I feel a Sally Fields seizure coming on! Thank you, kind sir.