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SCOUT "You're His Last Hope"

By Paul Olsen

Spokane, WA

After two hours of driving I was nearly there. The Lewiston grade was steep. The grade road winds like a rattlesnake’s trail on the side of a cliff. The view seems like you’re looking out of an airplane. You almost expect to have the pilot announce put your seat into the full upright position, and your trays up. Instead it was my truck’s windshield I looking out. I couldn’t help looking at the town of Lewiston, Idaho far below in the distance. It looked like a tiny city next to the Clear Water River. I was wondering if this trip was a folly. But it didn’t matter -- I was on a rescue mission.

It started with a call on a Friday late afternoon. I received a phone call from a woman from the Lewiston Animal Shelter. Our conversation went like this:

She asked, “Are you the fellow who was interested in adopting a hunting dog?”

“I am”, I replied.

“We have a dog you might be interested in,” she said. “It’s an American Water Spaniel.”

“What kind of dog is it?” I asked.

“American Water Spaniel” she repeated.

I said, “I’ve never heard of that breed before. What does it look like?”

She said “A short stocky brown curly haired dog with a long tail,” she said without much enthusiasm as if she had had this conversation with other people before.

“I’ll think about it and call you back,” I told her, but to myself I said, yeah right.

She must have sensed that I was stalling because she continued, “He is really nice and was owned by an local outdoor writer,” then she went in for the kill, “He has been here for quite awhile, and you’re his last hope.”

 As she knew it would, her last comment tugged on my heart. Finally, I said, “I’ll drive down in the morning.” With a sigh, I hung up. A short, stocky, brown, curly haired dog with a long tail - I was hooked.

The Lewiston humane society seemed like a like a scene from the doggie version of The Green Mile. I introduced myself to the warden behind the desk. She took me to meet the inmate The American Water Spaniel. The name on the cell said, “Scout”. He sat there. He looked very different than what I expected a hunting dog to look like. He looked like a fuzzy wavy brown dog, not a hunting dog much less a great one.

The warden agreed to let him out, and I cuffed him with a leash. We headed to the exercise yard for a chance to get to know each other. I felt awkward, like I was on a blind date. Scout seemed confused too. We really didn’t know what to expect from each other. But remembering the lady’s words on the phone, I decided we should take a chance. I told him of our escape plan. He seemed to listen intently.

After paying a small bribe to the warden, I acquired a copy of Scout’s rap sheet. We snuck out the side door. He climbed into our get away vehicle. Scout ducked as we drove past the main gate, and we made good our escape.

Springing Scout from the big house was the best thing that ever happened to me. Not only is he a great hunting dog, but a loved member of the family. Scout’s unique appearance has been only a small part about what makes him special to us. He sings a little song for his supper, and dances in a circle before he is fed. If I am late in feeding him he growls a slight growl telling me to hurry up, and get dinner in the bowl. Women just love him unabashedly. Scout is enthusiastic about hunting, yet he will sometimes look over his shoulder with disdain when I throw the rubber bumpers for him to retrieve. He will look at me as if to say, “Where are the real birds? Do you think I am stupid expecting me to get excited about a rubber fake bird?”

Two years after our escape, life with Scout is far richer for both us. My four hour drive round trip was worth it. He is a model parolee. Who knew that short stocky brown AWS would become so special to me. I don’t think AWS look quite so funny anymore, but he still thinks I do.