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Animal cruelty: after a deceitful vet trip, this lab makes sure he's in the right place.

MY FRIEND MARTY pulled his red pickup into the duck club and stepped out, ambling to the tailgate. He opened the door to a dog crate and ... nothing. His big yellow Lab, named Herpes (because he won't heel), usually so anxious to hunt, peered out cautiously, surveying the situation.

Finally Herp stood up, stretched his long legs, walked to the rear of the truck bed and jumped off, evidently satisfied he was indeed in a duck hunting locale.

"Is he sick?" I asked.

"Nah, he just wants to make sure he's in the right place." Marty started unloading his gear, which I noticed was wrapped in plastic garbage bags. Come to think of it, nothing camo was in sight. Marty wasn't wearing his usual duck garb; not even his grungy trademark ball cap.

As I helped carry his stuff into the cabin, he explained Herp's reluctance to climb out of the crate. Whenever Marty took Herp to the vet, the dog would suddenly disappear. He knew, sometimes even the day before, something unpleasant was in store. Marty and his family would look everywhere: under beds, in closets, anyplace a big yellow dog could hide. Eventually he would turn up, but it often took most of the day to find him. Then he had to be dragged, toenails gouging the floor, to the truck and lifted into his crate by the entire family.

But when it was time to go duck hunting, Herp knew even before the guns and camo appeared. If Marty put on his baseball cap Herp would follow him around the house, furiously wagging his tail. A shotgun leaning against the corner in the hallway sent him into ecstasy.

Marty may be big and ugly but he's not stupid. When a visit to the vet was in order, all he had to do was put on something camo and Herp would beat him to the truck. It worked perfectly the first time he tried it. As Marty buttoned his camo shirt Herp stood, front paws on Marty's shoes, tail wagging, staring up at him. As Marty slid into a camo parka and headed for the door Herp bounded past him onto the truck bed in one enthusiastic leap.

The usual whines of anticipation came from the crate as Marty drove toward the vet's office. He almost felt sorry for his old partner. He pulled into a parking space in front of the veterinary office, stepped out and walked to the rear of the truck, opened the crate and snapped a leash on Herp's collar.

Instead of water, cattails, and smartweed, he saw pavement, mini vans and dumpy housewives dragging their whiny, snot-nosed kids. He stared at Marty from the truck, eyeball-to-eyeball. It was easy to read his mind: I know where we are, and it damn sure ain't a duck marsh! He sat on command but continued to glower at his master, biding his time.

I poured us.both a cup of coffee and watched a small family of wood ducks cruise over the marsh.

"What happened next?"

"Like most vets Dr. Gates has a way with animals. Herp has always been well behaved in the vet's office but this time he hiked his leg and soaked us both."

"Can't say I blame him," I said, taking another sip of coffee.

"That's what Dr. Gates said when I told him about the trick I had played on Herp. In fact he said we were lucky he didn't bite both of us."

Marty looked down at Herp and scratched him behind the ears. "You wouldn't bite me, would you old buddy?"

Herp glanced up at Marty and we could almost read his mind, those big brown Lab eyes saying: "Don't push your luck."
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Title Annotation:FOWL THOUGHTS
Author:Cochran, Bruce
Publication:Wildfowl
Date:Oct 30, 2013
Words:624
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