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After Work: A One-Dog Night

…Then came a frantic scratching at the back door followed by a piteous whimper.

I dashed to the door and cautiously opened it.

A whir of brown rushed in propelled by four scurrying paws. It was a dog. A medium-sized spaniel with tongue lolling and ears flopping….

While fireworks go fizz, pop and bang on a summer beach, Dona Gibbs welcomes in a surprise visitor.

For more of Dona’s wonderful all-season words please click on After Work in the menu on this page.

Pah-boom! Bang! Zzzzzzzz. Pop.

Celebratory fireworks punctuated the summer evening, drowning out the chirrup of crickets and the splish, splish of waves on the ice age boulders that dotted the beach.

Our island “society” family was hosting their annual fireworks display for the delight of anyone with a blanket or, better yet, a boat.

We had chosen not to attend, giving our son and his girlfriend blanket room of their own away from parental eyes. Although they probably would have preferred that we take a blanket over to the shore side lawn and leave them the house to themselves. They’ve been married now for over a decade and that summer night is long, long ago.

Zzzz! The night sky was ablaze. The island was under siege.

Then came a frantic scratching at the back door followed by a piteous whimper.

I dashed to the door and cautiously opened it.

A whir of brown rushed in propelled by four scurrying paws. It was a dog. A medium-sized spaniel with tongue lolling and ears flopping. He hurled himself into the fartherest corner he could find – the first floor bedroom. He threw himself into a corner and curled into a ball.

The fireworks had scared all doggy dignity out of him.

“Please don’t turn me out,” his round brown eyes implored. “They’re hunting spaniels out there. Oh the mayhem. Oh the insanity.”

My husband was bemused.

“What’s that dog anyway? Doesn’t look like a Chesapeake Bay Retriever.”

Chesapeake Baby Retrievers were a fixture on the island. These curly-coated hunting dogs were bred by the island game warden and lots of both seasonal and year-round families owned one.

The dogs liked to have reunions with their littermates on scorching summer days at the boat repair yard, lounging around on the cool cement floor. If there were leash laws, the doggy population yawned them off as a ridiculous infringement on their freedom. They were all related, not unlike the islanders themselves.

Yes, these dogs too were afraid of fireworks. And not a summer passed without someone’s dog tearing through a screen door once the big annual show of crashes and booms got underway.

But no. This brown compact dog wasn’t a Chesapeake Bay Retriever. And I knew, just knew, what he was.

He was a Boykin Spaniel. In fact, I had just read an article about these special little dogs. It was as if I had conjured him up, but he was no figment of my imagination. He was a real live dog in need of a bowl of cool water.

“What are you going to do about him?” my husband padded after me as I gathered up a blanket.

He knew what I was doing to do. I was going to make our drop-in guest comfortable.

I then called the state trooper barracks.

Now calling a state trooper about a dog might seem extreme but on this small island, the state troopers serve as the authority. I could have called our local county council woman, constable or the president of the civic association but odds were they’d be at the fireworks display.

There were two state troopers, two for company, not necessarily because the crime rate indicated two were needed. I could count on one being in the barracks.

“Has a dog been reported missing?” I asked.


The state trooper told me to put the spaniel outside and, “He’ll probably find his way home.”

“I think I’ll keep him here until somebody calls in. He’s a Boykin Spaniel and they’re pretty rare.”

I hung up and looked at our houseguest.

Boykin Spaniels, the article had said, are descended from a dog found wandering near a Methodist Church near Spartanburg, SC. Alexander L. White adopted the dog and soon found him to be a talented retriever both on land and in the water. He sent his serendipitous find for further training to L. Whitaker Boykin.

These spaniels’ talents are prized. These dogs are said to love to hunt and used by sportsmen to retrieve wild turkeys in woodlands thick with underbrush and ducks on South Carolina’s ponds.

The official Boykin Spaniel website calls them “super energized.” But there is no mention that they need a tranquilizer if fireworks are expected.

Curious, isn’t it that dogs that regularly have shotguns blast over their heads can turn into a quivering, drooling heap with the crack of a bottle rocket?

We three turned in for the night. An hour or two later our son and girlfriend returned.

“Rrrrrrr,” Boykin snarled.

“Mom? Dad? Are you guys okay?

He opened the door.

Boykin dashed over.

“What’s that?”

I explained. The fireworks. His antecedent found wandering near the Methodist Church. And that Boykins were the most charming things to come out of South Carolina since bene wafers and sweet grass baskets.

“Uh huh, What are you going to do with him?” my son asked, the Boykin and he eyeing each other suspiciously.

“See if his owner shows up.”

Which she did at 7:35 the following morning.

Boykin wiggled his stump of a tail, leaped into the vintage station wagon that sported South Carolina plates and left without a goodbye.

And I was just getting ready to make him hush puppies for breakfast.


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