Scout was a big dog, but very sweet. He was here with this strange couple he didn't know. He would wonder why his family had given him to these people. He missed his old dog family, swimming in the lake with them and running in the fields. He really missed all the other dogs when he slept. These new people fed him, walked him and did not hurt him but he was not happy here. One day, the couple decided to have a picnic in the mountains. They would get to smell the fresh pine trees and cool their feet in the pool from waterfall. They put Scout's leash on him and went to put him in the car. Scout felt uneasy about getting in the car. The last time he got into a car, he was brought here and left by his family. Once in the car, Scout laid down shaking slightly. Into the trip, Scout started to look out the window. It seemed familiar, the trees and the occasional lake. He started to feel more comfortable. About an hour into the trip, the car stopped in a wooded area with a lone picnic table. The couple got out, they went to put the leash on Scout but before they could, he bolted out of the car.
He ran into the woods with the couple chasing and yelling at him. But Scout was young and fast, about one year old. The couple gave up quickly. Scout ran for a long time before stopping at a stream for a long drink of cold water. He stood there and looked around. He wasn’t tired or scared, just a little confused. He didn’t know why he ran; he just knew that it felt right. Scout had traveled far during the day and now as the sun was setting he was weary and hungry. There were many scents in the forest but none of them were familiar. There was definitely no scent of food. When it was almost completely dark, Scout curled up under a large pine tree and fell asleep. In a short time, he was dreaming.
Scout dreamt of his old home. His owners, a young couple, had brought him home when he was 8 weeks old. There were 7 other dogs there, all older and very large. These dogs treated him kindly and he enjoyed his family. They slept inside, had plenty to eat and would play in the fields and swim in the lake. As he got older, he grew to the same size as the other dogs. Scout was brown in color with long fur, the other dogs were black, gray and one was even golden with long fur. When Scout was about one year old, he noticed different people coming to his house. None of the other dogs were ever brought out to meet these people. He was always friendly when he met these people and they would pet him and talk to him. When they left, he would go back to the other dogs. Scout was very happy living where he was and being with the other dogs.
One day, a couple who he had met before came back to see him. His owners put him in this couple’s car and these new people drove off with him. He was very confused but behaved well. This new couple was nice but he missed his old home and the other dogs. He was the only dog at his new home. What he didn’t know was that his old owners just had too many dogs to take care of properly. They thought they had found Scout a good home and gave him to this couple. In his new home, Scout had no other dogs to play with and was left alone sometimes. He was never cold or hungry but he was not happy either. He didn’t see any other dogs or people and was never allowed to run free. It was very different for him. He often thought about the other dogs and the fields and the lake.
Scout woke up as the sun was rising. But it wasn’t the sunrise that stirred him; it was the pains of hunger that woke him. He started to travel and was trying to find the scent of food. During his travels, he started to smell something familiar. Scout came into an opening and saw smoke coming from a fire. He also saw a tent. He then smelled the bacon cooking over the open fire. He took a step and stopped. A person came out of the tent and went to the fire. Then another person came out of the tent. Just then two children, a boy and a girl, came running from behind the tent. The children spotted Scout and loudly told their parents.
The man kneeling over the fire, tending the bacon told the kids to stay by their mother. The man got up and walked toward Scout. He was talking softly, Scout not being afraid of humans came right up to the man. The man petted him and told his wife that Scout had a beautiful leather collar with a brass nameplate. The children came running over yelling Scout, Scout. Scout let them pet him and then looked at the fire. Their mother noticed this look and told the children to get the dog some water. She then went over to the fire and put some bacon on a plate and gave it to Scout. Scout thought the bacon was the best food he had ever tasted. After he ate, he drank some water and lay down. The children asked their father if they could keep him. The father told them that this dog has been well cared for and has a collar with his name on it. He could tell Scout had been around people and was well trained. He figured that Scout’s family was camping nearby and that the dog is just roaming about and will go back to his family. The kids were disappointed. So the father told them he would walk down and tell the park ranger about the dog. When the father left to talk to the park ranger Scout was lying down with the boy and girl petting him. Scout really liked the attention. The father returned and said the ranger would be here in a few minutes. When the ranger’s jeep pulled up Scout stood up. The ranger looked through his papers to see if anyone registered with the park had a dog that fit Scout’s description. There were no dogs listed that looked like Scout. The ranger told the family he would take Scout back to the office and see if he could find his owners. When the ranger opened the back door of the jeep and called the dog, Scout’s ears went up and he started to back away. When the ranger got closer Scout took off. Scout ran into the woods, the ranger and the family did not chase him. They figured he was just going home. They didn’t know that Scout wanted no part of getting into the car. Scout roamed the state park all day and met several people at different campsites. They were all friendly and gave him little bits of food and water.
The ranger would receive reports of the dog but could never seem to catch up to Scout. Scout was not scared and even kind of enjoyed roaming around and meeting different people. The good thing was that the only car in the park belonged to the ranger. All the campers had to hike in with their gear. Their cars were parked down by the office. Scout would pass people who were hiking and sometimes he would follow them for a short time. It was like Scout didn’t have a care in the world. The woods were full of animals, deer, rabbits, squirrels and birds. Scout would chase a rabbit now and then, not to catch it just to have some fun. He never caught one anyway. It started to get dark and Scout felt a little uneasy. He looked around and found another large pine tree to curl up under and fell asleep. It wasn’t long before Scout had the same familiar dream about the field, lake and other dogs. This time, Scout woke up to the noise of the ranger’s jeep. Scout stayed under the pine tree as the ranger drove past on an old logging trail. Scout liked this place but didn’t want to stay if the ranger kept coming around in his car. Scout went to a couple of campsites where he was given some food and then decided to leave the area. In a few hours of travel all signs of people were gone. Scout was still in a forest but there were no signs of humans or cars. There was plenty of water from several streams he had crossed but no scent of food. He would still chase on occasional rabbit for fun but he still couldn’t catch one. He felt that he had traveled far and decided to take a break near a very small stream. As he was drinking, he saw little shiny things darting about in the water. He would try and catch them in his mouth but they were very fast. He quickly gave up and rested.
Scout got up after his rest and trotted off in no particular direction. It was June and the weather was nice. Not too hot during the day and not to cold at night. He would see deer in the woods, and then he saw a fox. To him it looked like another dog so he ran towards it to play. The fox saw Scout and ran away. Scout followed the fox’s scent for awhile but then stopped. He could not figure out why the fox didn’t want to play. The fox’s scent led Scout to the edge of a large field. The field was freshly planted; about a mile away Scout could see some buildings. Scout stayed in the woods around the edge of the field and headed towards the buildings. He took his time and was very cautious. When he got near he saw other animals around the buildings. There were cows, goats and a small building with lots of chickens. He saw no people around the farm but sensed they were there. While staying in the protection of the woods ,Scout saw the fox dart out from behind the building where the chickens were. The fox had a chicken in his mouth and ran into the woods about one hundred yards from Scout. Scout didn’t chase the fox this time; he just stayed there and watched the farmhouse. As the sun was going down a truck pulled up to the farmhouse. A man, woman and young boy got out and went into the house. A short time later, the man came out and walked to the chicken coop. The man got excited and was yelling ,he went back into the house. The man and boy came out; the man was carrying a shotgun. They followed the trail to where the fox entered the woods. They stopped and started to walk along the edge of the woods to where Scout was. When they got near Scout was unsure what to do. He saw the man point the shotgun at him; he heard a loud bang and felt the shrubs next to him tear apart. Scout took off deeper into the woods. He ran for a short time, stopped and looked behind him. The man and the boy were not following.
Scout had no way of knowing that in the last week the farmer had lost three chickens and the fox was getting fat. The farmer did not know what kind of animal was killing his chickens. The tracks were hard to read, but he thought it was a coyote or a fox. When he shot at Scout, he thought he was shooting at a coyote. The farmer was mad at himself for missing. It was a small farm and he couldn’t afford to lose any chickens. They sold the eggs and needed the extra money. It had been many years since the farmer had lost any chickens. That was because the farm dog had chased any predators away. But the dog had died two months ago at the age of twelve. The boy missed the dog because they had grown up together and was buddies. The farmer missed the dog because the dog protected the livestock. He wanted to get another dog but none of the nearby farms had any pups to give away and he could not afford to buy a dog right now. When the man and boy reached the house, Scout was back at the edge of the woods watching. Watching the man and boy go into the house Scout went into the woods to lie down for the night. In the morning, the boy woke up and started his chores. One of the chores was collecting eggs that his mother sold in town. While at the chicken coop, the boy looked at the tracks. He had told his father before that the tracks looked like they were made by a fox. The boy had learned about tracks from an old man who lived down the road. The boy would visit the old man almost everyday and the old man taught him about hunting, fishing and tracking. The boy could identify deer, coyote, fox, rabbit and dog tracks. When he told his father that it was a fox, his father didn’t believe him even though the boy knew more about the tracks then he did. His father didn’t like the old man down the road because he thought he was an old crazy hermit. As the boy looked at the tracks, he was sure that a fox had made them. After he was done with his chores the boy told his mother he was going to play. He went to the old man’s house and told him about the chickens and the tracks. The old man took out a book and asked the boy to show him what the tracks looked like. The tracks the boy picked out belonged to the red fox. The boy thought about telling his father but decided against it.
While the boy was at the old man’s house, Scout had been roaming around the woods. Scout came to where the fox had eaten the chicken he stole. Scout sniffled at it and his hunger took control of him and he ate some of what was left. It wasn’t much but it helped. When the boy got back to the farm, his father was working in the field. The boy went up to his father and told him he was going to check the woods for any tracks. The boy looked around and found some fox tracks. He followed them to where the remains of the chicken were. He then saw the dog tracks. Just as he was about to follow the dog tracks, he heard a noise behind him. He turned and saw his father. The father asked him what he found. The boy showed him what was left of the chicken. The father came closer and saw dog tracks. The boy tried to show him the fox tracks too. But his father didn’t want to hear it. The father said there must be a wild dog around and was convinced that this wild dog was responsible for killing the chickens. The father said to his son, “Mike I think we might have to put out some poisoned meat”.
Mike knew his father thought he was doing the right thing for the farm and family so Mike decided to do something on his own. Mike told his mother he would be gone until supper time. He went back to the place where he lost the dogs tracks and looked around. He went deeper and deeper into the woods. He found tracks here and there but they disappeared again. He was leaving the woods when he spotted the dog on a small ridge. They both stood there looking at each other, not moving and barely breathing. After a few minutes that seemed like hours Mike took a step closer to the dog. They were about twenty yards apart. The dog didn’t move but became more alert. Mike got to within ten yards and stopped. From here he could see the dog very well. He noticed that Scout had a leather collar on and didn’t look like a wild dog to him. Mike didn’t want to move and spook the dog so he just stood there amazed at what a great looking dog Scout was. Scout was alert and steady; he showed no signs of fear. Scout was tempted to move closer to the boy but didn’t. Scout who was very comfortable around people figured the boy would come to him. Scout also remembered the loud bang that came when the boy was around. Scout had started to move forward, he had taken two steps and heard a noise off to the side. Mike turned quickly to the noise and Scout ran away. When Mike turned he saw the fox run out from the underbrush. Mike turned back to where Scout had been but the dog was gone. Mike ran to the old man’s house and told him what had happened. They then discussed their plan of action. The next day the old man was in the woods where Mike had told him he had seen Scout. He had a large sack with him and every fifty or seventy five yards he would drop something on the ground. Scout watched the old man for the whole morning and every time he dropped something Scout went to that area. The old man didn’t see Scout but knew he was being followed. The old man finished up and went home. Later that day Mike’s father was putting the poison he got from the feed store on some meat. He then placed the meat in the woods around the field. He felt confident that the dog would eat the meat and he would not lose anymore chickens. He told Mike about the poisoned meat but Mike didn’t seem concerned. Mike just looked at his mother and gave her a smile. That night there was a commotion in the chicken coop. Mike and his father ran outside to see what going on. When they got to the coop there was another chicken gone and no sign of the predator. Mike could find no tracks and saw that his father was both upset and angry.
In the morning, Mike and his father went and checked the poisoned meat. The meat had not been touched. When the father went back to work Mike walked the woods and found the remains of the chicken that was taken last night. He was relieved when he found some fox tracks in the area. He saw no signs of Scout being around there. He didn’t tell his father what he had found. The father old his wife he couldn’t understand why none of the meat was eaten. He didn’t know that the reason Scout hadn’t touched the meat was because he was holed up in an old den and was sick. Scout’s stomach ached and burned. That night they heard no noise in the chicken coop. After morning chores, Mike took off. He noticed his father was in a better mood because no chickens were missing. Mike headed right to the old man’s house.
Mike and the old man went into the woods to look for signs. The old man was good and found tracks that Mike had walked right past. They tracked the dog for several hours and came up to the den. The entrance wasn’t very big but Mike went in and saw the dog lying down not moving. He came out and told the old man that he thought the dog was dead. The old man took off his backpack and went into the den. When he came out, he was dragging Scout. He saw that Mike was very upset and told him not to worry that the dog would be okay. They looked at the collar and saw “Scout” on the nameplate. The old man took a blanket out of his pack and he and Mike made a litter from two tree limbs. They brought Scott to the old man’s house. Mike was still very concerned and thought Scout was going to die. The old man told him he had seen this before and that the dog will be alright by the morning. The old man mixed something in some water and gave it to Scout. He told Mike to go home and come back tomorrow. Mike didn’t want to leave but the old man insisted.
Early next morning, Mike was as the old man’s house. He told him that another chicken was gone. Mike then saw Scout in the corner; he was awake and looked much better. Mike looked at the old man and the old man said the dog is just fine. He told Mike to tie a piece of rope on Scout’s collar. The three of them went into the woods. They took Scout to where the poisoned meat was. Scout sniffed at the meat but wouldn’t eat it. “See” said the old man, “this dog will never eat baited meat again”. Back at the old man’s house, the old man told Mike that he would have to tell his father about the dog. Mike was afraid, he was sure his father would want to destroy the dog. The old man told him it could wait until tomorrow. That night the farmer lost another chicken and he told the boy he would have to get some traps and put them around the property to catch the dog. Mike told him to wait before he spent any money on traps and ran off. When Mike returned the old man was with him. They also had Scout tied to the rope leash. Mike’s father looked at the old man, the dog, and told Mike to go and get his shotgun. Mike tried to tell his father that it wasn’t the dog that was stealing and killing the chickens it was a fox. His father didn’t want to listen and said he would get the gun himself. The old man just stood there holding the rope. Mike looked at his mother. She told her husband to listen to the boy. She could tell this was not a wild dog. She pointed out the dog’s collar and nameplate to her husband. Between her and Mike, they persuaded him not to shoot the dog.
Mike asked if he could keep the dog. At first, his father was against it but then said Mike could keep him if he built a pen. The father also said he would give the dog a trial period to see how it worked out. The old man helped Mike build a pen for Scout and then went and looked around the chicken coop. Mike was right about the fox the old man said. He has showed the father signs of where the fox had been. The father said “we will see”. Later that night they all woke up to Scout barking and growling. Mike checked and said there are no chickens missing. The father looked at the dog and went back into the house. Mike said to his mother, “See Scout scared the fox away”. His mother told him that Scout must belong to someone and they are probably heartbroken and looking for him. She told Mike that tomorrow they would make up some posters and hang them in town.
The next day after putting up the posters Mike went back home. His father called him over and asked him if knew why the dog didn’t eat the poisoned meat. Mike told his father what the old man had done. He said the old man soaked some meat in a pepper sauce and put it in the woods. When Scout ate the meat he became real sick but had learned not to eat baited meat ever again. Mike said it was an old trick that shepherds did with their dogs so they wouldn’t eat poisoned meat put out to kill wolves. The father smiled and told Mike to let Scout out of the pen and we’ll see how things go.
For several days, everything went good. Mike and Scout were bonding and no chickens were missing. Scout had the run of the farm during the day and at night he stayed in the house. Mike and Scout would visit the old man almost everyday. The old man told Mike that because Scout’s scent was now all over the farm the fox would stay away. Mike was happy to have a buddy again and his father was happy that no more chickens were being killed. It also appeared that his father had a new respect for the old man. Sunday morning while Mike and Scout were playing a car pulled up to the house. A couple got out and spoke to Mike’s mother. In the car were two big dogs. The couple let the dogs out and they ran up to Scout. Scout bowed down like a puppy when these dogs got close and then they played together. The couple went into the house with Mike’s mother and father while Mike stayed outside and played with the three dogs. They ran all over the farm and Scout seemed very happy.
When Mike’s mother, father and the couple came out the two dogs ran back to the couple. Scout stayed with Mike. It was Mike’s mother who told him that this couple were Scout’s original owners and had Scout since he was eight weeks old. She told him how Scout was given to some other people and then ran away. The couple had seen the posters and came to bring Scout back to his new owners. Mike did not like what he was hearing and reached down and held Scout’s collar. The couple seeing this came up to Mike and Scout. Scout went right up to the couple and they petted and kissed him. Scout then went back to Mike. The couple told Mike they see how happy Scout is here and that if Mike wants he can keep Scout. The couple would explain the story to the other people. Mike bent down and asked Scout if he wanted to stay. Scout went to the other two dogs and nuzzled them and returned to Mike. Mike’s father came up and said, “It looks like Scout has made up his mind and is going to stay with us”. The couple and the two dogs got in their car and left. As they drove off, they could see Mike and Scout running towards the old man’s house.
Stories by Frank Rescigno. All
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