Thankful Notes (#270)
When sleeping outside on the deck furniture for the night, I do occasionally hear some strange sounds. Sometimes the gray heron pierces the silence with his prehistoric-guttural squawks. Other times, a flock of Canadian geese fly directly overhead, honking with every flap of their wings. And there is this bizarre sound a crow makes, almost like a cat, “baahw? baahw?”
This time of year, the cormorants have left for some other climate or location… so I don’t hear their weird growling monster sound. But there is definitely the sound of frogs and the occasional splosh of fish jumping and landing back into the lake.
One of my favorite nighttime sounds is the gentle hoot of owls in trees nearby.
Even when I’m not sleeping outside, I hear most of these sounds (except the fish sploshing back into the water) because we always have our bedroom windows open at night. Gotta have that fresh air, even when it’s cold at night.
As I think about strange middle-of-the-night sounds, I’m taken back to a memory I share with my dad… I was around 15 years old at the time, and had just started working at the veterinary hospital in Rainier Beach.
My bedroom was on the ground floor of the house, right next door to my parent’s bedroom. The night was stormy—wind and heavy, relentless rain. Everything was soaked and the ground couldn’t absorb all the water.
I had been working on a side-hustle for my dad in addition to working at the veterinary hospital – he offered to pay me $1,000 to dig out the ground around the north side of the basement (it needed a drain field and the concrete exterior wall of the basement needed to be sealed). A good sized trench had been started – it was maybe 3’ wide by 6-7’ deep.
In the middle of the night, I was awakened to the strange and eerie sound of moaning or wailing or groaning… and the hair on the back of my neck stood up. I laid in bed listening, wondering if I’d just had a bad dream, but the ghost sound continued.
I couldn’t get back to sleep, and I was starting to wonder if someone was pulling a prank on me, “punking” me, so I walked over to my parent’s bedroom and shook my dad awake. I whispered, “Do you hear that sound?” He grumbled and said no. And the sound had stopped.
So I went back to my bed and tried to sleep. But the sound came back—and it kept getting louder. It sounded as if it was right outside my window. I quietly and carefully got out of bed again and walked over to my window. All I could see was blackness and rain pelting my window.
At this point, I was convinced someone was outside making this strange noise, so I went back to my parent’s bedroom and insisted that my dad get up and check it out with me. We put our shoes on and grabbed coats and walked outside with a single flashlight to see what was happening outside my window.
By this time, my dad was hearing the ghost sound too. We looked at each other with stunned faces, in complete bewilderment. What was this noise? Who was making it?
We slowly walked toward the sound. I said, “It seems to be coming from the trench” and my dad flashed the light down inside…
Peering over the edge, I could see a body covered in mud. The sound was definitely coming from down there. My adrenaline was pumping and I was scared. “Who is that?” I asked.
As the light focused on the body below, we recognized the shape. “I think it’s Woof,” my dad said. He was right—it was Woof, our neighbor across the street’s dog, an Old English Sheepdog.
We called for him to come but he just laid there mostly lifeless, occasionally moaning. I decided to jump in the trench. It was full of mud and more water was pouring in by the minute.
Woof’s huge fluffy hair was soaked in mud and when I tried to pick him up, he felt like a lifeless 200lb body.
My dad laid down on the ground above and reached his arm down. He told me to try to get some part of Woof up to him. So I grabbed the nape of his neck with both hands and pulled with all my strength… kinda like an upright row. By some miracle of adrenaline, I managed to get enough of Woof up from the trench and into my dad’s grip. It took both of us, all of our strength, to drag and push and pull and hoist that lifeless dog out of our muddy trench.
We stood exhausted over the dog, breathing heavily, hoping he would decide to get up. But he didn’t. No matter how much poking or prodding or standing him up or telling him to go, Woof just dropped dead back to the ground.
Knowing we couldn’t leave the evidence in our yard, we decided to drag him down our long driveway, across the street, and leave him in the driveway of his owners.
This was hard work, but, again, adrenaline powered us through. We were hoping not to get caught.
I remember walking back up our driveway seeing the smear of mud all the way down from dragging Woof. The trail ran from behind our house, down the driveway, across the street, and right to where the dog was dropped off (and completely dead looking).
My dad and I didn’t say anything more to each other. We were exhausted and soaked and covered in mud. It felt like we had just unburied a body and dropped it off where it used to live.
After rinsing off, I changed my clothes and went back to bed with a prayer: Lord, please let the rain wash away all the evidence.
Light broke through my window and warmed my face. I woke up to sunny skies and no more rain. My heart sunk… the trail of mud would still be there and the neighbors would see that we had accidentally killed their dog and tried to cover up.
I ran out to the living room and looked out our front windows. What I saw seemed completely unbelievable…
Woof was fluffy and dry, walking around as if nothing had happened.
We were in the clear.
It was a miracle.
And I will never forget that night.
“I’m a very early riser, and I don’t like to miss that beautiful early morning light.” —David Hockney