A friend of a friend offered us his family’s cabin as Fall approached, before the grueling winter set in to keep us all hunkered down. The boys wanted to moose hunt, and the girls just wanted to read books by the river, and maybe enjoy a few early-bird cocktails after the menfolk left at dawn. So we packed our weekend bags and made the trip up the Elliot Highway, to Eureka. The boys never did get their moose, but they found a few grouse for the taking, and having picked a bucketful of cranberries that day, we cooked up a dinner of pan-fried spruce grouse and sweetened cranberry sauce.
I don’t remember the exact chain of events that followed. But the boys must have gotten another grouse that morning before we left, because after leaving the cabin for home we stopped at a creek to get the birds good and clean. The dog, eager to run one last time, got out of the car and joined them. He was also eager for the grouse, because the minute the bird’s skin and entrails and wings and legs hit the ground, he ate them up in one all-encompassing swallow.
The possible consequences of the dog’s actions didn’t occur to me until we were driving down the dirt road toward Manley Hot Springs (dodging potholes and sailing violently over bumps), where we wanted to stop for a soak. He started making that movement and sound typical of a dog getting ready to barf–his head lurching forward as things moved into his throat, the guttural noise of a frog sounding off in unison. The two boys were in the front, and the girls–myself and my cocktail friend–were in the back, with the dog situated on the seat between us. My handbag, wide open and inviting, as well as my duffel bag, lay on the floor below the dog: the exact target area for the trajectory of the vomit.
I yelled for my boyfriend-at-the-time/now fiance to stop and pull over. I probably yelled obscenities. I’m sure he looked at me nonchalantly from the front seat. Then I’m sure he laughed. When he did pull over I grabbed my bag, kicked open the car door, and leaped out, calling for the dog to unload after me. But it was too late for that. He’d already unloaded in his own manner, all over the seat of the car. I tried not to look. I didn’t want anything to do with it. But I did see an entire wing and matted feathers and a large mass that looked like the remains of a fully intact bird. Poor dog. He gets embarrassed about losing control of his stuff it in front of people.
We took a good long soak in the hot springs after that. We should have put the whole backseat of the car in the hot springs. But I didn’t think of it at the time. The car is now up for sale–a 1980s Jeep, with floorboards, a trailer hitch, four-wheel drive, and very textured seats, if anyone’s interested. Price negotiable.