Mike’s Corner: I don’t want the stick

By Mike Wagoner
Reader contributor

It was right about the time I got my first real job… teaching school… when I decided to get a dog. I had taught that first year in Walla Walla and went to Priest Lake for the summer to explore the 10-acre piece I had purchased on spring break. This was back when a young teacher could actually afford a little raw acreage in North Idaho. It wasn’t on the water, of course, but not far from it. 

I set up camp… a tent with power near the stubbed in meter and went to work. I loved it and so did my new pup… a purebred Golden Retriever. I started clearing a path from the county road deep into my little magic forest, choosing the path of least resistance so I didn’t have to take any more pines than necessary.

After a few days I had made some progress and loved to walk along it in the afternoons, having “clocked out” for the day. It was during one of these strolls with “Willie” the dog when it began to occur. While walking, I couldn’t resist picking up an occasional branch or big stick still in the path and casually tossing it onto the nearest brush pile. Willie started goin’ over, grabbin’ the stick and bringin’ it back to me. “No Willie… leave it there… I don’t want it. Give it here… now leave it.” 

I’d walk on a little ways… come across another renegade branch… toss it on a pile and Wille would go after it again. “No Willie…leave it… I don’t want the stick.”

Well, we went through this exercise a number of times… finally ended up back at base camp… I went inside… Willie wanted to stay out for a while. I did some reading by candlelight… made something to eat… let Willie in and crashed.

Next morning I poured some coffee and followed Willie out through the flap when I kinda tripped over a little pile of sticks and branches… the very ones I had “tossed” the previous afternoon. 

He sat there proud as could be with one still hangin’ in his mouth. “What the… are you kiddin’ me? I DON’T WANT THESE STICKS WILLIE… BAD DOG!” He lowered his head… stared at the ground… I felt kinda bad and softly said, “You can’t help it can ya.” He looked up… our eyes meet and I swear the look on his face was sayin’ something like, “No I can’t help it OK… that’s why they call me a Golden f-in’ Retriever.”

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