How the Hamptons Saved My Life

Written By: Arlene  Russell

Hi! My name is Asta and I am a 12-year old wire-haired fox terrier. Do you have an owner? I have had a few and lived in several homes and shelters before I settled in my current abode. My current Masters found me online the day they realized that DOG was GOD spelled backwards and felt it was “a sign”. They contacted the rescue home where I was staying and had to answer 3 pages of questions, 3 essays and pass an interview to compete with 47 other humans who were also interested in sparing the neck of this used fox terrier. The couple with whom I landed had been brave enough to come to meet me immediately even though some of the questions made me appear a bit undesirable, like “Do you mind a dog that pulls?” or “Do you mind a dog that barks a lot?” or my least favorite, “Do you mind a dog that isn’t a good citizen?”. Yikes! I don’t know how they ever wanted me, but I discovered later that I reminded them of their favorite dog from movies like, “The Thin Man” and Agatha Christie’s “Dumb Witness”.

On the day they came to visit me in my rescue home in Flatbush, I was playing with a squeaky toy and allowed them to throw it so I could show them how well I could bring it back to them. They were impressed with how smart, friendly and cute I was. I knew these two wanted to bring me home and I knew I wanted them to as well, so I had to stay on my best behavior. I had a sense they would take good care of me, and boy, was I right. But that’s a reeeally long story. This one is how the Hamptons saved my life. In fact, you were probably wondering how my being rescued involved the Hamptons. Well, it didn’t. But the following life-saving story did.

Last week, my Ma hurt her back badly by picking me up too quickly. She pulled a muscle or slipped a disc or something, but whatever it was, she could not walk, sit, stand, lie down or bend over. More importantly, she couldn’t take me out and couldn’t put food in my dish and couldn’t even lean over to pet me. Pa was doing everything. Well, one day, Pa had to go do lawyering stuff in Southampton, so Ma was home alone. I noticed she wasn’t her usual playful self, brushing me, teaching me tricks and taking me outside for our daily picnic. Instead she took a lot of showers and barked, “Ouch” every time she laid down or got up. But still she was able to manage ok until I heard a big thud followed by a little “Uh-oh”.

I looked up from my chair and noticed her just standing there like a statue staring down at the floor in amazement. There didn’t seem to be anything of interest there, at least anything interesting to me. It was just a flat piece of plastic, all black and shiny. It didn’t even squeak although it did make funny beeps and dings every once in a while. But she usually has it with her and sometimes she pays more attention to it than to me. It must be smart like me, now that I think about it; because she speaks to it many times a day, and sometimes it even speaks back to her in the same language. And it must be very good like me because she “pets” it a special way….a lot. I wonder if whatever it is may be lying there because she gave it a command to play dead like she often does to me ’cause it just stayed in one place there on the carpet without moving.

I shouldn’t laugh, but one morning last week before her injury, I saw my MA running after Pa giving him a command, too, like she so often does. He had left the house for work and she was pointing to this same thing yelling something like, “Sell bone!” This had me very concerned all day until he came home and I heard him thanking her for reminding him about this smart bone…or foam…or…PHONE!!! Yes, that’s it!

Well, back to the story. So now it was time for Ma to attempt to pick up this thing. First, she tried bending over and stretching her arm toward the phone as far as it would go but I could see she was miles from it. Then she tried to kneel down by leaning on a chair, but half-way down, she had to stand right up again. Next she slid down little by little with one leg really far behind her, but I think she got stuck cause she stayed in this position for a really, really long time before she figured out how to get herself out of it and stand back up again in relief. Lots of human barking went on during this attempt. Well, after another hot shower, I saw her begin to track the entire house for something which I was hoping was a surprise for me. When she finally came back to the spot where the phone lay on the carpet, she was carrying a long wooden stick with a paw on the end.

I remember when this object first came into the house because I kept expecting the paw to move and swat me. Grandma, God rest her soul, was living with us at the time and had brought it home from one of our trips to the East End. Whenever Ma and Pa took me for a ride in the car, they were nice enough to let her go along, especially when they brought me to such beautiful places as Montauk for a concert on the green, Sag Harbor for a Veteran’s Day parade, Shelter Island for a ferry ride, Southampton for a picnic in Agawam Park, Westhampton Beach for an arts and craft fair, Southold to a winery, Jamesport to a corn maze, Riverhead to a Farmers Market, Hampton Bays to the beach, East Hampton to a doggy dinner at the Maidstone, and tag sales just about EVERYWHERE. Grandma called this “sale-ing”. She loved that it was our inside joke when she’d say “Oh, shall we go ‘sailing’ today?” We always had such fun times out east and we especially have such wonderful memories being there with Grandma. Driving out east would lift her spirits. Come to think of it, I wonder where Grandma went ’cause I really liked her, even if she did almost kill me by feeding me grapes once. But that is still yet another rescue story. Anyway, she always rubbed noses with me and scratched bug bites on my tail. In fact, she always used this long stick with the paw on the end to scratch her back and mine.

So now when my Ma came up with this new tactic, she was very pleased with herself. She found she was able to bend over just far enough to touch the paw to the phone in an attempt to lift it up, which she did over and over and over, dropping it again and again and again. After what seemed like ages with no success, she left the room for quite some time. I figured she either gave up or went to take another hot shower until she finally returned with a second one of these paw sticks that she had hunted down. I now got to observe her using the two together in a scooping method that I had seen owners use to pick after their dogs did their “business”. (Sorry.) Well, this happened to work really well the very first time. Ma was so very happy.

All was calm, at least for a while. She started talking to the plastic thing and I heard it speaking back to her. It sure sounded a lot like Pa. He was telling her to take something to help her back, to try some kind of remedy she had in a cabinet where she keeps drops that calm me down during thunderstorms. It must have been some kind of human treat cause she was all excited now as I observed her take out a small blue plastic tube and carefully turn the top until 3 tiny pellets fell into the cap. Here’s where the trouble REALLY started. Unfortunately, as she was trying to remove the cap, it came off with a sudden jerk and the 3 pellets went flying into the air and down onto the rug. Now I could immediately tell this was a fine predicament even though she let out a weird kind of laugh. Then she just stood there shaking her head smiling with disbelief as if someone else was in the room watching her….besides me, that is. Not only did she need the pellets to take but she needed to pick them up before her canine vacuum cleaner got them. Me. She quickly got the 2 long flat sticks and, using them together like before, was actually able to get all three of the pellets into one of the little paws at the end rather easily since they had all landed in one spot. She lifted them slowly and carefully and, just as she was about to dump them onto the buffet, she bumped her elbow and the pellets went flying across the room. This time they scattered themselves all over the living room and this time she barked really, really loud and wasn’t smiling.

She panicked and shooed me away but that just caused my curiosity to peak. Just as I started to sniff around, my Ma hobbled excitedly into the kitchen calling my name and the command, “Touch”, which I usually obey instead of “Come” on those occasions when I run away trying to play “Tag”. Since I chose not to obey this time, she used some of my irresistible favorite words together, “Surprise!” and “Come and get it!”, to which I raced into the kitchen. She grabbed one of my carrot-flavored bones, dipped it in some peanut butter and gave it to me after we played one of our games where she says, “Bang”, I lay down and then cover my eyes till the count of 3. Ok. She knew this would buy her a little time and she knew where to begin her search for the 3 pellets based on my sniffing.

She located the first, the second and the third, but this time, she would have to pick each one up separately. (I know what happened ’cause I overheard her telling Pa later.) Every time she succeeded in lifting one, I figured I must have done something to help because she would say, “Good”, and come to give me another treat. So I happily continued to stay away chewing as she managed to lift each one gently all the way up onto the buffet. I sensed a very good thing had happened because I heard her suddenly exclaim, “Yes! Yes!” followed by “Ouch! Ouch!” at which time I couldn’t help running back into the living room to find that she couldn’t help dancing about in her injured sort of way. She was acting like she learned a new trick; at least that’s how she acts when I learn one that she has taught me. I could tell she was proud. And I was alive and safe from harm thanks to the backscratcher from the East End. So all was well with this rescue…and this Rescue. And that’s how the Hamptons saved my life. I guess it was more of an act of prevention, but then, the title, “How the Hamptons Prevented My Death” probably wouldn’t have gotten your attention.