Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Dog Days of Summer

Today I should have stayed in bed.

It started out that way; I slept through my alarm and woke up twenty minutes after seven. I had been dreaming about working overtime at night, reading utility meters in the dark. Had to call my boss and explain that I'd be in as soon as I was able, but I was still half asleep. So far, no disciplinary action... but that doesn't mean it's not coming.

So I took to the streets, with my trusty tools of the trade: my "Utilicorder," aka "handheld," a "calculator on steroids" of sorts, it contains customer information, addresses, utility meter locations, dog warnings, and also retains the meter readings that I, as a meter reader, input into it. Other tools include a monocular, for "over the fence" reads at-a-distance; a flashlight for assistance in dealing with darkness (when I'm unable to reflect the sun off of the screen of my handheld to illuminate the meter); a sunhat (required during summer); a spray bottle filled with water (mostly used for cleaning the face of water meters, but sometimes used to keep annoying, yapping little dogs at bay); lots of keys (to access backyards and meter boxes); and a metal "stick," which has several uses. It is mostly used in procuring water meter readings (opening cover lids, clearing spider webs/dirt from meter, etc.) but can also extend one's reach over gates and fences to unlatch and open gates and meter box doors when needed. It can also be used in defending oneself when under attack of an aggressive beast.

Not that that ever happens.

Very often, anyway.

So today, I should have stayed in bed. Because I nearly lost a body part to the gnashing teeth of a wild beast.

I was in a yard I am very familiar with-- the door on this particular customer's electric meter box has been broken for several years; there used to be several chickens in the yard; and the next customer's electric meter box is close enough to the fence between the yards that last month, when I was unable to open the gate because of a combination lock, I was able to reach over with my water meter stick, poke it through the gap between the side of the box and its door, pop the door open and get the reading. Remembering this, and not noticing any differences in my notes from my handheld, I decided to try and attempt this maneuver again.

I began to reach over the fence, and instantly heard aggressive, ravenous barking. I stepped back from the fence in time to see a pit bull jumping and climbing the fence. It had both of its front arms on top of the fence, and looked to be pulling itself up to climb over the fence, presumably to eat me. So I plunked it on top of its head with my trusty metal stick, and it fell back off of the fence.

It was at this point that I decided that I would not be getting a read for this particular house this month.

Unfortunately for me, I was not done with my encounter with "Cujo."

After leaving the neighbor's yard, I stopped to make sure that I latched the gate behind me. Upon doing so, I heard something fall to the ground. Looking down, I saw a combination lock now sitting below the gate next door, and that gate, the only thing between me and a violent, unpleasant, disagreement with this present version of the rabid Old Yeller, drifted slowly ajar.

I leaped for the gate and grabbed at splinters on its front surface, knowing that gripping it over the top would surely separate myself from a number of my fingers. There was no handle to assist me; and even though I was able to grip the side of one of the boards with my fingertips, and pulled the gate closed, it would not latch. I tried using the hook at the end of my stick to pull at the top of the gate harder. Still no latch. And still plenty of attention and barking and gnashing on the other side.

I poked my stick through the gap in the gate, trying to encourage Wolfen to move back so I could latch the gate. Try as I might, I couldn't get the right angle with my stick to assist the stubborn latch to do its job correctly.

So I flipped the stick around in my hand, hoping that the heavier, "diamond" shaped handle would allow me the edge I needed to cage this ravaging lion. I eased the stick over the top of the gate, now holding the single rod just above its hook. And just when I was about to swing it towards the latch...

Jaws clamped down on the handle of my stick and ripped it from my hand. The hook scraped my thumb as it slid out of my hand and crashed to the walk on the other side of the gate.

I exclaimed a number of choice words, filled with anger, frustration, and tinted with fear. Perhaps it was this utterance, combined with the sound of the metal stick striking the cement, that cast a spell on the wolverine that sent him retreating into the back yard; I don't know. I opened the gate and stared down the walk at "it," looking for clues. Was it all a bluff? Had I gained the upper hand? Should I attempt to get a reading?

I bent at the knees, still retaining eye contact with "Precious," and felt around for my stick. Once in hand, I again stood, and calibrated scenarios.

"Not worth it", I thought, as I closed the gate and latched it by hand, still staring down the dog.

Gate secured, I turned and walked back to the sidewalk at the street, and read the water meter, choosing to forgo this battle to live another day.

Should've stayed in bed.


Katy Aalto said...

In a little way, this entry reminds me of my paper route days touring around the streets of Escalon at 6 in the morning. Most people were sleeping at that hour, and I was never chased by a dog but I do remember running into a couple who were having a domestic dispute in the early morning hours ... my worst problem was smacking a metal door too hard with the paper or hurling it too high so that I had to run back home to fetch a plastic pipe to scratch it off the roof.

Deb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Deb said...

I can only imagine your fright. I often feel like I should stay in bed in the mornings, but not because I will be chased by savage dogs. (Only savage students...) Better luck next month, Buddy.

David said...

Ahh,my son the dog whisperer. You will need to be on guard when you go to Florida. They have big alligators that don't bark but they do bite.