In Just Sayin'

Rusty is a golden Cocker Spaniel. He is a typical Cocker. He has no conscience, a selective loss of training and memory and, until he went stone deaf from ear infections, highly selective hearing.

But none of his physical or mental ailments — absolutely none of them — have affected his ability to find the wild asparagus growing in the long weeds on the fringes of our yard.

I believe the damned dog can smirk, too. I’ve seen that self-satisfied “Ha ha, I beat you to them” look on his white mug as he returns from an asparagus search.

Of course, there’s no law which says the asparagus is mine instead of the dog’s, and it’s obvious that the thought of asparagus acts as an elixir for him. Most of the time he works his age the way you’d expect — he’s an old dog. Ninety-nine percent of the time he just barely has enough strength to get off the sidewalk and onto the lawn to pee, after which he heads right back into the garage to his dish.

But, every couple of weeks, the Asparagus God apparently whispers “You’re a pup again; go for it” in his ear. Up comes his head. Spring returns to his step and wanderlust to his heart. He’s across 30 yards of mown lawn and out of sight in the long grass before you get the screen door closed. I don’t know how he does it, because he’s too old to run.

Forget about looking for him. Maybe he shrinks when he reaches the long grass. Whatever … he isn’t seen again until … here he comes … paddling across the lawn, tip of his pink tongue hanging from his mouth, his face wearing a look of bliss.

He smirks as he trots past me into the garage.

What I’m gonna do one of these days is fix him up like ancient Japanese fishermen fixed up cormorants they used to catch fish. I’m gonna get a hinged wooden loop, just big enough to fit comfortably over his neck but tight enough to keep him from swallowing any asparagus. Then I’ll fasten a long string to that collar and turn him loose, like a fishing cormorant.

He’ll probably play dumb, wandering all over, pretending he doesn’t know what asparagus is and wouldn’t know even if he tripped over it.

But I’ll fix him. I’ll check the spots he avoids, and as soon as I spot an asparagus stalk I’ll tie his rope and make him watch me pick it.

Then it will be my turn to smirk.

This is one of several entertaining stories featured in The Wild Pantry, a wild game cookbook consisting of more than 200 recipes, dozens of handling and cooking tips, and lighthearted stories about great and not-so-great meals and food-related anecdotes.
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