Paul Andersen: Fair Game |

Paul Andersen: Fair Game


People ask regularly about our old hound dog, far more than they ask about us. That’s because our dog has been kind of a celebrity since July, when she felt the hot breath of a hungry mountain lion and lived to tell about it.

Heidi, our 12-year-old beagle/foxhound, doesn’t actually talk about the mountain lion attack, but her face speaks volumes. The right side, from ear to jowl, is marked with a long Harry Potter scar, and her right eye has a sort of Mad Eye Mooney craziness about it.

The skull puncture from the lion’s canine evidently had a lasting effect on Heidi’s behavior. Ever since the attack, her savor for deer poop has manifested itself with lip-smacking gusto, which we find rather off-putting.

When we get the old hound out for a walk in the Seven Castles, her nose takes her unerringly to the biggest pile of fresh deer pellets, which she chews down like Raisinettes. This strange diet appears to do her no harm, but she can clear a room with one noxious emission. The hound might be old, but man, she is potent!

Heidi has always had a robust appetite for pretty much anything, and her indiscriminate palate has fashioned her a round and solid body shape. One of our friends nicknamed her “The Bratwurst.”

Admittedly, Heidi is a layabout, but the Bratwurst label is demeaning for a dog that has survived the clutches of a ravenous lion. That heroic episode will be the topic of this year’s Andersen Christmas letter, though I haven’t yet figured out how it equates with lambs lying peaceably with lions. It’s just a good tale that our Midwestern relatives will find in character with our frontier lives out here in the Wild West.

The mountain lion attack was not the only trauma to visit the old hound this summer. For several years, she had developed a benign fatty tumor on her chest that swelled to outlandish proportions until the thing jutted out like one of Dolly Parton’s boobs. We named it “The Una-boob” for the way it swung and bounced as Heidi trotted along the trail.

The Una-boob bore marks of the lion’s claws after the attack, and we wondered what the big cat would have made of that fatty appendage had the attack been successful. Bratwurst with a plump dumpling would have made the cat’s menu incomparable.

Because Heidi recovered so quickly from the lion attack, we opted a few months later to have The Una-boob removed as an elective cosmetic surgical breast reduction. Scott, at Aspen Animal Hospital, obliged and scooped out the tumor. Because of its amazing size, he weighed it, and the thing came in at 3 pounds.

“Three pounds of fat!?” I remarked when picking up Heidi after the procedure. “Yup,” said the nurse, “like a big sack of lard.” Naturally I asked what the thing looked like. “You can see it if you want; it’s still in the trash.” I declined, seeing as how it was almost dinnertime and we had a 3-pound roast in the oven.

A week after the breast reduction, the old hound was pretty much healed up. This gave a new lightness to her step and a much-improved appearance. The cat scar served as a jowl tuck that took years off her aging muzzle, and with The Una-boob gone, she lost her matronly shape.

Today, when she jogs along the trail, Heidi has the bearing of a much younger dog. She displays her cosmetic improvements with a friskiness that attracts the younger curs in the neighborhood.

Now that she’s in her golden years, Heidi spends winter months roasting by the wood-burning stove. She stretches out on an old blanket and snores like a bear. Or she yips and barks in her sleep, probably a post-traumatic stress disorder from the clashing jaws of that lion.

Sometimes, when I’m working in my home office, I swear I can smell bratwurst cooking. But it’s just the old hound, basking by the crackling fire, giving off the familiar old dog redolence that has become a cherished part of our lives.

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