Su Lum: Slumming
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Late last spring my dachshunds Freddie and Nicky were outside in a full-throated uproar of wild barking and their blood-chilling trademark screams. I went outside to see what cooked, to find a young girl with long, blonde hair standing on the other side of the fence, waving a piece of paper towards me.
I went as far as my oxygen tether would reach and she handed me a crayoned flyer advertising herself as Caroline, Aspen’s Little Dog Walker, complete with rates, phone number and e-mail.
“Would you like for me to walk your dogs?” Caroline asked, to which I dubiously replied, “Well, you can TRY.” Freddie is friendly but won’t leave my side except in the company of old friends who have been walking the pups since they were born. Nicky is so spooky that after four years of wooing he still flees from his neighboring employees at Carl’s Pharmacy when he meets them in the alley.
Unfazed, Caroline, who is 9, marched through the uproar and raised hackles and we got them collared and leashed, but as soon as she got to the gate, Freddie slipped his collar and ran back inside, while Nicky sat down and quadrupled his weight, refusing to budge.
Over the course of the summer I think she managed to get the two of them two blocks from home before the insurrections took place, but Caroline doggedly persevered, learned to say, “HUT!” at them when they barked and – a minor miracle – got Nicky to let her pet him.
On Saturday evening of 9/11, the dogs were going crazy and I went out in the twilight to find Caroline looking into the sky. She told me her bird had escaped and she was searching for him.
Between my eyesight and inability to walk very far, I couldn’t be of any assistance, but I told her I’d lock the dogs up lest they come upon an unexpected meal. I had never seen the bird, didn’t know the bird existed. I told my friend Hilary Burgess, the puppies’ major walker, about Caroline’s plight.
The weekend passed, and on Monday I received an e-mail from Hilary, who is office manager of the Pitkin County landfill, forwarding a message from Aspen Police Officer Forrest Barnett, which had been sent to all city and county employees and the Snowmass Village Police Department.
The message read, “I picked up an escaped bird on Sat. evening at 600 S. West End in Aspen. The bird is green, red, blue and yellow and has a band around one of its legs. It’s some kind of tropical bird, larger than a parakeet, smaller than a magpie and very comfortable with people. No idea where it might have come from.
I took it to ACES and they agreed to house it for the time being.”
Between the date of the bird’s recovery and the location where it had been found, I knew it must be Caroline’s bird. Unable to rouse anyone by phone, I took a copy of the e-mail and duct-taped it to the entrance to Caroline’s condo.
To make a short story of it, the found bird was indeed Caroline’s and they were cheerfully united. Seth Sachson, guru of the animal shelter, had taken the bird – whose name is Jack – under his wing. Seth showed Caroline his blue-cheeked conure, which he has owned for 18 years and adores. Conures are small parrots and Jack was a green-cheeked version, hard to tell the difference.
Jack’s cage was too big to fit in the car, but Seth loaned Caroline a portable carrier, told her to get Jack’s wings clipped and reminded her, “If you ever don’t want to keep this bird, I WANT him.” Jack has been in the family for six years and seemed delighted to be reunited with his Little Aspen Dog Walker.
And everyone was relieved and thankful that this story had a happy ending with a feel-good “it takes a village like Aspen” moral to it.
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