Su Lum: Slumming

Su Lum
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Last Wednesday afternoon my friend Hilary took my dachshunds, Nicky and Freddie, and her dachshund/Chihuahua Huckleberry for a walk in the woods. They were ambling along a secluded path by the river when a couple of bear-sized adolescent dogs romped down the path towards them.

Freddie screamed and tried to climb Hilary’s leg, Nicky cowered and Huckleberry, who usually yips and screeches at strange dogs – the bigger the better – turned tail and flew back down the path towards Hilary’s car.

Hilary called me from the trail, thinking I could get to her car before she could and that Huckleberry was probably there waiting, but it was that blinding sun time of day so I had to drive slowly and my car was making a noise that sounded suspiciously like a flat tire, so Hilary was already at her car by the time I got there. She was with Nicky and Freddie, but Huckleberry was nowhere to be found.

“You have a flat tire,” Hilary said (flatly). Hilary called our friend Jack to come get me, left my dogs with me and my flat tire and went back to the trail to look for Huckleberry.

To shorten a long story, Triple-A came to deal with the tire, Hilary walked the trail until dark, then waited at her car until 10 p.m., calling for Huckleberry in vain, spent the rest of the night at my house and got up at dawn to search for him again.

All day Thursday, nothing. No calls to animal control or our phone numbers, both on Huckleberry’s tags. He had just vanished.

Of course we thought the worst. He had been eaten by a coyote, had fallen into the river and drowned, been hit by a car, had frozen to death.

Huckleberry was a rescue dog from a foster home outside of Denver, and Scott at Aspen Animal Hospital couldn’t say how old he was. He had his secret past life and one of his secrets may have involved a dog who looked like the one who dashed at him on the trail.

Years ago someone left my gate open and my dachshund Rufus disappeared like that. For 48 hours I tramped the neighborhood calling him, notified all the authorities, called the management companies of the condominiums which surround my house.

I had given up hope when, after two days, I got a call from Chateau Roaring Fork across the street, saying he was sitting at the top of the stairs of their conference center. It was just steps away – I had been there calling him but he hadn’t uttered a peep. I knew Rufus had a phobia about stairs, but never dreamed that he’d run up a flight (probably chasing something) and then get so paralyzed with fright that he couldn’t move, cry out or come down when he was clearly within earshot.

Hilary went out again on Friday, this time taking Nicky and Freddie with her. They had just started down the trail when suddenly there were three pups. Huckleberry, hearing Nicky’s tinkling bell, had stepped out of nowhere and joined them.

We were astounded and overjoyed; Huckleberry was exhausted and ravenous. We fed him warm baby cereal with baby food chicken (ailing dogs love that), a little at a time. He had a scrape on his tummy and seemed dazed and confused but was otherwise intact.

The next day Hilary found his nesting place, against an air vent at Harris Hall, where he had made a little nest and left a little spoor but didn’t have the wherewithal to respond to Hilary’s calls, could only be roused by Nicky’s bell.

Huckleberry is gradually coming back to his old feisty, yipping, dancing self. He still sleeps a lot, dreaming his secret dreams. Had he been to London to see the queen? Had he howled at the moon, or jumped over it, in the night, while Hilary was calling him between tears?


Asher on Aspen: Find your church

On a recent September Saturday morning, I awoke with an intense yearning to lose myself in the mountains, disconnect from cell service, and rediscover why I decided to call Aspen home in the first place. Standing there, at the Cathedral Lake trailhead, I knew I was right where I needed to be.

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