Calvin is no Groundhog (Thank goodness!)

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Unless you’re a fan of winter, you’ll be happy to know Calvin is our dog and is not a groundhog. He’s a good dog. He’s a funny dog. But he’s not a watchdog and, thankfully, he’s not a groundhog or we’d have six extra weeks of winter every year.

Below is a nowhere-near-exhaustive list of things that scare my dog, Calvin:


  • His shadow
  • My shadow
  • Our cat
  • Any insect that flies
  • Most insects that don’t fly
  • People in uniform
  • People out of uniform
  • Snow men
  • Inflatable Christmas decorations
  • Our cat’s shadow

So, lots of shadows scare the pup. He seems okay with tree shadows as long as the wind isn’t blowing and the shadows don’t move.

My solution is to walk him between midnight and one a.m. No shadows show up. So is he Mr. Happy-Go-Doggy whistling down the street? No, he is not. He creates things to scare him. Like the unknown. Only a goldfish would make a worse watchdog.

[“Calvin turns and barks at the man after he’s ten feet past us. He is one tough dog.”]

Some nights during our walk, he’ll sit on the sidewalk and refuse to move forward convinced, I’m convinced, there’s a shadow lurking down the road. As if something wicked this way comes when, in fact, nothing is coming.

So the other night, this happened.

It’s around 12:45 a.m. and we’re two or three blocks from our front door. It’s unseasonably nice for January, so I’m out in my black referee jacket and jeans. What I’m saying is, it’s dark out and I’m dark. I’m working through some details of a new story in my head, not paying much attention.

The leash goes taut. Not because Calvin is champing at the bit to pull me forward. Like Max in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Calvin is behind me, and trying to keep us from barreling down Mount Crumpet Avenue. (Okay, Taylor Avenue, I’m just being Seussian to keep you from getting too scared.)

I give the leash a mild tug. He prances two steps, sits on his haunches again. Refuses to budge. “C’mon, dude, dog up,” I say. The street is dark where he sits, but I’m nearer an approaching street light. Ahead, a stop sign and a large oak flank the sidewalk. My back to the corner. I urge Calvin to continue. A gentle tug on the leash. A heavy sigh. A plea. He sits. Stares.

Then I see it. The shadow. Stretching out beyond me on the sidewalk. I spin. The guy is five feet in front of me. Approaching fast. Hands in his pockets.

“Evening,” he says. A nod. He’s by me in a blink.

“Nice night,” I say to his back, my voice cracking. My telltale heart pounding.

He passes by Calvin who now decides he’ll hurry and join me. Then, Calvin turns and barks at the man after he’s ten feet past us. He is one tough dog. I shush him, watch the man’s shadow fade in the darkness and don’t care if six more weeks of winter are on the way. I pledge to walk Calvin immediately after dinner the next night.

3 thoughts on “Calvin is no Groundhog (Thank goodness!)

  1. John Davis Frain! Do I sound like your mother? (my maiden name is Davis – just an off the cuff sidenote)

    Do I also need to scare you about my own mugging? That’s all it takes. Think about it. What if? What if that person who was only FIVE feet from you…had… a gun? Knife? Life as you know it could have been drastically changed – or not at all.

    I’m one to preach though. Even after my mugging, I find myself still taking risks. Your incident only serves to remind me to pay attention and NOT take risks.

    I have a…what shall I call him? A quirky little fellow too. Scared of the most ridonkulous things. I’ve been carrying him up and down our stairs for over three years. Same thing every time. (hard wood stairs, and too slick for less than 4 lb little guy) He twitches and squeals each and every time. He’s afraid of his water sometimes. His food – I have to feed him one kibble at a time or he gets confused by the sheer volume of TWO kibble. And on and on.

    Be careful…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I saw a reference you made to your mugging about a week ago, give or take. I’ve thought about it a number of times since. I don’t know you well enough yet to ask about it. And if you were to explain it now, you could only do so in cursory terms before it got awkward, so it makes no sense to do so.

    Gender makes walking at midnight a completely different experience. There’s no logical reason for someone to mug me at midnight when I’m walking my dog. (Granted, some people abandon logic when pulling a crime.) It’s not worth the risk. But it’s a different story for a woman. That’s not fair, of course, it’s just a reality.

    So while I’m not invincible, we have a different reality we live in. My wife would never take the dog out then. And I don’t blame her a bit. While you have to be careful, you can live your life in fear or you miss out on too much.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Funny… b/c I never even thought of the gender differences. I think I didn’t because we read/watch about crazy sh*t that happens all the time to both – or maybe I’m just watching to much Investigative ID. (likely)

    Afterwards, I was almost too afraid to go running again. It took me about three months…and then it got better. And better. And better. I was determined not to let that fool control my life and what I loved doing.

    So…, there’s that.


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