One of my first of so many memorable incidents with Preston happened right after I walked out on a job. I thought that I had a case for unemployment insurance claim. The day I was expecting the call for an initial review from an Oregon unemployment office (no, no! Paul says, call it the EMPLOYment office!) I took Preston to the closest park, which was Martin Luther King. We walked around. My mind, of course, very quickly turned to the interview I was about to have. Of course, my darling Preston knew exactly the moment that my complete attention was not on him.

 

Suddenly, he was gone.

 

I called and called. I ran everywhere. There was no sign of him. I finally was drawing near to the time when the call was going to be made. I sighed in frustration, got in my car and drove home to get my phone.

 

I came back immediately, probably took fifteen minutes at the most, there was still no Preston. I stood outside of the car, scanning the horizon (about 1/4 mile in this case), around the swing sets, around the barn where they held picnics in the summer. Nothing.

 

Then the phone rang. I answered it. A very formal-sounding voice came on the other end and explained who she was and what we were about to do (as if I didn’t know).

 

Then a woman from human resources of my ex-employer came on and the questioning began. What did you do? Why did you do it? I quit. It was a hostile environment and I couldn’t even make myself get on my bicycle and ride to work. (Perhaps that’s why it’s easier to hold on to a job you hate when you drive there. It actually takes a lot less effort.)

 

At some point, I saw Preston appear near the swings.

 

“Preston!!!” I called.

 

“Miss?” queried the formal-sounding woman at the other end of the line.

 

“I’m sorry,” I said, “but my dog had run off and I just see him now.”

 

Preston started running my way and the questions at the other end of my cellphone began again. Suddenly, Preston started veering off to the left. I called him again.

 

“Miss?”

 

“I’m sorry. I’m just trying to get his attention again.”

 

The questions started again. Preston came toward me and as he got closer and closer he looked stranger and stranger. In my head I was panicking. What the hell had happened to his mouth? It was all stretched out and looked like it had been ripped. I watched in horror as he came nearer.

 

Suddenly, I realized what it was. In his mouth he had the entire petrified, jerkified carcass of a rabbit. The rabbit’s hind feet were hanging out of each side of his mouth.

 

“Oh…” I groaned a bit quietly as I began to wrestle the carcass out of his mouth.

 

“Miss?” there was a questioning voice at the other end of the line again.

 

“I am really sorry,” I said. “My dog just came back with something in his mouth.”

 

“Miss, how long is this going to take?” the voice came back impatiently.

 

I let go of Preston and decided to let him have the rabbit jerky.

 

“No time at all,” I said. “It’s over.” But it was too late. I got nothing from that call.

 

Flash forward about five years. I was living with Paul by now and we were already in our morning ritual of running at Mac Forest, where we had met. We got just an inch beyond the bridge over the creek when Preston started swallowing something. I didn’t care by this point (and I was a full vegetarian at this point). Paul was horrified.

 

“Drop it!!” Paul demanded.

 

Preston kept chewing.

 

“DROP it!!!!” Paul demanded more firmly.

 

Preston turned with his back toward Paul and kept chewing. Both Paul and I could see that what Preston had in his mouth was the corpse of a squirrel and the tail was sticking out.

 

This, of course, incensed Paul. He ran up to Preston, attempting to threaten him but Preston could not be threatened. Finally, Paul grabbed what he could of the dead squirrel’s tail and tried to pull it out of Preston’s throat. Every time Paul pulled, Preston swallowed and peristaltically the squirrel carcass headed down into his stomach. Paul was made more furious and he pulled harder. So did Preston. Finally, with a valiant effort, Paul dislodged the carcass from Preston’s throat.

 

What he pulled out looked exactly like one of those un-stuffed toys (I believe they are called ‘Skinneeez’) that you can buy at pet stores.

Preston turned to go back to the carcass but Paul booted him forward on the path. Preston finally trotted in the desired direction and almost instantly seemed to forget the squirrel carcass.

 

I took Preston to Willamette Park once upon a time in February, probably 2013. As it sounds, Willamette Park is on the Willamette River. In February, the water is very high. There have been times when the whole parking lot was completely under water. This wasn’t one of those times, however.

 

So, I was walking along the path that parallels the river when I saw a man with a German Shepherd puppy. Of course, I had to stop and pet the puppy and say “what a cute puppy!” I talked to the man briefly before we went our separate ways.

 

Something caught my eye and I looked out toward the river.

 

"Oh, somebody’s stupid black lab has decided to swim the river." I thought. 

 

The dog kept going out further and I heard the raucous call of a heron and realized that was what the dog was going after. I looked around for Preston. He wasn’t there. It suddenly dawned on me that it wasn’t a black lab in the river, it was Preston!

 

He got himself at the edge of the main current and it swept him downriver. I called his name and ran. I was frantic but the pragmatic part of my brain talked me. Okay, I thought. He will end up somewhere. He has lots of tags. He is microchipped. He will be found.

 

I ran about a quarter mile to where there was a boat landing. I stood there with another woman. I saw Preston just floating along. I called to him. Somehow, he managed to swim into the eddy around the dock and swam to shore.

 

“You’re smart,” the woman said to me. ”A lot of people try to swim out and rescue the dog and end up drowning themselves.”

 

Preston got out of the water. Shook himself and grinned.