She and her brother, Ben, are famous for various exploits recounted in my blog (*See “Is It Me?” blog post of 10/31/12 and “Benny and Joon Celebrate Thanksgiving,” blog post of 11/23/12 at http://www.aparisstateofmind.com/blog.html).
In this blurry photograph, you will notice the – pardon the expression – “hang dog” countenance, complete with sad eyes and drooping hair. Joon assumes this demeanor to convey the notion that she is the tragic victim of rumor and misrepresentation and that her behavior is beyond reproach, no matter how badly maligned she may be.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I am here to testify that this sweet, benign face dissembles a mind so cunning as to rival a Svengali or Rasputin! Those seemingly innocent eyes are the windows to the soul of one of the most nefarious of criminal masterminds – a real-life Moriarity, a veritable Machiavelli of misdeeds!
I set before you as Exhibit A the story of Joon and the Chickens…
Once upon a time – last May, to be precise – Joon, her brother Ben, and I set out on a day’s journey, which had as its goal the procuring of edible provisions. Our destination was a nearby farm store, located in somnolent, bucolic northwestern Connecticut, amid undulating hills and lazy pastures, decorated here and there by the occasional munching goat, chomping cow, or prancing sheep.
It was a perfect day – one of penetrating spring warmth and azure skies, dotted at intervals with popcorn-cluster clouds. The gentlest of breezes caressed the field grasses and stirred the tender, green leaves, newly sprouting along tree limbs that canopied the gently meandering country roads. Butterflies and bees surfed the warm air currents, rising and falling on effortless waves as they sipped the sweet nectar of wildflowers, newly awakened to bask in the sun’s golden radiance.
Joon and Ben have been members of the family for some time, which is to say that on the day in question, we were not strangers to each other. They knew that I could be relied upon for regular meals and walks, belly rubs and the daily bone. I knew that Ben could always be counted on to look cute, and to pee inside on a rainy day. And I knew that Joon could – well, suffice it to say that I knew Joon to be a free and reckless spirit.
When we first got the dogs, my boyfriend painstakingly enclosed our back yard by means of deer-fencing. Every day, Joon would scale the fencing, tear a hole through the fencing, dig a tunnel under the fencing or do whatever was necessary to access the free world. And every day, my boyfriend would repair the fencing without complaint. The man is either two cards short of a full deck or he’s a fucking saint. No wait… that was before he quit drinking. Never mind.
At some point during the course of each day, Joon would create an avenue of escape. In the telepathic way of animals, she would communicate to her brother that the hour of freedom had arrived. If Benny hesitated, she would remind him of the glories – and the cost of Freedom. Together, they would hie to parts unknown to live daring adventures. After the escape, my daughter, son, boyfriend and I would station ourselves at various positions around the property and in the street, calling desperately for the pair to return.
“Come, Ben, come!”
“Benny and JOOOONN!!!”
Although Ben would follow his sister and do her bidding, it caused an inevitable conflict in his delicate, Yorkshire psyche. He’s a family-man at heart and suffers deep remorse at inflicting worry and pain on his beloved humans.
Joon, on the other hand doesn’t give a shit.
Invariably, ten minutes after their escape, the dogs would return. You could set your watch, and I mean it – you could Set. Your. Watch. After ten minutes, Ben would often allow himself to be caught. Freedom may be glorious, but captivity comes with Treats.
After ten minutes, Joon would swoop onto the lawn at lightening speed. Careening in a daring arc, she would all but caress our shins as she ricocheted once again out into the free world. It would be 45 minutes before we saw her again. Then, hunger, thirst or fatigue would descend and she would allow herself to be captured.
These, then, were the dogs that I took for a car ride to the local farm store. Was it the warm and lazy quality of the afternoon that caused me to lower my guard? Perhaps and perhaps not, but certainly it was that very quality which caused me to lower my car windows. The happy dogs stood side by side on their hind legs on the front passenger seat, heads out the window, noses snorting in the wind – their tiny faces pulled back like Joan Rivers’ after that final facelift, ears streaming behind them like majestic, superhero capes.
I slowed the car as the farm store came into view and pulled into the dirt driveway, parking as always in the shade of that beautiful oak. No sooner was the car in park than Joon, without so much as “Adieu!” flew out the front passenger window.
“Damn these short legs!” I heard Benny mutter as I raised the windows to cut my losses.
With startling agility, I leapt from the car, slamming the door to prevent Ben’s escape. Meanwhile, Joon greeted Sassafrass, the farmer’s border collie. “JOON!” I called sharply, to no avail. (For the record, your honor, I submit that I knew calling her name was futile, but it was my way of respecting the farm owners and letting them know that every effort was being made to subdue the miscreant.)
After a jaunty, high-five to the farm dog, Joon took on an inspection of the barn. I followed her inside and for a blissful moment thought I had her cornered, but she beat a hasty retreat through a hole in some rotting boards. She proceeded to inspect with care the nearby pasture, nose to the ground in true, terrier fashion.
Ah, the smells! Dog, cow, sheep, hay, and poop, glorious POOP! Why don’t we have smells like this at home? I wonder if we can get some farm stink to take back with us? Do they have to-go containers? And what is that unfamiliar, exotic aroma? What these bits of fluff littering the ground and tickling my very nostrils?
AND WHAT THE *!#*!#*!#*?!?!?!?! Joon stopped dead in her tracks at an unfamiliar sight. What kind of fat birds are those, RUNNING ALONG THE GROUND?!?!
And so, I imagine, were Joon’s thoughts as she came nose to butt with chickens, for the first time in her short life. She paused for a moment of reverence at this dream of dreams. Imagine if you will, birds the size of sofa cushions – fat enough, stupid enough and slow enough to be caught! A choir of angels filled Joon’s mind with ecstatic song.
This, then, was heaven on earth.
The pause was brief, however. In seconds, the mists of jubilation cleared, the angelic voices subsided and Joon was off again, scattering frightened chickens to the four corners, feathers flying, filling the air with their indignant squawks. In rapture, Joon scattered their numbers and began making huge orbits of swooping freedom around the barnyard, around the farm store, out into the street and back.
Fortunately, there were no cars at that particular moment, but it was at this juncture that I experienced an instantaneous spike in blood pressure. It was also at this point that the farmer’s plump wife came out of the store to help me corral my dog.
It was my impression that border-collies were great herders, but Sassafras just sat there, looking confused. She watched Joon eagerly for a while but was soon panting at the sight of so much exertion. Before long, focusing on that black blur caused eyestrain and she had to lie down.
True, Sassafras was no longer young, but at no point in her career had she cared much for chasing chickens, not even her own. Sheep were more Sassy’s speed. There was a certain, quiet dignity in nipping at those tender, wooly heels that no amount of chasing after bulbous, screeching poultry could rival.
As usual, after exactly 10 minutes, Joon checked in with a loop of wild exhilaration, then was off again. What must the odd, passing car have seen? Whirling billows of shrieking feathers, infiltrated at odd moments by a menacing, black cyclone, an exhausted border-collie panting on the sidelines and two, chubby, middle-aged women, jogging in the wake of the black tornado, hair plastered to dripping, red faces as they flapped flabby arms and occasionally lunged to make a grab at empty air, where the black menace had only recently been.
Then suddenly, Joon made a fatal mistake.
She entered the farm store for a quick poop. That’s right – 40 acres of pooping freedom, yet she chose the floor of the farm store for her toilet. There’s just no accounting for personal preference, I guess. But I digress. Wheezing, I scrambled after her into the store, and bolted the door behind me. A look of frozen silence passed between us. The jig was up. Realizing at once that she’d been caught, a crestfallen Joon allowed me to gather her in my arms.
The dream of a lifetime was shattered.
I began to pick feathers, burrs, and bits of hay out of Joon’s hair as I made profuse apologies to the farmer’s wife, who was extremely courteous, given the circumstances. She neither cursed nor pressed charges. She even allowed me to make a purchase! With as much elegance as I could muster, I picked up and neatly packed Joon’s poop in a plastic bag, which I set outside on a corner of the step to take with me when I left. For the umpteenth time, I apologized for my diabolical dog, collected my groceries and scurried away down the country road.
After backing out of the farm driveway and heading down the road toward home, I said to Joon in a way designed to convey deep meaning, “I trust you had the most wonderful day of your life because I promise you,” (here I raised a white and trembling fist to the heavens) “As God is my witness – you will never, ever, ever have another day like it!”
I was several miles down the road, when I realized I hadn’t remembered to pick up that little pack of poop… Oh well, I thought, there must be other places in the area for fresh eggs…