It was a lovely sunny afternoon and the dog protested when he was shut into the back of the car and heard the engine rumble to life. The voice of the alpha spoke from far away. "We'll be there soon, Billy."
"No complaining, pup," he heard one of his packmates say. "We're going for a lovely walk along the C&O Canal!"
The rumble went on, and then it stopped and then the miracle occurred -- again! The door lifted up, and his favorite people were standing right there. They were waiting for him!
He sat obediently while they attached the leash to his collar, and then he jumped out into a swirl of fabulous fragrance.
What a place! As the pack moved toward a flat area with a path on it, a great gray flying thing flapped slowly through the air. He could smell the invisible scent trails of a thousand other fascinating dogs and humans that crisscrossed every inch of the path and its grassy verges.
As the pack trotted along, the leash tugged on the back of his neck. That was bad. It meant he should go forward.
Oops -- now the leash tugged on the front of his neck. That was bad, too. It meant he should go backward.
"Oh, look, there are two turtles!" he heard the alpha say. She had paused and was looking at something on a log a short distance away. He paused too. What would happen next?
"The big turtle looks like a German helmet," said the larger packmate.
"Let's see if we can make them move," said the smallest packmate.
He watched the larger packmate pick up a small object and gently toss it towards the helmet (whatever that was). The object plunked down into greenery but the helmet didn't move. The larger packmate tried again with a bigger object, and this time the helmet moved its feet ever so slightly.
"Be careful not to hit them," warned the alpha.
"I will," said the smallest packmate. "This should work." He saw her fling a handful of tiny objects near the helmet.
And then something happened!
The helmet didn't move, but the dog did.
He would find those objects! Perhaps he could eat them! Dimly he could hear the members of his pack shouting as he dashed down a small hill and leapt onto the green --
Oh no! What was this stuff? Why did the ground give way? As his face popped above the surface, he paddled confusedly toward the helmet and the possibly edible objects.
Why was everyone laughing? He heard the alpha calling, and saw that she had scrambled down the bank to save him. A moment later he had galloped up out of the strange wet place and, just as he had drawn level with her face, he found he had to shake.
"Wha!" cried the alpha. She was laughing. So were the other packmates. Their faces were squinched up, and tears were running down their faces.
"He has algae on his nose!"
"Silly Billy! You didn't know it was water!"
"He's so scrawny and curly and wet!"
"He looks like Mummy when she gets home from hot yoga!"
"Hey, that's -- true!"
The dog didn't know what to make of it all. He frisked about, trying to get away from the long wet thing that was flicking water at him and that seemed to be attached to his backside. But he was happy, too. His alpha was beaming at him and his packmates were still chortling with laughter. That was nice.
He never did see what happened to that helmet.
Meghan Cox Gurdon's column appears on Sunday and Thursday. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.