SQUIRREL! Solito goes on full alert with a squirrel—one particular squirrel—that challenges him on Fitch Mountain. (Photo by Owner)

By Solito 

Solito here. You may know me from around town and prior literary contributions to the Tribune. I had to write up this note of thanks to our community for, well, saving my life perhaps.

My morning routine: I sniff, scratch my back on the carpet, stretch and ease into the day. There’s a bowl of food to be had immediately (and, if it’s not forthcoming, a human to be manipulated until it is) followed by outside toilette, some lounging and then—the daily walk up the Fitch Mountain Trail to the summit. That’s what I’m barkin’ about.

Last year my “owner”/agent told me that the trail would be closed for at least two months with a project to provide better access to the trail from the Villa Chanticleer Dog Park. Closed? Two months? That’s 14 dog-months and completely unacceptable.

I don’t mind telling you that I found this news very upsetting. I might have chewed a couple of off-limit things and even snarled at a few people who didn’t particularly deserve it. It’s a coping mechanism. Thinking about life without the Fitch Mountain Trail … I just can’t go there, I get too emotional.

My “owner” luckily found us new access to the trail through a friend’s property on McDonough Heights. We can sneak onto the trail where it forks to the Summit and the Loop Trail. Those of you (human, canine) familiar with the section will probably be aware of a particularly insolent squirrel who frequents a section of the trail and who has taken it upon himself to mess with me specifically.

Well, the other day I said to myself—after enduring some of his usual taunting—enough is enough. I took off after the scoundrel, leaving Owner alone on the trail. I’m sure he thought I’d give the annoying creature a quick scare and then double back and join him on the trail as usual, and that was my initial intention.

But after I’d chased him to the base of a venerable oak tree, instead of heading up to safety, he turned and had the audacity to initiate eye contact with me. At that point it was on. He took off down the hill, and my mind went blank—hundreds of thousands of years of evolution vanished, and I became a limbic-directed missile. I forgot about my “handicap”—my three legs must have been a blur.

Three hours later I was completely disoriented and beat up badly. After repeated unsuccessful attempts to climb back up the steep, slippery hill I had tumbled down in pursuit of he-who-shall-not-be-named, I was completely spent and very, very sore—unable to stand, let alone walk. Would this bed of moldering leaves I found myself in be my final resting place?

I must have dozed off for a while (I think I dreamt I was feeling sorry for myself) and was abruptly awakened by an ungodly sound from the sky. A helicopter search party! But they flew on. (I later learned they were searching not for me, but for a fugitive loose on Fitch). A few pathetic barks were all I could muster, and Owner was way back up the hill, and I was pretty sure he couldn’t hear me. It was getting dark.

Faced with my mortality, I found myself drifting into a dreamlike state, imagining reuniting with Owner who, in my fantasy, was considerably taller and had been frantically looking for me.

I heard a bark, somewhere down the hill. Then there was another woof from what seemed to be a little closer. I responded “Woof (Yes, yes, I am here!).” I was awake now and ready to be reunited with my “owner.” But it wasn’t Owner at all. It was a human woman with an attractive female canine. Confused, I may have turned to retreat up the hill, but the woman gently put a leash on me. The three of us headed down the hill to what I later realized was their house, where they cleaned me up and gave me some excellent water. So it was the dog Daphne and her “mom,” Carrie, who were my saviors. The rest is history—a phone call at dusk to Owner. I’m home now; still sore, a bit embarrassed, but very much alive.

My gratitude still brings me to canine tears. Owner and many friends had broadcast my plight and scoured the mountain by foot and car, using phone, text, everything. Our mayor, Ariel Kelly, even posted the search on social media (I don’t use it myself).

If you’re up on Fitch Mountain Trail and happen to run into that squirrel, tell him Solito will be seeing him again in the fullness of time.

RECOVERING Solito in his favorite bed on March 5, recovering from his Fitch Mountain ordeal. (Photo by Owner)
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