Five A.M. Sunday morning. I’m happy that it’s still dark. With the extended heat wave, every bit of coolness added to the day helps.

I let the dogs out into the back yard. Cody, a muscular 56 pounds, looks like a lab, but the one-quarter terrier in him rules when it comes to behavior. He makes a beeline to the window well where he begins to bark. I know my neighbors won’t appreciate this wake up call and I coax him away.

Routine calls, and he trots back into the house to await his breakfast.

But after he eats, he’s back at the window well barking. Reluctantly I go outside and the light of dawn reveals a vole hunched in the corner on top of a pile of dead leaves. It looks up at me and the maniacal Cody, who increases the volume and pitch of his barks.

I can’t help but smile at the little critter. He’s the perfect epitome of Aesop’s country mouse. Fat, slow, and incredibly cute!

I go inside, get the dog leash, and after five attempts, manage to lasso Cody, drag him into the house, and close off the doggy door. Mollie, a 77 pound elegant black lab, watches with ears and tail lifted. Cody has a tendency for false alarms, but maybe this is something barkworthy. She sends me an inquiring look accompanied by a couple hopeful tail wags, and I answer, “No! All gone!”

Mollie takes me at my word, goes back upstairs to lick the empty dog bowls. Cody takes up a vigil position at the door.

I formulate my plan. I’ll make a ramp so my unexpected guest can exit–and continue whatever was going on in his life before he made this error in judgment.

I go to the garage and looking up to a top shelf, see boards that were part of my brick and board bookcase from the 1970s. For forty years we’ve always thought they’d come in handy for something, and at last, one of them has.

I drag a heavy chair from the nearby guest room to retrieve the board and almost wrench my back. Oh, no! This is how these things happen. Next thing you know you’re lying in traction, repeating the same story over and over to all your hospital visitors: “It all started with this vole in my window well. . . .”

But no, I’m okay and I tote the awkward board into the house, angling it to squeeze past Cody, who will not budge from his post.

The vole again looks up into my face as I lower the board into his open-air prison cell. It’s probably too slippery for him, so I cover it with a textured rubber mat that I’ve been using to smother a patch of nearby bindweed. I leave him to figure it out.

After my long-delayed morning coffee and breakfast, I go outside to check the progress of my plan.

Voila! No vole! “Good little vole, smart little vole,” I say aloud. I remove the mat and the board, go inside and free up the doggy door. I get dressed, but before I have my shoes on, I hear a familiar bark. Having spoken dog for the last ten years, I easily interpret it as, “There’s a vole in the window well.”

Cody dances from one side to another, bark volume on high, and as I look down, there’s that cute face again, moved to the opposite corner of the window well, half-obscured by a different pile of dead leaves.

For the second time: Leash. Lasso. Drag Cody. Yell “All Gone!” Close doggy door.

Back at the window well, I see that the ramp plan was far too advanced for my client. It was graduate level and he is, and may well forever be, pre-kindergarten.

Lowering my expectations, I get a shovel. I scoop, and he seems to get the idea. He climbs aboard. I slowly raise the shovel, all the time visualizing his tumble off the edge, but being fond of sitting still in one place, he stays put. Unlike his city cousin, scurry is not in his vocabulary.

I carry him slowly and dump him on the other side of my fence, safe from Cody. Predicament forgotten, he immediately begins to munch down some low-growing leaves of a chokecherry bush.

Maybe he wasn’t so dumb after all. He has a chubby figure to preserve, and taking the stairs held no appeal for him. He waited for the elevator.

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Lucy Bell
Lucy Bell is a retired teacher and writing consultant. She is a certified Native Plant Master and Interpretive Guide at Cheyenne Mountain State Park. She founded Friends of Emerson in Colorado Springs, now in its thirteenth year.
Photo By: Photopippo, via Wikimedia Commons