John Gralenski: Much to my surprise, Zelda makes her own way home

Leadmine Brook starts way up on the mountainside out back. It comes through the gorge caused by the ore vein where the old mine used to be, and ripples down the valley to the Androscoggin. It isn't noted for big fish; in fact an eight-incher is considered a “lunker.” Still, it has a good supply of the sardine-sized trout that fry up just fine. Since the season was about over, I decided to make one last fishing trip up there. I loaded up my gear and my old beagle, Zelda, and headed out.
Zelda is getting on in years. She's a refugee from Katrina, the big storm that hit Louisiana a little over 10 years ago. She limps some, her eyes are getting cloudy, and she doesn't hear very well. Still, she loves to go fishing. She wanders around, gets her feet wet, and sniffs out all the activity in the area. She keeps checking on me and doesn't get too far away.
I've given up wading. I'm a little unsteady on my feet, and last season, trying to maneuver on the slippery rocks, I found myself sitting in the brook a few times. I limit my brook fishing to a few pools that have good banks where I can easily fish from shore.
At the first hole, I caught a couple, then the action died and it was time to move on. I looked around for Zelda, but she was not nearby. I called as I walked back to the car, but she was nowhere around. Well, I thought, she always comes back to the road to wait for me, so I drove the hundred yards up to the next hole, tooting the horn as I went.
I got a few more fish there, and decided to quit. Still no Zelda. I got in the car and drove back by the first fishing hole, going slow, tooting the horn all the time. No sign of the dog. I drove all the way to the North Road — she usually follows the road — without a trace of her.
Now I was getting worried. This was unusual. Perhaps she crossed the brook where there are camps on the other side. I drove up there, tooting as I went. No luck. I drove up and down the North Road to see if she'd wandered in either direction. Still nothing.
I kept thinking of the poor old dog. Maybe she got confused, turned the wrong way and was limping the 20-some miles toward Sunday River. I'll have to put out the word: lost dog.
I went back to the house after about an hour of searching. I was getting more worried. I started puttering in the kitchen. There was a banana skin on the counter. That would have to go to the compost pan on the back porch before it attracted a mess of fruit flies. As I stepped out on to the porch, guess who was curled up on her blanket? Zelda didn't even raise her head. She opened one eye and looked at me. "I want to rest a while," she said. "I'm kinda tired. I had to walk home, you know."
John Gralenski is a resident of Shelburne.