Crispin loves the kids’ old rope swing. It’s nothing fancy, just a sturdy length of rope tied to the branch of a huge maple tree so that its end hangs about 6 inches off the ground, with a number of large knots tied in it at various points up its length. He’s watched Second Child swing on it a number of times and loves to play with it himself.

Most of the time he simply grabs the lower end, pulling and tugging and growling at it, sometimes running in circles as if the rope were part of some demented canine May pole ritual. I’m convinced there’s a fair amount of make-believe going on in his hard little head when he plays with it–in his imagination I’m sure he’s the fierce wild dog and the rope is a coyote that’s unwisely strayed into our yard.

But his very favorite thing to do, when he can achieve it, is to leap as high as he can, sink his teeth into the rope 4 or 5 feet off the ground (he’s a formidable jumper), and swing there for a few minutes with his feet fully off the ground. Then he lets go, drops back to earth, and gives the rope a final furious tug, as if to say “And don’t let me catch you in my territory again!”

On Sunday afternoon, though, the rope got its own back. I had taken a book and a glass of wine to the small picnic table under the same tree, and Crispin, of course, trotted out to keep me company, or, more likely, to see whether I’d brought any interesting munchies with me. Disappointed that I had not, he went off to play and I sort of tuned him out while I read, vaguely aware of the jingling of his tags as he menaced the end of the rope.

Suddenly I realized he was whimpering instead of jingling or barking, and I turned around to see him hung up on the rope BY HIS TOOTH! His feet were dangling a good 2 feet off the ground, his front legs were waving in the air, and there he was, hanging by one scary canine tooth and looking absolutely frantic.

Fortunately I was just a few feet away–I ran over and grabbed him from behind around his middle, hoisted him up and unhooked his tooth, which was badly snagged on a frayed bit in the rope, and he ran off, none the worse for his close call. As for me, it took another glass of wine and a few hours to shake the “what if I hadn’t been out there with him” fears.

Having an airedale is a lot like having a toddler–hours and hours of pleasure interspersed with moments of sheer terror.

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