Outdoors Column: Is Timmy in the Well?

During the early days of television, there was a Saturday morning show called Lassie. It was about a boy named Timmy and his collie dog, Lassie. The show was called Lassie rather than Timmy because the dog was a whole lot smarter than the kid. Each week, Timmy would get himself into some horrible predicament and Lassie would either rescue him or go get help to save him just in the nick of time. One episode included Timmy somehow falling in the well. Faithful Lassie dog ran home, got the attention of the responsible adults in the family and with much coaxing, led them back to save Timmy. From this episode, years ago, our family has developed a saying. When a dog frantically tries to get our attention and lead us off to solve a problem, we ask the dog, “Is Timmy in the well?

Our porch has a ramp going up to it rather than steps. When we built the house, I thought a day might come when someone might need a ramp. More importantly, I have found it easier to build a ramp than steps. The ramp is not high, so various things have at one time or another gotten lost under the it. Usually, this is Billy’s ball. When there is nobody around to play ball with him, he will drop it on the top of the ramp and retrieve it after it has rolled down. It is not as much fun as having a person throw the ball, but I guess solitaire fetch is better than no fetch at all. Every once in a while, the ball will go off the edge of the ramp and roll underneath into an area he can not reach.

This morning, I let Billy out to do what needed to be done and went back in to make the coffee. When it was done, I grabbed a cup and went outside to stare off into the distance while thinking pleasant thoughts. It takes me just a bit to become fully functional in the mornings. It took me a while to realize, Billy was standing perfectly still and staring at me. When he realized he had gotten my attention, he took a few steps and stopped to stare again. It was then I knew what his problem was. I said, “Is Timmy in the well?” With that, he ran off the porch and stared under the ramp. I laughed out loud. He does not understand the words but has learned that series of words will solve a dog’s most difficult problems. At this stage in his life, his most difficult problem is having his ball somewhere he can

We do not have a well, nor do we have a Timmy, but we have a dog that knows how to get things rescued. He has great non-verbal communication skills and knows his point has been made when we say, “Is Timmy in the well?” He has us well trained.