It was just a short, sharp sound, but Ray's rebel yell in the confines of a hotel room sounded as loud as a gunshot. He had been growling on-and-off since about four o'clock when people had started trickling out of the hotel. Our room was on the first floor, directly across from one of the hotel's secondary doors, and although it hadn't bothered him the night before when people were coming and going, this early-morning stuff was disturbing his sleep. The final straw had come at six when one of the hotel staff had pushed the bill under the door, launching it into the middle of the room. The secure perimeter had been breached. The hound was incensed. He gave every evidence of continuing his complaint to the management.
The effect was immediate. I put my hand on the dog to quieten him, slipped out of bed, slapped on some clothes, shoved my feet in shoes, and grabbed the dog leash. My sister Kathy, sleeping on the other queen-sized bed in the room, didn't budge. She had flown in late the afternoon before and we were driving to South Carolina to visit the parents.
"Hey, Kath," I said to the darkness, "I'm taking the dog out for a walk."
I shook my head in disbelief. Amazingly she was still asleep.
I fumbled around for my card-key and turned from the bureau to the bed on which Ray was standing, trying to figure out how far it was to the ground.
"C'mon, Ray," I said to the dog who was eye-to-eye with me; I curled my fingers around his collar.
Having some guidance, Ray bent his front legs to get lower, hung his paws over the edge, then slid off the side of the bed to the floor.
"Good boy." I said gently to my brave dog.
I opened the door to our room at exactly the same time as our neighbor opened his. I looked at the man, chagrined.
"I hope my dog didn't wake you up," I said to the man who was exiting his room carrying a cup of coffee.
"Oh, no ma'am," he said politely with a strong southern twang. "We was up."
Ray and I headed out into the morning. It was the typical southern summer steam bath. We were staying at the same hotel as on our last journey south; a nice place with a designated area for dogs. We trotted over to the large field with a pond and a gazebo. The evening before, something had splashed in the water while we were walking and it had set off Ray's arrrrooooo-meter. On this morning, however, the water was quiet and so was the dog.
We poked around the field for a bit, then jogged through the parking lot to the road adjacent to the hotel. It led to vacant lots with signs that announced their availability for building and the zoning restrictions. As I walked in the road, Ray sniffed along the broad, grassy verge. I noticed a pile of fox droppings smack in the middle of the street. Twenty feet or so down the street, another pile. Twenty feet after that, another. And twenty feet after that, another. Either the fox had way too much fiber in his diet or there was a fox den nearby.
All of a sudden, Ray's hackles went up, his tail curled up over his back, his nose pointed to the air, and he let loose with a couple of good strong yells.
His nose went to the ground, and Ray took off down the street. I hung on to the leash and ran alongside him, we were on the scent of something good.
Ray was in full voice. We were far enough from the hotel that I didn't try to stop his yelling. After all, he was on vacation too. I let the hound follow the scent for another block or so.
"Hey Ray, we should probably head back," I said to my dog.
Ray stopped and 'looked' at me, then looked down the street, then back at me. His tail uncurled a bit. He looked down the street one more time, then turned back to the direction we had come, a triumphant spring to his step. He knew he had those foxes on the run and it was enough for him.