By Scott Slocum
The weather on Jan. 26 was cool. The ice on the marsh behind our home was thick. We went out for our first walk of the winter, our dogs and I.
Phillip, our little white Jack Russell terrier, was out ahead, sniffing for muskrats, neighbor dogs, owl kills, whatever his nose could plumb. His sister Goldie took her own turns, just behind — both in heaven.
We followed the channels through the cattails that sometimes widened to ponds of snow. We wondered about the treads of rubber boots. What government agent had been there to certify the electrical towers? To count the beaver-gnawed stems? To verify the regrowth of the cattails from last year's channeling?
We had all grown up here: I, 50 years ago; the dogs last winter, when it was colder and we came out every day and night. We suspected nothing.
Then Phillip screamed once, twice, and oh no, a third and maybe fourth scream before I could get my hands on the steel springs and ... oh, no ... fail to release him from the trap.
That night, Phillip lay in his little box on the patio. I couldn't sleep. Come light of the next day, first the deputy, then the conservation officer, then my own broken heart found that no law had been broken — but still, our little dog was dead.
The lawyers had left "trapping" out of the list of weapons, and "open space" out of the list of places where there could be no traps. I asked the officer, who asked the trapper, who replied to the officer, who replied to me, and the traps were removed.
But I never went back to check. It was not our marsh anymore, but a dangerous place with deadly steel waiting to snap, strangle, sever. Half an inch of our Phillip's spine and throat between the bars: no air, no blood to the brain, biting pain.
I remembered it again today as I stroked Goldie's breathing, four-inch, red- and white-furred throat. I sent more warnings in the mail. I wrote more appeals.