Everybody has a story: Mutt a red herring in mystery of the disappearing fish

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Back in about 1997, my husband, Steve, created a pretty little pond in our backyard. Along with our two kids, Vernon and Elizabeth, who were then about 8 and 5, we put some goldfish in the pond, and we all enjoyed feeding them and watching them grow.

After several months, we noticed that the biggest and nicest fish had suddenly disappeared. Then a few days later, another fish disappeared. Because we were inexperienced in the world of ponds, we had no idea what might be eating the fish. We thought it might be a raccoon or a feral cat. But why wasn’t our dog, a black and white mutt named Freckles, keeping such creatures away? It must be happening at night when Freckles was inside the house.

So Steve borrowed a live animal trap from a friend. It was a large cage with an end that would close when an animal wandered in. Every night before bed, he would set up the trap in the backyard and put a fish head in it for bait. Then in the morning before he let the dog out, he would put the fish head into the freezer and take down the trap.

A week or so passed, and the trap stayed empty, but the fish head was holding up pretty well, so we kept trying.

One day, I came home from work around 3 p.m. after picking the kids up from school. I went into the house while the kids decided they were going to stay outside and play with Freckles.

I had just put down my keys and purse when Vernon flew into the house shouting “Mom! There’s something in the animal trap!” I hurried after him calling, “What is it?” But he had disappeared around the corner of the house. When I got into the backyard, I saw it.

Freckles the dog was stuffed into the animal trap. He weighed about 55 pounds and could just barely fit into it. It was such a tight fit, tufts of his fur stuck out between the wire mesh of the trap. He looked ashamed and embarrassed as I laughed at the sight — and at the trick my son had played on me, because of course he had known all along it was Freckles in the trap. Steve must have forgotten that morning to take down the trap and put the fish head back in the freezer.

I opened the back of the trap, and with much difficulty, Freckles managed to wiggle and squirm his way backward to freedom. He gave himself a big shake and ran for the water dish. That was when I noticed the fish head was nowhere in sight. Though it looked pretty disgusting to me, that fish head must have been irresistible to Freckles.

We soon discovered what had been eating the fish out of the pond. You probably already have guessed, it was nothing we could catch with a live animal trap. Very early one morning, I saw a heron fly away from the pond, no doubt with a tasty fish in its gullet. After that, we set up a motion-detector sprinkler system, which worked great to keep the herons away, plus providing us with more amusing Freckles stories.

Luckily, Freckles suffered no ill effects from the fish head. In fact, he went on to live to the ripe old age of 15.

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