The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local Columnists

September 3, 2012

ARLENE JOHNS | The long walk home

— These days at the Johns’ house, one subject is rarely brought up.

Oscar, the faithful beagle, won’t be with us much longer.

We both know that, but it’s not to be discussed.

We really didn’t want him in the first place, of course.

Both kind of picky about a perfect house and yard, we didn’t think a dog would fit into the picture. But when Chad, our Navy son, asked if we’d take care of him while he served in the Persian Gulf, we felt we had little choice.

Besides feeling it was our duty to the country, we felt sorry for the poor hound who had been abused by a former owner.

So we welcomed Oscar into our home – sort of.

It was rough for awhile.

He peed on the grass and killed it. He dragged roadkill to the front door. And every time he got a bath he went directly to the nearest dead animal and rolled on the carcass.

But after six years, we’ve grown accustomed to each other.

For the past several weeks, Oscar has enjoyed the company of Chad’s current dog,

Yankee. (This time our Navy son is headed to the North Pole on a Coast Guard icebreaker.)

Yankee, a black Lab, is a whole different character.

While Oscar is content to lay on a rock in the sun, Yankee wants to play.

So, in the evenings, Joe and I take him on long walks in the woods, trying to wear him out for the night.

On Wednesday, Oscar ventured to the front yard to watch as we left on our walk.

These days he walks only when necessary and wheezes with every step, so there was no question of him joining us.

We walked about 21/2 miles, much of it uphill, before deciding it was time to head home.

We had made good time and thought we’d get home before dark, when the rocky, steep path would be more difficult to traverse.

We’d barely started back down the path when something white caught our eye on the trail ahead.

At first it seemed it was a deer, but as we got closer and we realized what it was – Oscar.

He was panting so hard his whole body was shaking and his entire bottom side was caked in mud, but he had found us.

I don’t know if we were more shocked or horrified.

Oscar is nearly crippled, so how did he manage to follow us and nearly keep up for more than two miles?  He’s almost blind, so how did he see well enough to make his way up the steep hill? And WHY didn’t we look behind us and realize he was back there?

Mud was ignored as we patted Oscar and told him what an amazing dog he was.

But Oscar was in bad shape and could barely move. He lay in the grass at the side of the road, struggling to find some cool grass. We sat by his side, barely talking for fear we’d start crying.

Eventually we realized we had to try to get home. We talked about making a sling out of sticks and Joe’s T-shirt, but carrying a 45-pound dog who would not want carried wasn’t a good option.

So we headed off. We’d take about 10 slow steps and wait for Oscar to catch up. Then

10 more. We stopped for long breaks at each puddle we passed so Oscar could lay in the muddy water.

 Eventually I told Joe we had to get home or we’d break our necks climbing down the hill in the dark. But my tougher-than-tough husband wasn’t interested.

“Leave no man behind,” he said, his voice breaking.

Joe’s a hunter and used to being in the woods in the dark, but I am not, so I reluctantly left for home with Yankee.

We arrived just before dark, but Joe and Oscar were another hour.

I heard him talking to the old dog as they slowly made their way up the driveway.

“You’re pretty tired, aren’t ya, Buddy?”

Arlene Johns is The Tribune-Democrat’s city editor.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local Columnists
  • Local Columnists

    Robin L. Quillon
    Chip Minemyer
    Tom Lavis
    Mike Mastovich
    Cory Isenberg
    Eric Knopsnyder
    Ralph Couey
    Zachary Hubbard
    Michele Bender
    Bill Eggert
    David Knepper

    William Lloyd

    July 6, 2010

  • Jim Siehl JIM SIEHL | Music to my ears

    Seldom has $15 produced such a high level of entertainment as it did a few weeks ago when I found myself in the second row just left of center keeping back the tears once again during my third live performance of “Les Miserables.”

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Curtis, Shawn SHAWN CURTIS | Pirates win has familiar feel

    As much as all the fuzzy feelings of the 2013 season came to an end when Pirates pitcher Francisco Liriano fired a first-pitch strike to Emilio Bonifacio at 1:14 p.m. on Monday afternoon at PNC Park, the 1-0 win took the shape that many Pittsburgh wins did a season ago.

    March 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Eric Knopsnyder ERIC KNOPSNYDER | A fresh take on funnies

    Did you notice some funny business in our comics pages recently?
    Many of you did and contacted the newsroom to ask why “Doonesbury” and “For Better or For Worse” were no longer appearing in our publication.
    There’s a simple explanation: They are no longer being produced.

    March 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jim Siehl JIM SIEHL | Basketball officials never win

    Today’s column bounces from local politics to basketball after two previous articles concentrated on Jesse Topper’s successful launch into a new career as a state representative.

    March 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Michele Bender Michele Mikesic Bender | Playing the name game

    So, did you decide on the ‘popcorn dress’  for the church dinner?” asked Judi, my Communion Lady.
    “No, I think the ‘hydrangea dress’ might be better,’’ I answered.
    “You name your clothes?” Denise’s jaw dropped.

    February 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bill Eggert Columnist Photo Bill Eggert | A heartfelt message of thanks

    February is the month the medical community sets aside for matters related to heart health. That makes sense, given that Valentine’s Day is right in the middle of the month. So it was ironic that I found myself dealing with the matter of the heart in a serious way this month.
    This column is a valentine to the staff of the Conemaugh Health System.

    February 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jim Siehl JIM SIEHL | Answering the call, wherever it leads

    My last column dwelled extensively on the qualifications of Jesse Topper, the multitalented, highly-respected and popular former executive minister at Bedford Methodist Church.
    Left unanswered was the question “why” – why did the newly-elected state representive choose to turn away from what many believed was his destiny to be an ordained pastor?

    February 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jim Siehl JIM SIEHL: Election win a loss for church

    Folks at Bedford United Methodist Church had a difficult decision to make at Tuesday’s special election to determine the successor to the late state Rep. Dick Hess.
    It was all about wanting the best for Republican candidate Jesse Topper but not wanting to deal with the likelihood of his leaving his church position for an opportunity that is far different from what he is so ably doing.

    January 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bill Eggert Bill Eggert: Elvis remains the King

    Last week we marked the birthday of an American original: the late Elvis Presley.
    Jan. 8, 2015, will mark his 80th birthday.
    This is hard to wrap our minds around given Elvis always seems to remain forever young, frozen in time.

    January 11, 2014 1 Photo


Would you like to see the Johnstown Community Corrections Center remain open after its lease runs out on Oct. 11, 2015?

I'm not sure
     View Results
Order Photos

Photo Slideshow

House Ads