Somewhere in the distance there is a rabbit. Always. More likely there are two or three, whispering in the tall grass, munching on clover, leaving traces of their scent along the borders of trails and sidewalks. They’re driving her mad. Her ears are up, her nose is trembling, muzzle tensed to form a sharp, anguished bark. I see the rabbits before she does, but she knows that they’re there. When they move, she rushes, frustrated by the restraints of her harness. She glances back at me, whines, asks why. I tell her that she wouldn’t catch them anyway, nor the deer that have their eyes on us. It’s all more than her mutt heart can bear. She’ll come home, sit on her bed, and gnaw a pencil to splinters. Next time, she’ll grumble, next time.
So, I think that my younger dog, Rosie, might be planning her escape.
As I was getting prepared for our walk a few days ago – gathering trash bags, putting on my coat, jangling leashes – instead of presenting herself at my feet, as she usually does, she rushed upstairs. A little puzzled, I snapped the harness onto my older dog, Poppy, and waited. A few moments later, Rosie reappeared, but with an old, dried up, edible “chewie” in her mouth. I said to her (because I regularly talk to my dogs, cat, and any other living thing that happens to be in my vicinity, including myself), “We’re going on a long walk, don’t you want to leave that here?” But, as I reached to take it from her, she respectfully turned her head away. “Suit yourself,” I shrugged. As my older dog loves to carry things in her mouth, the situation didn’t seem too strange, and I figured I would just put the “chewie” in my pocket when she got bored.
About a half mile later, however, at a divergence in the path to the river, Rosie turned onto the less-traveled dirt trail, found a stone, and began digging a shallow hole just beside it. When she reached her preferred depth, she dropped the “chewie” into it, snuffled, and proceeded to nose dirt, leaves and other dried plant matter over it until the hole was filled. Now, I should note the Rosie has lots of these little stashes in our back yard. Occasionally she unearths them and returns them to the house in their slightly soggy, rotten state (another good reason never to buy rawhide). This is the first time, however, that she has ever stored something off of our property.
So, yes, I’m a little suspicious. She’s a nervous dog who’s been acting just a little too nervous lately. And I know she’s done with me holding her back from all those wild animals out there, so tantalizingly close, taunting her with their heady scents. Like those white-tailed deer we came upon on the island yesterday: a whole herd of them, and I wouldn’t let go of the leash, even to take this poor video:
That’s Rosie’s bark at the beginning, when it looks as if I’m going to fall over.
I can’t blame her, really, when the deer are so clearly out of control. I found a hoofprint just inside of the boys’ shelter (which Rosie, therefore, considers hers), so who knows what they’re getting up to when we’re not around?
Although I am guessing that, even though there was evidence that they were eating and sleeping nearby, this was not their empty pint of gelato:
When I’m taking pictures for my blog, I generally make a point of moving the camera so that my images don’t include my old labrador companion, Poppy. Since she makes a point of shadowing me, no matter how her bones ache, excluding her isn’t a simple matter. Yesterday was no different: I paused for a picture, and, while I fiddled with the composition and perspective, she walked into the frame. Again,
It’s hard to be too upset, though, when, first of all, she’s sweet and adorable, and, second, she often improves the pictures, imbuing them with life and interest that landscape alone sometimes can’t. Even if it is a brilliant fall day, which it was.
Besides, she’s been known to help me with the trash every now and then. Yesterday she carried a McDonald’s coffee cup all the way back to the main walking path for me…and there wasn’t even anything in it for her to eat. (She is a labrador, after all, and her motives and motivations are usually pretty simple and obvious.)
Yesterday, my labrador retriever turned 13 years old. She’s lumpy and bumpy, the ACL she had repaired years ago is clearly aching with arthritis, and she’s deaf and even a little smelling-impaired, but she still wags her tail when she sees her leash, insists on car rides to the woods, and pulls me like a dogsled when she sees a body of water. She and my other dog, a nervous 4-year-old rescue of unknown lineage, accompany me on most of my walks along the Monocacy. I take bags specifically for their messes, which I pick up and, despite the smell, carry with me for miles until I reach my trash can at home. It can get a little disgusting some days, but it’s worth it not to leave their piles to filthy the river or someone’s shoes, or even just mar the view. Besides, I’ve decided that if anyone is idiotic enough to attack me, I could swing the bags in their face and they’d likely decide I wasn’t worth their trouble.
While I am happy to pick up my own dogs’ messes, I’ve decided that I absolutely will not pick up the messes of anyone else’s. I know that I should, and feel guilty when I pass by the melting piles of it, but I just won’t. So, you won’t hear about this particular kind of waste, or see a picture of it, in or out of a bag, in this blog. It exists, of course; I’m just pretending it doesn’t so that I don’t activate my gag reflex on a daily basis.
There are those who will argue that there shouldn’t be any dogs on nature trails. The untended messes are part of these protesters’ arguments, but they also object to the dogs’ invisible marking, which scares off other wildlife. Dog-lovers, on the other hand, argue that their companions compel people who might otherwise just sit on their couch binge-watching TV shows to go out into nature and, as they learn to appreciate it, decide to take action to protect it. As a traditional peacekeeping middle child, I say let’s have it both ways, maintaining natural areas where dogs are not allowed and other areas where they are encouraged by making available waste bags and plenty of trash cans to their responsible owners.
Anyway, I hate preaching. And I hate picking up poop. And I’m not talking about any of this ever again.