Monday, June 4, 2012

Running with the Elk

I walked with Rachel today.  Most of the time, we spent trying to find her dog.  I like her dog, Rex.  I really do, but he drives her crazy.  Not me.  He usually entertains me.  Rex wants to be the boss, and Rachel really works to keep that status as her own.  Today, however, was an utter fail. 

We had met at the Three Forks Off Leash Dog area.  Since it was raining, a weekday, and midday, it was completely vacant, so we crossed the field and went out the back gate to the Snoqualmie Valley Trail.  We walked happily along, not worrying about keeping the dogs on leash since there wasn't a soul within a couple of miles.

I guess it depends on what you think has a soul.   I have a generous view of souls since I don't want to go to heaven if all my old dogs aren't going to be there.   There were a few souls nearby that we hadn't noticed.

At some point, Rex disappeared down a side trail.  We could hear some wild barking and some howling.

"Oh no! Rex!" said Rachel. "Come!" I had plenty of time, so I figured we'd be okay.  I am trying to stay quiet so that Rachel can find her inner alpha.  I used to call for Rex with her, but at some point, I thought maybe I was undermining her authority.  The way I figured it, Rex would make his way back to us eventually and that the other dog we heard would either come with him or he wouldn't.  Rachel imagined him coming back all bloody, dragging the dead carcass of the dog behind him.  Oh, she didn't say it, but I could see her worrying about Rex's superior nature, his alpha male status.  Rex sometimes growled a little when he met an alpha male he didn't know.  I never saw a thing beyond that.  When Teddy was smaller, Rex used to be protective, but he's doing less of that now. 

Rex is part Great Pyrenees, a dog bred to guard sheep in the mountains.  His soul is 100% Great Pyrenees.  I should note here that I love Wikipedia. I know that they are not exactly what the news business would call a reliable source, but I love them nevertheless.  In Wikipedia, I just read that Great Pyrenees are good with children and young animals, that they growl, but are seldom aggressive, and will tend to run off when they are brought into an open area.  Well, those are Rex's problems exactly.  It also says that they're difficult to train, but are wonderful family dogs. That sounds like Rex in a nutshell.  It also mentioned a certain patience and composure.  Rex just oozes confidence.  If he were a man, he'd either be a mayor of a small town or the sheriff.  Rex wouldn't be happy in a big city, so I don't see him as a senator or a CEO  You know the type, the roles played by John Wayne, the Andy Griffith type, or Garrison Keillor defining his own Lake Wobegon.

I have tried to tell Rachel that Rex doesn't seem to be up to much when he growls at strange alpha males. "Don't get up to anything in this town, boy," he seems to tell them. "I've got my eye on you." He's not quite as easy-going as Andy Griffith. I'd much rather be up to no good in Mayberry than under Rex's surveillance,but still he's a pretty cool character. 

Today, he had some exploring to do, some rascals to rout out of his town.  We came back to the field across from the off-leash area and found the reason for Rex's sudden departure.   The herd of elk were in the field.  We have a large ek herd near North Bend.  There's even a viewing area off Route 202 between Snoqualmie and North Bend.  In the fall, you can stop and watch them in rut.  In the spring and summer, you can see the calves nursing.  Lately, the herd has been chewing up the trail near Lake Alice along the Preston-Snoqualmie Trail.  There were just a few of them today, but there they stood, all regal and alert.  Ah, that explained the baying of the other dog.  Or was that unusual sound really Rex, just amped up on musk and green elk pellets? 

I see Rachel's frustration when Rex runs off, but unless I need to go somewhere, I'm not as worried as she is when he does this.   He always comes back when he's ready.  I've even offered to head over to the school and meet with the kids if Rex took that long, but he never does. He seems to know how much time we have.  Today, we had planned time for coffee. 

I have to admit that I when I saw the elk, I got totally onto Rex's side.  If I were an animal, I'd like to be be a dog chasing elk.  When I was young, I used to say I'd like to be an otter, and lately I feel more like a bear now that I have a cub.  Rachel and I talk about animals.  She says she'd be a small bird.  I could see that, a finch maybe, or a wren.  Maybe instead of being a dog, an otter, or bear, I'd be the cow in the field with the bird on my back, a nice symbiotic relationship.

But today, when I saw those elk begin to move off, I could feel my inner dog getting excited.  If I could run that fast, I'd chase those things too.  I'd feel the wind in my ears, smell the wildness of the elk in front of me.  I'd see how fast I could make them run.

I told Rachel the story of how Indiana was drawn almost three-quarters of a mile away from us in Montana by prairie dogs popping up from their holes, further and further from us as each prairie dog disappeared.  She was frenzied with the excitement and I would swear the prairie dogs knew what they were up to.  I'm surprised they didn't run her straight off a cliff.  She would have leaped. 

Sorry Rachel, if I weren't more civilized, I would have chased after those guys myself, even running the slow pace of a human.  I hope there are elk in heaven.  Maybe I'll get a good run in there someday.  It's a funny thing to wish for, isn't it?  Maybe tonight, I'll run elk in my dreams.

Thank you for listening, jb

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