The Old Man On The Mountain

A View From the Backwoods of NH

Observations From The Pack

This story was written in 2010, when all the participants were still alive. It was my intention to have a running dialog from the dogs point-of-view. Unfortunately I never got to it, and now it’s just me and Max, who came to live with us after Blue passed. Let’s start with a brief bio of the three – Hunter (just glad to be here), Dakota (the instigator and the brains) and Blue (the big, loud, lovable goof)

Hunter’s just glad to be here. I don’t know who owned him before, but they scarred him for life. When we got him (5 months) he was afraid of the TV. He was pretty much afraid of everything – especially men. But he has some good traits and a big goofy smile. At least he was housebroken. He always eats when he’s served – lying down (an odd trait). And he likes to go for rides. He’s still afraid and has some trust issues, but we’ve come a long way over the years.

Dakota’s always been the bundle of energy – from the first day home until about a year ago when she hurt her leg. She has strength-of-spirit like nothing I’ve ever seen. She’s extremely independent, yet lovable to a fault. She hates confinement and is constantly searching for ways to circumvent it. She leads the way, teaches the others and is practiced at the art of manipulation. She’ll let one little “woof” go to get Blue all worked up (and off the couch) so that she can jump up and curl into a ball – nice and warm in the spot he vacated.

Blue is a Walker Hound and alpha male, weighing in at 110 lbs. He has a large scent gland and a large drool gland. Because of their sizes, there isn’t much room for a brain and he proudly displays that trait every day. Blue’s primary talent is the ability to put out a fire single-handed (or “pawed”). The only problem is that he keeps practicing all over the house.

And now, the observations…
It was scary that night, as the wind moved the silhouettes in the darkness outside. A chipmunk bayed in the distance. The three dogs lay in various positions around me – one by the door to the deck, one by the door to my office and another by the food bowls. As a pre-emptive strike, Blue jumps up and heads for the deck door, letting out a big howl. As support responds from the rear (Hunter and Dakota) he lets out two more howls, walks around the living room and lies back down. He has no answer for the common question “What are you barking at?” Seems no one knows, so they resume their positions somewhat askew from the previous ones.

The neighbors came up for the weekend with their two dogs. Oh boy – action at last. Hunter’s the only one allowed off-leash, so he’s the only one that gets to “play with the neighbor’s kids”. Dakota stretches out the run to its end, barking and jumping and calling for them to come over and play with her, but they don’t. I guess it’s because Blue, being an “alpha dog”, doesn’t like the other alpha dog in the group, a 20 pound poodle named Bodie. Bodie doesn’t help himself any – he blatantly marks his turf about five feet past the end of the run, right in Blue’s face. So, as long as Blue’s looking to eat Bodie, they won’t be playing over here. Oh, and did I mention that the scents that get left behind at night by the mountain critters keep the kids occupied the next morning? Ah, the life of a dog.

Wow! The last month has been one big rush! The pack has been attacked. The villain – Leptospirosis. The victim – Blue. And even though he’d been vaccinated for the strain he contracted, by the time the symptoms showed it was too late. I put his emaciated body down the Monday before Thanksgiving, at his request. He fought a valiant battle with an unknown enemy and died with dignity at the age of 7 years. He was the most easygoing creature I’ve ever known. I don’t know how people cope with losing a piece of their soul. You’re my boy Blue – rest in peace.
*As a side note, when I contacted the Manufacturer, their stand was denial and a refusal to pay the costs I incurred while confirming the diagnosis and praying that he wasn’t one of the “1 in 5 that succumbs”. I thought this was pretty indecent for a Pharmaceutical company (their name rhymes with “Boehringer Ingelheim”). I guess some folks are just too busy making a profit to care.

After Blue passed, I watched Hunter and Dakota for any signs of depression. But all I got was Dakota, needing to go out almost every hour on the hour. I thought at first that maybe she too had contracted the virus. This went on for about three weeks, and then suddenly abated. I was so thankful that she wasn’t infected – it took me another two weeks to realize that the reason she went out was to call for Blue. To her, he was obviously lost and just needed some direction home. And as a loyal friend does, every hour on the hour, she went out to call just in case he could hear. Dogs don’t have a word for death. If they don’t see it, it didn’t happen.

More Observations From The Pack

I wanted to add this piece from 2011 as a follow up to the original (and because I loved the Bodie story). Let’s move on now, with Hunter (just glad to be here), Dakota (the instigator and the brains) and Max (the adorable new guy)

There’s a new member of the pack – his name is Max. Max is a 3 year old shepherd mix rescue. After Blue passed, the pack became quiet and reserved. Since we had room for at least one more, we began a search of local shelters and hit on Max right away. Though he’s much younger than the other two, we’ve decided that he’s a “keeper”. He’s rejuvenated all of us after our tragic loss. Long live Max!

In a surprise development (not really) a car goes by, sparking Hunter to go “woof” and Dakota to begin the cacophony that is the new canine band “Dogs at Work”. Their only hit continues to be “Woof Woof Woof – Something Moved”. Max, still new to the pack and not quite yet a member of the band, just watched intently.

The neighbor’s dog Bodie stopped by to check out Max. Bodie’s about 20 pounds of fluff with an alpha mentality, while mine are all in the 60-80 pound range. We’ve had a significant amount of snow this year, so the walkways are lined at least a few feet high. With Max on the tie-out, Bodie begins his two-step-stop-start procession up the walk toward Max until, at last, he’s nose-to-nose with him. Unfortunately he was unaware that Hunter had decided to walk up the path behind him to see what was going on. Two seconds after touching noses with Max, Bodie turns to run – full tilt – to a safe distance away, only to smack right into Hunter. Like something out of a circus tumbling act, Bodie bounces off Hunter, straight up and onto the top of the snow pack and bounds away. I’m still laughing.