Nearly all the dogs that have wound up here at Hickory Head have discovered the woods. A tree lined path with underbrush and a canopy of Oak limbs shading the fenced in back acre is something all of them have migrated to at one time or another, and this morning, Wrex Wyatt set out alone to discover what might await in the woods. This time, there were no other resident dogs that rushed to the door to go with him. This time, Wrex was making the trip out alone, and I watched from the window as he headed out into the woods.
I have some issues thinking Wrex is younger than he is, but the last time he was here, in August of 2014, he was only six or seven months old, and he was called the Puppy Wrex. He lasted as a foster for only two weeks, and then was gone forever, I thought, but then the people who adopted him demanded we take him back, after nearly four years. I don’t know why. That is not what this is about.
Now Wrex is over five years old, at least as old as Lilith Anne, likely older than Tyger Linn, but this is his first trip into the woods alone. I watch as Wrex heads to the water bucket in the old kennel, and he hesitates, looks at the path that goes directly into where there is no grass and nothing but trees, and in Wrex goes. There has always been a dog with him, as far as I know, or at least dogs outside with him, but the four other resident dogs are resting on the floor and sofas, and they’re content to allow Wrex this time to himself and the trees.
I wonder how parents watch their kids go into the woods, or off with other kids, and not feel some sense of fear. It’s too late in the day for Coyotes, he’s too fast and it’s too cold for snakes, and so Wrex Wyatt should be alright. I watch him disappear and wait. The woods has trees for marking, the scents of birds and small mammals, and maybe a deer popped in last night, and maybe there was some armadillos that passed through. Wrex’s nose has to sort all of this out, and in the meanwhile, like others before him, Wrex, for reasons known only to dogs, has to spend some time alone in the woods.
I stand by the window and wonder. Is he trying to dig out or jump over the fence? If he gets out can he find his way back home? It’s still deer season, or is it turkey season? And hunters dislike dogs. I cannot image someone shooting Wrex but hunters are merciless when it comes to stray dogs, and even though Wrex is wearing a new collar, deep blue, it’s not unheard of for hunters to shoot dogs. Odd, isn’t it? Even out in the wild, the main threat to life is still human beings.
I catch a glimpse of white and brown, and it’s a brown that leans towards copper, and I see Wrex heading to where the Cousins and Tyger Linn have dug a bunker. That’s got to blow his mind, to see a cave like this, and know that he lives in a place where there is a cave. There’s a Giant Oak out near this, and I wonder if he is in as much awe of it as I still am. I lose him in the underbrush and I know his nose is to the ground, trying to sort out what is what out there in the semi-wild.
Marco comes to me at the window and sits. Marco Ladakh and Wrex will wander the woods together, and now Marco joins the vigil, either wondering where his younger cousin is, or trying to get me to pet him. But Marco cannot see very well and his nose is blocked by the window. What if Wrex is already out and running loose in the woods? That thought haunts me, but there is nothing I can do. Any dog that wants out badly enough will find a way, and even though the fence has a serious charge in it, nothing is escape proof. I get more coffee and I wait. There is nothing to do and a lot of gain by allowing him this freedom. Wrex is taking root, he is taking part ownership, he’s marking territory that is his, and that of his family. This could be the beginning of a dog’s discovery of patrolling, of protecting the borders of his family’s land, and this very well could be Wrex’s version of setting out to prove that he can do this, that he can defend the land, repelling evil and trespassers, and he has to be allowed to do it on his terms.
Does he remember this place after four years? Is he now rediscovering Hickory Head? Is he looking for Lucas? Does he think that this was his home, and he’s spent four years trying to return to the place he wanted to be? That’s very serious projection and I damn well know it. But after four years, Wrex is back. I heard online that he had gotten out and wound up in the shelter but his family came and got him before I knew it. My thoughts were every cast out into the abyss of my mind, wondering if I would ever see him again, if he remembered me, us, this place, and if he did, would he want to come back to me, us, this place?
A friend of mine had a dog named Duke who broke out of her yard several times, finally leaving for good one day. Do some dogs just want to wander? Is Wrex one of these? I’m having this thought when Wrex walks out of the woods, and heads towards the house. I wait until he comes to the door to let him in. Wrex is back. Maybe he will not stay. Maybe he will. But he is here now, and he is part of the pack.