It was last year about this time a friend of mine was going to send me her dog, a problem puppy, and I prepared to receive my first young dog in quite some time. Bert and Sam needed some new life in their lives. The routine of get up, go out, come back in and sleep had not been broken for a very long time. They ceased to roughhouse like they once did. Bert and I once played, and played rough, but the older he got it was more and more just growling and pretending than tussling.
When Sam was a puppy they used to chase one another around the wood pile I had created between two trees. There was a dirt path in the grass carved out around the woodpile and it looked all the world as if I had dug a tiny ditch around the pile to help with drainage or something like that. There was another path from the deck around to the back door, and there was a path that extended off the back door path down to the woods.
In the woods themselves there was a perimeter path, and it is the one Bert uses to patrol the property. Back when I worked days I would come home and the three of us, and then the four of us, would walk the fenceline. It was my way of checking the fence to make sure it was still in one piece, but it was also a way for me to unwind at the end of the day. It’s hard to feel stress in the presence of an Oak tree older than this country. Massive, silent, and holy, there are three truly giant Oaks on or at least near my property. I can still remember the first time I realized one of the giants was to be mine, on the land I owned, and it was totally overwhelming that someone would sell land where this tree lived. I remember the first time I put my palm on the truck of the tree, and felt centuries of live within, and the realization of smallness came over me as if I were standing under a clear winter sky with the Milky Way blazing softly above. But here, on this earth, is stardust with green leaves.
There is a secondary path, a back road as it were, leading from the Southeast corner of the property, to the northwest, and I am totally unsure how or why Bert and Sam built this highway. There’s a curve in the middle of it, as if they were skirting some unseen obstacle, or having problems acquiring right-of-way, but they have etched the path out of the woods and I do not see the woods taking it back from them anytime soon. There are detours, where trees have fallen, but as the branches return to the earth, the Dog Roads straighten out again. At first, when the tree has many spidery and brushy limbs, the detour is wide, but as time goes on the detour tightens, or perhaps goes right over the tree, and eventually the path will cut right through it. The dogs like order, and they dislike their road department falling behind on them. Unless it threatens the fence I am not about to move trees just so the dogs’ morning commute is easier.
There is a seldom used path, a mutt alley perhaps, leading from the Great Oak to the mulch pile. I have no idea why they would use this not often enough to turn it into a full blown road, but often enough to create a sort of path, but this is the nature of the dogs. This is their world, the world where they create their own paths, or not, and it is not for me to question why they have created their way to the Giant Oak. Perhaps it is their Mecca, in as much as two acres can have one.
Before the arrival of Lucas last year the trails were all becoming overgrown with weeds and grass. The perimeter path was taken on real growth and all of these were signs of an aging mutt population. The path taken to the woods was beginning to fade. I long since moved the wood pile and there is no sign that path every existed at all. I still remember the day Sam went over the top of the wood pile to blindside Bert and how much fun that looked like. But I totally understand the process of aging. I will never play tackle football with a bunch of teens, and I do miss that terribly sometimes. Even getting hurt was a lot of fun back then. The more punishment you took on the field the more the older guys respected you. I remember when we had some of the younger kids wanting to play and only a few of them would come out there with us. We hit them just as hard as we hit each other, and I was surprised some of them hung in there for another season. Slowly, the next generation became the older guys and the next generation, the little brothers of the older brothers would tag along and before I knew it, I was moving away and not ever playing football again.
Lucas was not the puppy I planned to get but it was the puppy put in my path. I could have left him there, and maybe I would have gotten some other dog, later, when it was more convenient, when I had more time, and when I had more money, and when I was ready for a puppy. My worst fears were realized when he started eating shoes and tearing wood off the side of the house. Yet undeniably he has brought life back to the pack, to this furry family that I call my own. So what can I do now? Clearly Lucas overmatches the older dogs and doesn’t get as much exercise from them as he would like, and god knows they get more from him than they like.
Should I get the Loki Mutt a puppy?