In the dead of night I can hear my little black and white hunter slip out into the darkness in which she lives. The moon isn’t right for the other two to want to seek out that which only they can sense so I know this is a personal preference for her. Lilith is patrolling. She’s out on the perimeter confronting whatever it is that is out there and she’s doing it alone. Lucas lifts his head, considers the effort, and then puts his head down again. She’ll bark if she needs me, Lucas thinks, and it says a lot about how confident he is that Lilith can handle herself out there.
Bert did this, too. He was a rambling border patrol mutt who liked going out on his own to make sure the night knew we were still paying attention. When the weather was cool enough sometimes I would go with him or wait until he was gone then wait on the end of the trail for him to come back. Sometimes I would just sit on the deck, in the cold, and wait. Towards the end, Bert moved as slowly as a shadow, much more out of old age than stealth. But the moonlit branches of the trees made spotting him nearly impossible and his footfall was invisible to the ear as his coat was to the eye. I always marveled at how Bert blended into the woods when he was hunting or playing. He was a deer colored dog; tawny red and cream blended into a dog jacket. The cold weather was his favorite time to be out on the border. I would wait for him and never hear where he was.
At long last Bert would appear from the trail, walking slowly, but convinced the fenceline was secure. Always, he would walk over to the water bucket and sometimes I would go out into the yard to greet him. If the wind was blowing in the right direction he would know I was there, and I would know when he sensed me because his tail would start wagging. Sometimes he would be right up on me before he realized I was near and we both liked the idea of me surprising him. “Oh hi!” and I would pet his ears. He would walk on ahead of me, getting to the door first always, but that trot became a slow walk towards the end and the missions were always longer. Yet he kept it up. Bert went out at night and he walked the line. It was never a question of whether or not he was physically capable of doing the job the only question was going I open the door and let him out. If I left the door open he was going to go out there. One night he went out during a storm and I think he did it just to prove he could.
Lilith is a little more dainty than that. The first hint of rain or thunder and she’s in the bedroom looking up at the bed or in the living room wanting to get up on the sofa with me. Lilith doesn’t really like the cold as much as Bert but she’ll get out in it when she has to do so. The night is still her time, but under the right conditions, and like Bert it’s a display of force, a promise of violence, and a reminder of a border. The canids are like that, you know. Some of them a lot more than others but all of them have a wolf inside.
Lilith did not like or appreciate the Puppy Wrex and told him so. She told me so. She didn’t like Lucas playing with the new puppy and even though she was warming up to him rather slowly I think she’s happy to see him gone. This has been an interesting experiment in who I am going to have problems with in the future when it comes to foster. While not openly hostile towards Wrex, Lilith never really showed much interest in another dog in the family. When Sam goes I’ll get another dog but how will Lilith react to that?
I think there are a lot of people out there in the dog-less world who have a misperception as to what dogs can and cannot do, or will and will not do. Dogs are powerful creatures armed with a mouthful of teeth and those who are large can do much damage. You’re more likely to get hit by lightning than killed by a dog, but the idea that human beings can treat dogs with cruelty and meanness and not pay a price is just plain stupid. Dogs are fast, strong, and focused carnivores who, lacking training or a sense of family, are going to react to being threatened the same way a wolf might. This bodes ill for hairless apes whose opposable thumbs aren’t gripping a weapon or for those not using their brain, or their heart. My first foster was an experiment on how well I knew my own pack and what I didn’t know.
But mostly what we get from dogs is what we put into them. Little Lilith, my Pibble Princess, will sleep on her back with her legs in the air, her head back and totally at ease. Sometime during the night she will wake up and if the door is open she’ll slip out of the back door on her own. Alone and in the dark, Lilith will explore the boundaries that the fenceline describes to her as her home and the home of her family. Her nose will interesting smells and her feet will carry her unerringly to the Big Oak and then down trail I’ve mowed. Lilith will move east towards the pond and maybe stop to consider the world at the point furthest from the house. The owls and nightbirds have long since ceased to be a problem for her. The foxes and bobcats likely fear her now. The lone coyote might consider her but no, she’s a low slung big headed, Pibble Princess and she is not on anyone’s menu.
The circuit complete, Lilith will head back in, pausing to drink from the same bucket Bert did so many years ago. Back onto the deck, across to the doggie door leading inside, and Lilith now searches for the bed, and the company of those she loves.