Sam woofs in a horse whisper now. There is no volume in his voice and there seem to be no force behind the sound. If the house catches on fire and Sam is the only one awake we will burn. Sam sounded houndish all his life until he came down with a URI last August. He had a bray that would carry in the woods and there were creatures who knew that voice and feared that voice. This was Sam. This was a sleek black hunter who was built for speed and knew how to use it. Head down, legs churning, body whipping like a snake in short grass and speed, Sam. I never saw a small mammal get out of the way fast enough and when Sam and Bert hunted as a team they pushed fear ahead of them in a distorted wave of chaos. Run, run, blindly, run hard, allow panic to take over for there is nothing else but every effort to get away and there is no escape except for the possibility that there will be someone who freezes and allows the rest to run.
It was nearly a military thing when those two hit the woods. Sam’s speed was always the main weapon, always the defining part of the hunt, and Bert was more than content to play the part of the closer. Whenever the prey ran from Sam, ran without hope or prayer, Sam always was able to use his skill to turn the prey towards Bert. This was not the most fleet hunter afoot but Bert was strong, barrel chested and powerful. If Sam was the hammer then Bert was the anvil. Sam was a Shaker of Death, grabbing armadillos by their heads and snapping their necks in an instant but Bert was a brawler. He went in head first, mouth open, ears back, snarling like a lion, and he was all about the fight. I saw him collide with a raccoon one time and I was certain Bert would take a lot of damage from it but the power in his jaws was overwhelming; a bite to the throat, hard, fast, true, and it was done.
I learned everything I wanted to know about pack hunting from those two and it made me feel much safer inside my home. These were not fully domesticated pets who would be defenseless if the time came. These were well armed partisan fighters who did not live to hunt or hunt o live, but they had the skill they needed to keep the homeland safe from those who might trespass. I didn’t realize how much those two had aged until I got a puppy. Getting a very young dog suddenly showed me that both my beloved dogs were not only getting old they were already there.
Sam stood at the wall this morning and scratched at it to be let out. He lost the door. He’s lost inside his own home. He’s in the bedroom trying to find his way back out again and I hope he doesn’t get into the woods with this sort of confusion.
So much, so very much, has happened in his fourteen years on this earth and as it winds down to the bitter end I did not expect it to look like this at all. Somewhere the spirit resists the decay of the mind and the body, and is that all there is left?
Will I recognize this in the mirror some day?