I remember being wine drunk and on a walk one day, looking for someone’s dog who had decided to take a walk of his own, without a leash. Who knows why he did it? Maybe he was bored or maybe he smelled something he couldn’t resist or maybe he heard something he thought needed his immediate attention. He was one of those flop forward eared dogs and had a clunky head to go with it. This was a large but compact and muscular animal who got along well with cats and other dogs, but didn’t like men that much. He liked me, of course, because I speak canine fluently and most dogs appreciate that.
I-75 ran a quarter mile from where he was straying, but there’s a fence up in front of it so that wasn’t a worry. I stopped to listen and the sound of traffic, never ceasing, ebbing, flowing, but never ending, and it was white noise after thirty minutes or so. I hesitated before walking again, wondering if some kid in some car might look out of the window and see a man standing in a pasture a half mile away, standing, not doing anything, maybe it’s a scarecrow, and I wonder now if children these days know anything of scarecrows, or have ever really seen one?
If that child, let’s say about five years old, was to ask a parent about the man in the pasture, seen between billboards advocating one truck stop over another, advertising land for sell in Florida, putting forth the message of one gasoline over another, who’s to say what the answer would be? But then the dog showed up, breaking the daydream up into pieces to be picked up later, or left to spout into other dreams. There was no point in scolding the dog for that would have taught him not to return to me, and truly, he knows better than to run away like this, but something compelled him and he answered. I call his person on the cell, the search is called off, and I decided to answer his call, and walk with him, on a leash, and see where he might have gone. He knew he was in trouble and liked the idea I wasn’t going to say anything to him about it, and he liked even better we were going for a walk, during his walk. He kept looking back and me with that happy dog look on his face as if he had found someone he trusted, and what could make anyone happier?
The dog stops to do dog things that I wonder why he didn’t do in the woods like bears do, but this brings me back to the idea that people on the Interstate, if they were looking out of the window at the right time, might see a man holding a red leash with a black dog at the end of it, with the dog squatted over. Maybe there’s someone who has lost a dog of many years to old age, who sees me out with a dog and wonders if this is my dog, if this is the dog I will lose to old age, and they wonder if I realize how short our time here is with the dogs we love? Maybe there is a child who has always wanted a dog and sees me and wonders if they will ever have a dog to walk with near the road and they wonder if it’s as cool as it looks like it is, and it is, I would tell anyone who asked. The dog finishes and looks back at me to ask if we have to go back yet and we don’t. I don’t feel like handing the leash over to the owners yet, good people that they are, but I want to spend some more time with this dog, because he likes me. I stop to pet him and he tells me he would like to spend some more leash time with me. Sometimes you walk the dog and sometimes you let the dog walk you. He wants to explore the places rodents or rabbit might have hidden recently, and it’s warm enough for snakes so I make sure to keep a good grip on the leash. He’s serious about exploring and I like the fact that he doesn’t tug hard when he wants to go one way or the other, just gentle pressure of direction, civilized animal that he is.
There’s a piece of tin, and what dog doesn’t love a piece of tin, that has weeds growing up around it, and if I was a rodent, or s snake, I would live under a piece of tin and the dog digs around the edges and whines. He looks at me as if he’s asking me to and I have to think about it. I find a stick and tell the dog to sit and wait. He sits but the wait thing… No, you wait. Man, come on! No, you sit and you wait. Dammmit man, you’re killing me! Sit, good dog, now wait. Okay, I’m sitting and waiting. I pry the tin up and he waits and there’s nothing there but the scents! I turn his nose loose on it and he snuffles around with his stub tail wagging hard. The area gets vacuumed. But it’s time to return him to his family.
We cross the pasture and I let him off the leash because his people are coming to meet us. He runs across the grass at full speed and I hope someone on the Interstate sees this dog bolting across the earth in joy, wanting to tell someone what he’s see and smelled. I look towards the road and realize that someone might see us, three people and a dog, and they might wonder what is going on, and maybe some kid will grow up and write about seeing us, and we would never know it, but we would live forever in his memory, like very odd things do.