I like to hunt after work. In truth, I’d like to hunt during work time too, but my employer likely wouldn’t approve the daily leave. The hours of available daylight are waning but I can still get in a good 120 minutes of searching for the ever elusive grouse and the crazy plentiful squirrel.
This is my absolute favorite time of year. The ground is finally freezing which means the mud and dog poop are too. The hard frost laid down during each night never completely disappears in the shade of the trees and scrub. Bird and beast have a spike of energy as they are compelled by instinct to finish filling their storehouses for the winter. Our dogs are practically vibrating with enthusiasm. I can smell winter.
While slowly cruising down the trail on the ATV (slow because of Spud, the fattest husky in the world), walking in the woods or just sitting and watching the dogs run loose through the tall swamp grass, I start to think about manyof the dogs now gone.
Caleb, the sweetest, silliest, most loyal dog I’ve ever known. He was my heart for 10 years.
Spot who was completely deaf and not a bad lead dog – he took his cues from the dog he was paired with. He was a shy dog and saved his love for the few he knew and trusted.
Jewel, a true dog yard dog. She never left the yard wherever we lived despite having the freedom to roam. After retirement, she would wait anxiously at the entrance to the yard for any team that had left and she would diligently check each dog house when all sleds and gear were put away to ensure all dogs were accounted for.
There are so many more of course but I have to finish with Scotty, my first lead dog. She was fierce in harness but a gentle soul who didn’t exactly bark but made a sound like “woof.” Scotty humored me – a lot – but if she was bored with a trail she would suddenly drag the entire team and me off into the woods. The air would be blue as I untangled the ensuing mess and she would just sit there, tongue lolling, and a satisfied grin on her face. I whispered my love to her as she took her final breath at the ripe old age of 17. This is one of my favorite pics of her.
Scotty has been gone for 11 years but today I saw her again. And yesterday too. As I drove down the trail I looked behind me and there she was, trotting along. Funny thing is, that I didn’t think it was weird at all. I’ve seen her before. I wonder what she wants or perhaps what I need. Either way, it was good to see her again.