Sunday, February 28, 2010

Walking Dogs In Mud Season

Let me be clear: this is not the real mud season. This mud, these balmy temps--they are the mere Braxton-Hicks contractions of the year. When the real mud season happens, spring is actually crowning. But enough of obstetrical metaphors. The fact is, we're still in the middle of winter. It's been warmish, though, and the snow that caused all those power outages two days ago has dwindled, and turned to mud on roads and driveways.

But dogs must be walked, so today I put on my serious mud gear: old jeans, up-to-the-knee rubber boots, barn coat. I tied the treat pouch belt around my waist. I grabbed the hiking stick. I told the dogs to sit and stay. I opened the door, said "o.k.!" and off we sailed into the glorious mud.

I had a strategy in mind. The driveway was muddy, but the field in front of the house was still pristine with crusted-over snow. I didn't think that I, or even the dogs, would have the stamina to walk the circuit of the field through the snow. But I could let them run down the hill on the driveway, then cut across the bottom of the field and back up to the house in the snow. That way, I reasoned, I could let the dogs in through the front door, with nothing but wet tracks to worry about: the snowy uphill trek would have washed off all the mud.

And that is what we did, Wolfie and Bisou tearing down the muddy slope, Lexi staying by my side, hoping for cheese bits. Then we got to the bottom of the hill and turned into the field, always a problematic area, for that is where the fox lives. And though it's a good way from the highway, I always worry.

I used to worry about Wolfie and Lexi, who resent that one of their kind who shouldn't be on our sacred land nevertheless has made a home at the bottom of the field. Now I worry terribly about Bisou. The two Shepherds are quite good about coming when I call, even in the midst of temptation. Bisou comes like a shot...most of the time. Although she is technically a lap dog, she has spaniel in her genes, and is much more nose-driven than the Shepherds. When she catches a scent it's no easy task to distract her from it. So far, I have depended on her ardent desire to stay with the pack. But who knows if one of these days the ardent desire to follow the fox will prove irresistible.

It took a bit to entice her away from a certain bush in the danger area, but finally she could not resist the thought of yet another piece of cheese, and came running. As we trudged up the hill, breaking through the thick crust with each step, I reflected on how much Bisou needs training, and how remiss I have been in providing it. She's suffering from third-child syndrome: she's learned the basics from the big dogs; she's little enough that her lapses are easy to ignore; and I've got my hands full. But she really needs some focused attention, and I mean to give it to her. Maybe when spring comes.

And speaking of ardent desires, this very evening I noticed some atypical gestures on Wolfie's part towards Bisou. Not the usual "let's play keep-away with this bone"-gestures, nor the "let's lie down on the floor and pretend we're going to bite each other's face off"-gestures. But the other kind...you know, thrusting-type gestures, along with some very focused sniffing. Could it be that he knows something that I (and Bisou) don't know? I'll keep you informed.

2 comments :

  1. I love obstetrical metaphor. Beware obstetrical reality.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I figured you'd get the Braxton-Hicks bit.

    ReplyDelete