Monday, July 30, 2007


Parks across the country are trying to accomodate city-dwelling dogs. In fact, the oldest park in the country—Boston Common—is experimenting with leash-free zones and hours in downtown Boston. The Common, first established around 1634, began as a place for livestock grazing and military encampments. At that time, there were all sorts of dogs around. Later, it was used as a site for public executions. As my mom likes to remind me, one of our ancestors was hung there for being a witch. Actually, she was a Quaker—but Colonial Puritans don’t like splitting such theological hairs. Today, Boston Common is one of the most-visited examples of urban nature in North America. It’s also near Henry David Thoreau’s old stomping grounds. I decide we have to visit.

Ari remains surprisingly subdued for most of the trip. But once we get about 20 miles outside of Boston, she’s alert and eager. She paces between the front and back seat, trying to take in the thickening traffic and tall buildings. Eventually, she drapes herself over the driver’s seat, resting her front paws on my forearm and sticking her snout out the cracked window. We pass a Massachusetts state trooper, and I wonder if we can be ticketed for ungainly dog poses.

The driving directions to Boston Common take us through the narrow streets of Chinatown. We’ve encountered a very different kind of gorge here: the granite rock walls are replaced by sky-scrapers and the white water with a constant torrent of people. There’s much to see and smell, and the pup does her best to catalogue it all. She’s never been in a city before, and I suspect it overwhelms and intimidates her. As if to prove me right, she stays close to me after we park the car, crouching against my legs and looking around nervously. The arrogant teenager has been humbled. It’s my meek puppy here with me now. Still, I hold her leash extra tight and double check the clasp: if she gets away now, I doubt I’ll ever see her again.

As we enter the Common, we are greeted by a deafening chorus of, Oh, look, a DOG!!!, sung by about 200 grade school children. Ari smiles nervously and wags her tail, but she continues to lean against me. Still, she’s intrigued by the kids, who are all dressed in identical orange shirts and bright yellow hats, complete with exaggerated bill and lots of orange feathers. “We’re ducks,” one of them explains. “Quack,” she adds for emphasis. “Quack! Quack!!”

Ari gives one of her half-barks, half-whines. She’s not sure how she’s supposed to respond to this giant flock. They look like pals, but they’re not behaving like any other critter she has encountered. The children quack again and waddle towards the duck pound.

We say goodbye and walk deeper into the Common, passing a group of three college-aged guys. As we pass them, I hear one tell his buddies that a woman just walked by with a blue-eyed fox on a leash. Urban definitions of nature, I am quickly learning, are clearly relative.

That’s even true when it comes to what constitutes a park. Bostonians have a conflicted relationship with their Common. Some scorn it, calling it the city’s largest—and dirtiest—vacant lot. Others relish its verdant fields and shady groves, calling it an oasis in an otherwise crowded metropolis. There’s something to both interpretations. The Common is worn in places, and it’s certainly not pristine. But it’s also lovely in its green coolness and mature foliage. I marvel at the height of its elms and oaks—home to many of the same bird species we have back in our pine woods. And at this hour of the day—barely 10:00 a.m.—there’s a peacefulness to the place also very much like our town forest.

We watch as a monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) alights upon a park bench. Ari is momentarily transfixed, but is soon distracted by an enormous gray squirrel (Sciurus niger), who scurries up a tree. Much larger and less bellicose than its red cousin, this squirrel can only be described as succulent with its beefy flanks and round belly. I can hardly blame Ari when she lunges at it. Somehow, the rotund squirrel retains enough rodent nimbleness to race halfway up the tree trunk when pursued. Ari tries to follow, getting about two feet up before remembering 1) she is attached to a leash and 2) she cannot climb. She looks like the Looney Tunes coyote, suspended in midair before plummeting back to the ground. Still, she’s regained some of her confidence: having forgotten about the city surrounding us, she drags us merrily from tree to tree in search other mega-squirrels.

Our serpentining course takes us near the Visitor’s Center, where two unleashed little white dogs frolic in a sunny spot of the Common, chasing each other and a few dry leaves.
“Did you see that,” asks a voice behind me. “The rat population is really growing!”
I turn and find myself facing a young man dressed in colonial attire, including a large felt hat and white stockings. He introduces himself as Patrick Gilson, an 18th-century Irish highwayman turned Boston butcher.

“There’s only one highway in Colonial Boston,” he explains. “So I wasn’t getting a lot of work. The eighteenth-century meat industry is more profitable. But less rewarding.”

He asks if we would like to purchase a tour of the Commons, but I decline and explain our specific reason for visiting.
“I call it caninaturalism,” I say.
“Boston is a great dog town,” he insists, rat comment aside. “We’re really dog friendly—in all the neighborhoods.”

When he’s not a colonial meat man, ‘Patrick’ is Chad Clayton, method actor and sometimes waiter. “We have a lot of certified helper dogs visit my restaurant,” he says. “They’re our favorite customers. You see them all over downtown, too.”
I remind him that we’re here for urban nature. “What about the Common,” I ask. “Is it nature?”
“Nature or natural?” he asks.
A philosopher highwayman. I’m impressed. “How about the first one?”
“Well,” he says. “there’s nature here, isn’t there?”
I can’t argue with that.
He asks what we’ve observed.
I’m embarrassed to admit that my sensitive, astute dog—the one who noticed the first trout lilies of the season, who adores lichens and finds hidden woodpecker chicks—has eyes only for squirrels.
“You mean falcon food.”
Patrick-Chad tells me that the Common boasts a resident peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), famous for swooping up squirrels in front of sensitive tourists. He says he’s also seen owls, turtles, and a coyote while working as a guide.
I ask if he’s had much interaction with dogs in the Common.
“Well-behaved ones can run around off-leash,” he says. “I think that’s good. It adds to the atmosphere. Back in the day, dogs were here all the time. So were sheep and cattle.”
“Do you get many dogs on your tours?”
“Actually, I’ve never had a dog on a tour. But I like to end each one with a little dog story. Do you want to hear it?”
Of course I do.
“Well, leading up to the Revolution, Boston grew so quickly and got so dirty that colonists tried to ban all dogs under 12 inches to keep down the mess. Everyone had to follow the rule,” he says. “Except for Sam Adams. He had a giant Newfoundland named Queue. Queue only attacked red coats, so he was allowed to stay. During his life, Queue was stabbed, shot, and set on fire.”
“Did he die?” I ask.
“Doesn’t everyone?”
I grimace at the would-be philosopher king. He relents. “Eventually. But not from any of those.
His heart went out when he was 17.”
I nod, dutifully impressed.
Ari, meanwhile, has been enveloped into the marketing strategy of Patrick-Chad’s co-workers. A man in a three-point hat and doublet threatens a tourist family that this fierce British cur will gnaw off their legs if they don’t agree to a tour. The family takes a look at Ari and purchases four tickets. We thank the highwayman for his time and return to the greenery.
By now, human activity is in full swing around the Common. A large Mennonite Choir vies for audiences with a heavily-pierced girl holding a guitar bigger than she is. Bands of tourists make their way from monuments to pretzel carts, and dozens of suited workers spend their lunch time beneath the large trees. No falcons or turtles, but plenty of pigeons, sparrows, and squirrels.
And, of course, more recreating dogs.
An attractive gay couple with a poodle approaches us. The dogs hit it off right away. I tell them Ari is a little overwhelmed with this much stimulation around her.
“She’s a country mouse,” I say. “It’s her first time in the big city.”
“So is Sofie,” they say. “She lives in New Hampshire and visits us two weeks a year.” This is apparently a settlement agreement from a past relationship. They’re doing their best to give Sofie a good vacation. “That’s why we came down to the Common today. We were hoping to find some dogs off leash to play with.”
I explain Ari’s belief she is a coyote and apologize—without Greg to help me get her under control again today, I doubt I’ll ever see her again if I let her loose.
A young woman with a baby jogger and a yellow lab approaches.
“They look promising,” I say. But no luck—according to the woman, the lab has caught one too many squirrels to be trusted. Ari looks jealous.
The Common is getting hot and crowded. The pup is panting and is so overwhelmed that even a romp with the poodle isn’t all that appealing any more. We say goodbye and head back to the car.
On the way home, I make a quick detour to the town of Concord. We stop at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, a deliciously cool and shaded knoll overlooking downtown. When it was first established, Thoreau, Emerson, and other transcendentalists imagined the cemetery as more park-like than anything else. Townspeople would stroll, picnic, or even listen to bands there. Now it’s another pilgrimage site for fans of the writers who, along with Hawthorne, Alcott, and others, are buried there. Ari and I walk to Author’s Ridge, where they rest below giant pines and maples. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s grave is a giant, uncarved chunk of pink granite—just like the rocks we stood upon at the Penobscot. Thoreau’s is much humbler, just a small marker in his family’s plot. Reverent visitors have embellished it, however, with a bounty of pine cones, maple leaves, and sunflowers. Ari sniffs each offering thoughtfully. To this collection, we add a small stone from the river. Perhaps, I tell him and the pup, it once rested atop the great mountain neither of them has climbed.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Independence Day

It's the start of Fourth of July weekend, but in keeping with our agreement, there will be no independence for this little dog. Instead, we pack up her tie-down and lead line, suit her up in harness and leash, and then head back to the Penobscot River. As we set out, I joke that perhaps Brent will be able to work his rehabilitative magic on this inmate. If not, maybe he can lend Ari a tin cup to scrape across the bars of her jail cell. Greg gives me a tired look in return.

Still, even dealing with our delinquent dog can’t really dampen Greg’s spirits. We are on our way to join our friends Mike and Jean, along with their three-year-old daughter, Olivia, on the Penobscot. This time, we’ll be camping in the shadows of Katahdin, Maine’s highest mountain: a craggy, sleeping dinosaur with a slight curve it its spine and folds of granite running down each enormous flank. The five tribes comprising the Wabanaki Nation have long considered this mountain holy. Out of respect for this sacredness, they do not climb the mountain but, instead, conduct annual religious ceremonies at its base, paying tribute to Kathadin and its spirits.
For most visitors, however, Katahdin is far less a spiritual place than it is a mere cardiovascular challenge. The crown jewel of Maine’s Baxter Park, a 200,000 acre wilderness area, Katahdin sees thousands of tourists each year, making it one of the most popular recreation destinations in the area. Because the alpine landscape is so fragile, the park limits the number of permits it offers for hiking, camping, and climbing each year. They are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis beginning January 1st. Regardless of winter weather, dozens of intrepid hopefuls spend their New Year’s Eve camped out in front of the state park headquarters, awaiting a chance to summit the grand mountain or cast their flies and match wits with brook trout eight months later.

Today, the long line of vehicles crawling towards the park confirms that popularity. It also makes for very slow going. As Greg navigates the traffic and Ari sleeps in the back of the cab, I count cars and trucks. There are two distinct types of vehicles here: large trucks with ATVs, fishing poles, and gun racks; and sporty cars overflowing with kayaks, backpacks, and ‘Leave No Trace’ bumper stickers. Collectively, they represent the confluence of cultures that meet each summer here in the North Woods: conservationists and preservationists; conservatives and liberals. But for the most part, the politics of red and blue America blend smoothly here, creating what political pundits call a purple response to the environment.

I’m most interested in the history of outdoor recreation around Katahdin, and I consider this something of a literary pilgrimage. In 1846, 29-year-old Henry David Thoreau took a break from his time at Walden Pond and ventured up this way with five companions, including Wabnaki guide Joe Polis. Thoreau later immortalized the trip in a collection of three essays collected posthumously as The Maine Woods, a wonderfully lyrical account of life in Maine’s North Woods. I have the book tucked in my backpack and fully intend to read aloud at the campfire until someone objects. Thoreau loved this place—and so do I.

In spite of their lofty ideals and rhapsodic prose, Thoreau’s party failed to summit the great mountain. We, too, will fail in this endeavor, albeit for very different reasons. The area that is now part of the official park was made so by a gift from the once-governor, Percival P. Baxter. A great nature lover and outdoor enthusiast, Baxter also had a prescient eye for the future of conservation and land use. Foretelling what would become very real issues of land preservation in the second half of the century, Baxter bequeathed the park to the state in 1931, designating it a wilderness and wildlife sanctuary. Because it is not part of the state or national park systems, Baxter Park is free to create rules and policies based on the late governor’s view of nature. One such rule forbids dogs from entering the park. As a result, we and the coydog will camp just outside its boundaries.

I’m curious about this rule, so we stop by park headquarters to speak with Heather Haskell, the park’s interpretive specialist. She seems conditioned to questions regarding the dog policy and offers me a rehearsed—but friendly—explanation.

“Percival Baxter was a great animal lover,” she assures me. “He had a series of Irish Setters all named Garry. You know, Garry I, Garry II, Garry III, Garry IV, and so on. He even built a miniature governor’s mansion on the property for his dogs to occupy. One of the Garries died while he was in office. Baxter actually lowered the state flag to half-mast. People protested, but he didn’t care. That’s how committed he was.”

I nod appreciatively, but she still hasn’t said anything about the policy. I try to ask more directly. Why no dogs?

She seems uneasy, and I get the sense that she has been challenged by aggressive dog owners not willing to leave pooch at home. I tell her we don’t object—we’re just curious.

“Well,” she begins, “the park is a sanctuary. Early on, domesticated animals like dogs and horses were allowed in. But over the years, Baxter began to realize a few things. He was making the park for wild animals. Dogs can interfere with that. They chase squirrels, run down deer, and cause stress to the animals. Some people say, then, that they just won’t take their dogs on hikes. But if you leave your dog at a campsite or in the car, the dog’s upset and barks all day long. That’s no good either. Eventually, we just said no to pets altogether.”

I ask her about the response they receive to this policy. She admits that it varies, and that some visitors feel very strongly about bringing their animals with them on vacation. “And not just dogs,” she adds. “We’ve seen hamsters and snakes and parrots on shoulders. We have to say no to all of them. Even if they’re domestic animals, they can spread disease. And it goes both ways—if your pet runs into a skunk or a porcupine, it can really wreck your trip.”

As soon as we arrive at our campground outside the park, Ari proves Heather Haskell right. The pup lunges at the end of her leash, pursuing a red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus). Ari adores them, and back home she plunges into the brush each time she catches sight of their hurky-jerky movement. Tail wagging furiously, she offers each squirrel in the town forest a quick playbow and then takes off in hot pursuit in search of another new friend. Here at the campsite, she seems elated that her rodent compatriots have chosen to join us. She spins with pleasure and wags her whole body at the specimen glowering from a large pine tree.

Little does Ari know she couldn’t have picked a more peevish object for her affection. Despite their Disney-esque appearance, these rodents are the curmudgeons of the boreal forest. Known for their aggressive defense calls and lack of patience for intruders, they possess a wherewithal that far exceeds their 7-ounce frames. Red squirrels also have an outrageously long mating period—from January to September in northern New England. During that time, most females will give birth to two litters of about 5 squirrelettes each. But although their breeding season is quite long, an individual female invites coupling only two days a year—one day for each reproductive cycle. The rest of the time, they’re known to be surprisingly aggressive in warding off any potential courtship. They’re not much more amiable when it comes to their kids. Red squirrel mothers wean their babies after about seven weeks and given them their walking papers after eighteen. This time of year, mom has probably just given her kids the old heave-ho and is gleefully returning to her life of pugnacious solitude. Definitely no time for sentimentality or attachment here.

No tolerance for curious pups, either. This furry critter is quick to reproach Ari. As the pup draws near, rump wagging hopefully and leash trailing behind, the little squirrel pokes its head out of a nook in the tree and scolds—loudly. It chuffs an angry squawk that is half cheep and half hiss from deep within its tiny body, causing its entire torso to convulse from the effort. I’m glad Heather can’t see this obviously stressed rodent—she might push for a ban on dogs altogether. Even Ari recognizes the sound as one of distressed antagonism. It gives her pause. She sits on her back haunches and cocks her head, wondering why the squirrel isn’t enjoying the game as much as she is. The squirrel continues to berate her. Ari tries her best to mimic the chuffing, perhaps hoping that a medley might lure her new friend out of the tree. No luck.

As Ari tries to engage the squirrel, we work on our own tactical maneuver, which consists primarily of trying to steer Ari away from the squirrel. The pup doesn’t notice our advances, but the squirrel does. She halts her tirade against Ari just long enough to assess us. Who’s side are we on? The squirrel can’t tell. She gives us a quick reproach, just in case. Miraculously, Ari doesn’t notice this division in the squirrel’s attention. Instead, she paws at the ground, hoping this will attract her new friend.

It does, but not in a friendly sort of way. The squirrel works its way, headfirst, down a section of the tree and screams at Ari even more loudly. Ari takes this as a hopeful sign and rises on her hind legs, placing both front paws on the trunk of the tree. Meanwhile, Greg has taken matters into his own hands and swooped up the pup as if she were a football. He refrains from an end-zone victory dance.

A few minutes later, our friends arrive. I pull in Ari, worried that her enthusiasm will be too much for little Olivia, but the pup is surprisingly subdued around the toddler. It’s as if she somehow understands Olivia’s youth and fragility. Instead of mauling Olivia with her usual display of spirited greetings, Ari sits sphinx-like next to her new friend, enduring an assault of floppy pats to the top of her head without so much as grimacing. By dinner time, Olivia and Ari are great comrades: the former gathers mounds of leaves and acorns and dirt, offering them all to the pup on a bright red plastic shovel. Ari dutifully takes each scoop, holding its contents in her mouth until Olivia turns her back and she can spit out the forest detritus without offending her new buddy.

The two play this game for hours. As best as I can tell, neither seems all that interested in the fact that we have left the comforts of our homes in order to sleep in the woods. It makes me wonder if they even register the distinction. Kinch certainly did. As far as he was concerned, we embarked upon pure wilderness each time we went camping. This necessitated a decided shift in behaviors, too. On previous camping trips Kinch would hunker down into survival mode as soon as we arrived—burying his food into secret caches and barking at every rustle in the trees.

This was a dog running on pure instinct. He didn’t want to be petted, and he certainly didn’t want to play. We were, he seemed to insist, in crisis mode. That the humans didn’t acknowledge as much clearly infuriated him. He became a self-appointed sentry and team leader, shuttling us this way and that. No time to recreate—we just needed to endure. God willing, we might just get out of that campground alive.

In retrospect, this behavior makes sense to me. Having been on the lam after getting his hunting-dog pink slip, Kinch knew from an early age that wilderness isn’t always your friend. Ari doesn’t seem to share this sense of nature, and she eats dinner with her usual abandon, eventually settling in with us around the campfire. Still, she is more vigilant than usual: even as her eyelids begin to droop, her ears remain alert and hone in on any sound. When one piques her interest, she gives a threatening growl or two before settling back in. This delights Olivia, who clearly sees through the tough-dog exterior. She begins joining Ari in the guttural barks. I refrain from pointing out that no creature, no matter how timid, is likely to be intimidated by this pair of wild things.

By 10:00 p.m., the fire begins to die down. Mike and Greg wrap up their plans for the next day’s paddling, and the four of us stare quietly into the fire. I admit that I’m exhausted and excuse myself for the evening, leading Ari over to our tent. Inside, it takes her about five minutes of shoving her nose into the taut canvas before she understands that, all appearances to the contrary, we are actually inside. She makes several circles around the circumference of the tent, and then finally nestles at the foot of my sleeping bag, delighted to be finally sleeping like a pack. Her happy snores punctuate the cool night air, making me feel close and safe.

Sunday, July 1, 2007


July is vacation season. On the first day of the month, I call my mom to see how she has been since hers. It’s been two weeks since she visited, and I still haven’t heard from her. When we speak, she is polite but distant. I worry our debates cut deeper than I thought. We chatter about superficialities—our flower gardens, the weather, my dad’s travel. I tell her I am about to embark upon a 3-day trip aboard the Angelique, a stunning tall-masted ship and part of the Maine Windjammer Association. I’ll be writing about the ship for a regional newspaper, alternating between client and crew for the 72-hour voyage. This piques her interest, and she asks me to tell her more. I explain that each year, these classic sailing ships carry nearly 10,000 vacationers in and out of the islands in the Penobscot Bay. The ships are known not only for the unadulterated views they offer, but also for their conservation of Maine’s island network.
What they’re not known for is being dog friendly, so Greg agrees to take Ari with him on a river trip. He’ll return for a few days to restock his supplies and rendezvous with me; then the three of us will return to the mountains together.
I return from my nautical adventure invigorated and purged of any care or woe. Greg’s clenched jaw tells me his trip has been considerably less cathartic. He listens politely as I spin yarns about knots and island life, but I can tell his mind is elsewhere. After he casts a third tired look in the direction of Ari, I begin to catch his drift.
“The pup,” I ask. “What is it?”
“She’s crazy. I don’t know what to do with her.”
I look again at Ari, who is curled up and snoring in a nook near the woodstove. Her nose and whiskers twitch lightly as she enters a REM cycle. She is the model of docility. “She doesn’t look out of control,” I say gently.
“That’s the thing about her,” Greg says. He has the aura of a conspiracy theorist. He lowers his voice and narrows his eyes, casting them in the direction of the sleeping dog. “She can change.”
I try not to laugh. “You mean like a vampire?”
“Vampires don’t change. You’re thinking of werewolves. And that’s what we have here.” He considers the hyperbole and decides it is too much. “Sort of a werewolf,” he corrects. “More like a wolf in sheep’s clothes. Or a coyote in dog clothes. You know what I mean.”
I have no idea. But I soon learn.
While I was cruising the coast and making new friends, Greg and Ari arrived at his favorite riverside campground on the banks of the Penobscot River—a truly wild place in the northern half of the state filled with thick forest and miles of unsettled white water. There, they met with other paddling friends, a handful of children, and a persnickety cat named Friendly. The grown-ups agreed to a staggered kayaking schedule so that kids, canine, and cat could be supervised at all times. During their down time, Greg and Ari took a quick swim in the river and wandered about the campsite, chatting with new friends. Ari was unleashed, and that seemed to suit them both fine. When it was Greg’s turn to paddle, he left Ari and her leash in the care of our friend Brent. For about an hour or so, Ari hung close to Brent, wading in the river with him and even taking a 3-mile hike. That, she decided, was enough domesticity for one day.
“He said you could see it in her eye,” Greg says. “A little switch was thrown somewhere. She turned into a wild dog.”
“Ferocious?” I try to picture this snoring little creature turning into a werewolf. Even knowing her propensity for willful mischief, it’s impossible.
“Not ferocious,” Greg explains. “Just wild. Totally uncatchable.”
Apparently when people began returning to the campsite after a day of adventure, Brent decided it would be safest to leash up the pup. But Ari wasn’t about to go gently down that road.
Each time Brent moved toward her, she’d scuttle just out of reach. When he took a step back, she’d crouch forward and give a play bark, trying to lure him into lunging at her. When he did, she’d leap away. He tried bribing her with bologna slices, making a little trail of them around the campsite, but she managed to steal all the lunch meat before he could grab her collar. He tried acting disinterested and went to read a book. She accompanied him, making sure he knew she was tantalizingly close but would not be caught.
“This went on for three hours,” Greg tells me. “Three hours. Brent was about ready to kill her, he was so frustrated. And he works with prisoners for a living.”
“I know where Brent works,” I remind him. “And don’t forget, the fundamental difference here is that most prisoners can’t escape. He doesn’t have to catch them.”
Greg fails to see the humor in this last observation. “Brent calls her coy-dog now, you know. He thinks she’s going to run off with her coyote forbearers. He says we better watch out.”
After four full months of canine research, I am positively brimming with information on this subject. I eagerly unleash a stream of what I am certain is fascinating information. I tell Greg that evolutionary biologists have, in fact, confirmed reproduction between domestic dogs and Eastern coyotes. Scientists used to believe that such coupling only happened when it was necessitated by breeding pressures (in other words, when there were no other likely mates to be found). Now, however, they’re beginning to think it’s just another tale of star-crossed lovers. Radio-collared coyotes have been observed instigating play with domestic dogs for years now—wrestling, pouncing, and play biting, all using universal dog cues that say, ‘this is a game.’ A well-known study followed one hapless coyote who tried repeatedly to mate with a golden retriever in Nebraska. In the end, she seemed fairly receptive, though her owners certainly weren’t. They chased the coyote away. A few months later, he was shot and killed by a hunter.
This story sounds like the canine world’s version of West Side Story . It makes me wonder how the pup would do in her own inter-species musical. I tilt my head, humming “I Feel Pretty” and trying to assess Ari’s likeness to Natalie Wood. This causes Greg to sigh heavily. My new enthusiasm for esoteric biology and classic Broadway is not mutual. Reluctantly, I return to the drama at hand.
“So,” I ask. “What happened? You got her on the leash somehow.”
“When I got back from paddling, Brent was leaving a giant trail of bologna slices around the entire campground. It was, like, two pounds of lunch meat. But coy-dog wasn’t interested. She had met another dog by then. . .”
“. . . so we waited until she was distracted by him. And then we tackled her.”
Oh dear.
Greg is clearly frustrated and probably embarrassed by this latest show of independence. The looks he casts in the pup’s direction are not warm ones. But as his voice rises, Ari stirs. She sighs and rubs her snout with both front paws, then flips onto her back and resumes her nap. My heart leaps up at this sight. How could you not love this dog?
Still, I know Greg is right. We have a bratty adolescent on our hands—and right on developmental schedule. Even with her hysterectomy, Ari is a hormonal machine right now. And that makes her a danger to herself. She has the will and strength of a mature canine, but none of an adult’s common sense. To make matters worse, dogs this age undertake some of the same rebellious tendencies seen in human teenagers. There are good evolutionary reasons for this shift: it marks a dog’s independence and ability to exist away from her litter. Still, in the human world, it’s a recipe for disaster—or a serious accident—if she decides to go romping in a busy street or the wrong person’s yard. Consequently, Greg and I agree that, caninaturalism or no, this dog will remain leashed until she graduates from this phase. All three of us hope that commencement day will be very soon.