Monday, January 28, 2008

Being Caribou

Low: 0°F
High: 25°F
Conditions: Mostly sunny with a light breeze

It was a gorgeous weekend, so the three of us said goodbye to the cats and struck out for an adventure. Our intended destination was the well –named (but poorly-spelled) Catherine Mountain in Downeastern Maine. Once we started hiking, though, we zigged when we should have zagged and ended up at the base of Caribou Mountain instead.

This change of plans seemed to appeal to the caninaturalist, though she looked more than a little disappointed when she discovered that the last living caribou (Rangifer tarandus) was seen in Maine during the early 1930s. Clearly, we had pulled some kind of sinister bait and switch. Ari scowled. I offered to rename the mountain “No Caribou Mountain.” This didn’t strike her as clever.

We told her that this is black bear (Ursus americanus) country: right now sleeping females are waking up just long enough to give birth to a cub. Immediately afterwards, she will fall back asleep for the remainder of the late winter while the cub quietly nurses and tries not to disturb mom. Greg and I love this fact, particularly since it seems to fly in the face of evolutionary biology—or at least successful reproduction. Ari didn't share our interest, probably because—once again—there would be no actual animals for her to observe.

Still, she was mostly a good sport about the trip.

Ari adores being in the woods: I think it taps into a primordial desire to throw off the mantle of domestication and try out life as a wolfy, wild thing. She bites at the air and assumes very serious expressions and pretends not to notice that she is still attached to a leash. This is her best wild dog face. What do you think?

Being a wild dog also means you have to pretend not to notice the terrible racket humans make on their snowshoes, which are noisy enough to ensure any self-respecting animal in a 2-mile radius would make itself scarce. Dogs on leashes don't get to make these choices. This can make them quietly vindictive: I’m pretty certain I heard wolfy laughter as I tripped over a submerged root and went sailing. Domestication is tough, especially when you really, really want to be a wild dog.

Or a fit human.

Caribou Mountain is no slouch, at least by East Coast standards. The vertical rise is close to 1000 feet, and the pitch is remarkably steep in spots. Greg and I were well-winded by the time we reached the top; Ari, on the other hand, looked bored: Hey, guys, when does the real hike start?

I told her I thought she was showing off. She pretended not to hear.

Her wolfy resolve crumbled, though, as soon as we stopped for lunch. Wild things don’t eat peanut butter sandwiches. She took half of one anyway. And, once we reached the truck, she made no bones about fashioning an elaborate nest out of our winter coats and snoozing the whole way home. Wild canid? Maybe not today.


diane said...

Beautiful picture! Very "wolfy." I suppose her seriousness was a bit spoiled with peanut butter in her mouth :)

Me & my puppies said...

Hi Kathryn, Thanks for stopping by "LW"s blog. You're welcome anytime! God willing, I am graduating this May with a BA in biology and love your unique scientific writing style. Ari’s has a great place in cyberspace. I will definitely be stopping by often. ~ Trish

powder-puff said...

Hey Ari!!

Your eyes are amazing, they are so pretty and blue!!

Lots of love!

peace out

sue1101 said...

I think Ari is very clever. She cracks me up!

The Daily Echo said...

Ari I believe you have life all figured out. We love your witty observations and those ice blue eyes had me at "Woo!".

Khyra The Siberian Husky said...

sooooo many misspellings!


BUT I wuv you anyway!

You get to have the khoolest treks and hikes with your humans - are you interested in a fuzzy roommate?


Blue said...

Another fascinating post.
I do like Ari's & your take on life.

Pats & best wishes

Gary, Charity, Scarlett & Katie (waiting on Louis & Lily) said...

Thanks for visiting our blog. Hopefully we will have Newfie puppy pictures soon. Your blog is great. I can't wait to read more of it.

Ari's wild dog face looks so familiar. My almost 15 year old Siberian Husky Scarlett still makes that face. When Scar was 13 some rats infiltrated our yard and she killed them one by one. I couldn't believe she was still such a great hunter at that age. Now all the rats are dead and Scarlett is sad :-( She wanted to make that time in her life last forever.


The Army of Four said...

Ooooh, I love that look! Very "Call of the Wild"ish! Are you sure about that whole "Wild things don’t eat peanut butter sandwiches" thing, though? I mean, what about Yogi and Boo Boo and all those pic-a-nic baskets?! Surely there were PBJs in there!
Play bows,

Fay said...

What a great picture of the Canine Naturalist in a wolfy pose! She's such a lovely girl. Thanks for sharing I really enjoy this blog.

I'm here to say that you have just been tagged. Please go to my blog to see how to play the game.


Holly said...

You are sooo lucky to live in such a beautiful place!! Sounds like you have fun, and best yet, Ari got to snooze all the way home!!


Marigold said...

What can I say? Goats don't 'do' snow. Still, it was quite fascinating reading. Thank you for giving me the experience, Ari, without my actually having to set foot outside the barn. :)

Emma the Golden Girl said...

and the Canine Kids said,
Thank you so much for visiting our blog.
Ari is so gorgeous!
Your blog is amazing and so interesting.
We'll be back again!
We're always so thrilled to make new friends.

Dakota said...

I don't know what's more thrilling - that fabulous hike you took or the half of a peanut butter sandwich you got!!!
Yummmm, hiking.
Yummmm, peanut butter.

Cheese would have made it a perfect day.

Sharon said...

I bet you had fun! The blue eyes are so pretty Ari!