The Day Before: 2008
We've just dipped into the ravine when a dog we've never before seen insinuates himself silently between us and our two little dogs. It's a middling-size Husky-Malamute mix, a really lovely looking dog, and from a quick sizing up not at all a threat to ours, as so many of those breeds, mixed or otherwise often are, quick to dominate.
Good conformation, nice colouring, obviously a pleasant disposition. He's curious, that's all. No evidence of his owner in sight anywhere; he's been let off his leash, free to wander in this landscape that poses no threat to a dog. And he demonstrates no inclination to leave us any time soon, presenting somewhat of a dilemma. His presence is no obvious nuisance to other dogs.
Unless that dog happens to be our smaller one, a male toy poodle who feels himself to be equal in size and belligerence to any dog around, including this one. Riley's reaction is to immediately demonstrate to this large, grey dog that it is he, a minuscule apricot doglet that is king of the ravine, and not this newcomer.
We swoop him up, both to protect the Malamute from Riley's obvious intention to charge, and to protect Riley from a potentially disastrous response.
The dog allows me to stroke his neck, tussle his ears, then he's off, retracing his steps, to rejoin his master, wherever he happens to be. And Riley is set back onto his own four feet still growling and snarling, and looking back from time to time, as we continue on our way. Soon the all-enveloping silence resumes and we plod along.
Button, resolutely, the new-fallen snow creating no obstacles for her, with her long-legged and confident gait. She looks askance at Riley's impetuous stupidity, preferring to remain detached, uncensorious, happy to be ignored in the presence of strange dogs. All the commotion that Riley's behaviour unleashes makes her nervous, and she's glad to leave it all behind.
For his part, ridiculously ill-mannered Riley now begins to resemble nothing less than a rabbit, as he begins his fresh-snow gait halfway between the motion of a rocking horse and a steadily hopping rabbit. His long floppy ears complete the illusion, flipping up and then down with every rocking hop he takes, anxious to maintain his place with the rest of us.
The long shrill staccato of a Pileated woodpecker calls from somewhere off in the woods, trailing after us. Wind has started to pick up curtains of fine snow from laden branches and wisps it all about us. The sun manages somehow to part the skies for a moment, and lights up the snow.
This is nature's poem to us.