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Ghost Dogs

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Ghost Dogs

It's a busy walk to the mailbox, out at the Hawk's Nest

Yesterday I called the dogs and said it was time to get the mail, a two mile round trip trek which is nearly always about the trek and not the mail. Each jumped up and came running from where they were lying and showed excitement to be included in an adventure. 

There are several routes to the mailbox; the shortest and quickest is down the road but shorter and quicker isn’t always best so we head north rather than west—the direction of our destination. 

Callie is the smallest; she looks just like Benji (of movie fame) but is twice the size. Her method is to stay close and in sight but with forays away to follow a smell for a few seconds then right back—until the next smell attracts her. She may be the smallest but is the most aggressive if a bone or some other tasty morsel is found. 

Glacier, the white German Shepherd, runs parallel to us almost out of sight. His white coat is easy to see in the forest but is far enough away to only get a glimpse every minute or so. It’s easy to track him because he is terrorizing squirrels who chatter back, exposing his presence. However, with a call or whistle he is beside me. 

Nikki, the biggest at about 90 pounds, stays close, stopping to sniff the weeds and grass at the edge of track we are on. Nikki looks like a Rhodesian Ridgeback mixed with everything else in the woods that night. She is rarely out of sight and often under foot but is as much a joy to be with as the others. 

I enjoy each personality as they do their “wild thing” while being obedient to my instructions. I never worry about them disappearing or going on a chase; they all want to be with me but under their terms. I concur with those terms which makes the journey fun for us all. 

The last hundred yards to the mailboxes is always on the road. Glacier will explore a circle several feet wide around the boxes, Callie will check for new smells on the posts and trees close by while Nikki will stop before we get there and wait. “Why go all the way and back,”she seems to say. 

As I walk, the joy and companionship of these pets fills my thoughts with thankfulness for them. Each one is part of the group while still being themselves. Nikki, in continual molt because she will not tolerate being brushed, wants to be close but still explore. Callie, with her long hair full of seed heads and long ears flopping with each step, is checking out as much as possible without letting me out of her sight. Glacier is a hot dog. He runs full tilt jumping logs, even off low cliffs. Running down steep hills he charges so fast he needs to take an occasional long leap for his feet to catch up with him. 

Glacier and Callie lived together for only about two years, Nikki and Glacier only lived together about one year, Callie and Nikki were together for about four years. While they were together they complemented each other and had fun. 

I usually take the short way home and as I approach our place each dog goes to its respective grave and lies down again. I wonder who else they had been running with while they were running with me. 

The memory of my relationship with each and all of these four-legged friends is fresh in my mind. Glacier died in 2003, Callie in 2005. Just last Friday, Dr. Mike and Maggie came out and, while Nikki lay on her bed, she received her last shot. 

They even helped take her to the grave I had dug near her friends for her final rest. Their offer to lend a hand with the closing of the grave was turned down. Linda and I needed to do that alone. 

On Saturday we were hiking one of our favorite trails. There is a log next to a small stream where we often sit and rest. Nikki liked the place as well; she would wade in and take a few laps of water then stand in the cool mud and rest her feet. 

As we sat the air was filled with smells of the cycles of life. Dead vegetation was decomposing into nourishment for new life.

The day after we found out Nikki was terminal and in pain, two close friends got married in our back yard. It was wonderful a celebration about a new beginning while we anticipated our loss. 

The day after the wedding we Skyped with Ana and Noah. It was fun to see the energy of our two-year-old granddaughter Alice Lindy. We also could see just how pregnant Ana is with Lucy Claire—another new life and new beginning. We are looking forward to being with them and to celebrate the arrival of Lucy in a few weeks.

All these events tell us of the complexities of our humanity. We can be excitedly happy while at the same time feel deep sadness. It is those pluralities of life that cannot be ignored and are not really individual. Rather they are nearly always “both and.” 

Well, it’s about time to get the mail again. One of these days Lucy and Alice will also do the trek with me. I wonder if they well see the ghost dogs that accompany us. 

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Author info

Ernie Hawks Ernie Hawks is a former theater director who has branched into the creative fields of writing and photography. He lives in a cabin in Athol with his lovely wife Linda, and feeds the birds in his spare time.

Tagged as:

pets, dogs, The Hawks Nest

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