Assess and deal with immediate threats but aside from those, first things first, kill the dog. In most cases the dog will be a true menace or at the very least, a nuisance. Killing it removes all doubt as to your intentions while at the same time removing an obstacle, always beneficial. (USMC training manual for urban and suburban incursions, vol.7, chapter 2.)
The thing smells, bad. It’s been rolling in seaweed, a rotting heron and dead crabs and it was necessary to chase it away from a not so newly gone seagull it wanted to eat. Just a walk on the beach. Rapping the tin sign with my knuckle signaled the off leash area and he sat patiently till unclipped. Then he was off like a rocket, bounding over the driftwood logs and streaking at the tideline, nothing touching the ground, forelegs stretched out, front tail and hind legs just as linear, an animated, streamlined variant of the Greyhound Bus Line logo. He loves the beach.
He growls as he naps.
Two weeks back, when the rattlesnake bit him, his behavior was as timid as a lamb. Let out of the car he stood close by in the dry weeds with a look on his face that was more or less, whatever this is I don’t like it. He might have thought we were taking him to the proverbial farm where he could run and play all the time. It was new and he’s cautious about new. And that was the day before the snakebite.
Known affectionately as Stinky, Mr. Itch, The Funnel and the hound, his christened name is Marlow but as in most things, less is enough. Call him what you will. His lineage is hound. Asked, that is the most succinct. Long of leg and body, deep chested, wrinkled of brow, short brown haired, he has few discernable traits leading to a particular breed so hound it has to be. He has the small hump on the muzzle back from his nose many hounds have. The type of dog found laying in a dusty wallow beneath a slatted wooden porch somewhere in the south, he’d tear out from underneath barking at the stranger walking by but show no bared teeth and his wagging tail would give him away. He likes stale graham crackers. He will allow many people to scratch him behind the ears. He can walk accross a log as if born a squirrel.
And smart, whooee. You should see him chase a stick. He won’t. His brother, a thousand miles away in a different home is a stick, ball, whatever chasing rascal that tugs and tears on rag dolls and pant legs and can squeeze through a locked gate that wouldn’t pass a breeze if mischief was on the other side. Other than appearance, you wouldn’t think them related, one a Zen master and the other a clockworks blowing apart. Marlow just gives a look and if you really want that tennis ball you get it yourself. He will sit, shake, lay down and stay and could probably be trained to do any number of circus type tricks but why would anyone toy with, torture and burden a great intellect. Best to let him watch the clouds drift by, sniff the air and ponder the universe. Allow the Einsteins and Newtons of the world to do their thing and who knows what benefits may result.
Looking at the sky I followed his gaze and soon a flock of about forty large white pelican, new to this area flew by, bright white, black wingtipped birds with yellow beaks and as big as bombers, in formation low, the noise of their wings a soft rush. We both turned our heads to watch them go by.
Stinky, because he’s a proclivity to roll in foul things. Mr. Itch due to the fact that for a bit he used every utility at his command, teeth paw and claw, in scratching and gnawing at whatever it was that was itching him. If a dog could stand on one leg and scratch with the other three he would have done it. Ultimately he ended up gnawing a spot near his terminus so raw that it had the appearance of a fresh pink pork loin slab from the supermarket without the plasticine wrap. Hence he was branded Conehead for a while or The Funnel. One woman seemed rather tickled when told that the cone made his feeding easier, one simply dumped the bowl into it. Marlow is the name on the tag, bestowed by his owners, not myself. Dogs don’t require a name. He might not have had fleas, his itch could have been nerves, attributed to the temporary absense of his loving owners. I don’t love him, he’s a dog.
There is a well known film of a fox leaping in the air to pounce through the snow for a mouse. I’ve seen this dog bound through tall grass for a hundred yards or more with an identical leap the whole way.
He will eat his kibble dry or festooned with yellow flakes of nutritional yeast. Sour cream, half and half, old bacon grease and the drainings of a tuna fish can he also appears to enjoy as an ammendment. He will eat sunflower seed but prefers pepitas. He licks anise seeds and swallows them but doesn’t care for cinnamon or peppermint. He eats the cat’s food when we visit, and maybe its crap. He noses up old bones and snaps at bugs or bees, nibbles at blades of grass. It’s a wonder if he tastes the little bits of cheese or sausage I give him, they disappear so fast, but my hand and fingers are safe, he seems to know what’s good for him. I’ve been tempted to offer him a bit of chocolate but hear it’s poisonous to canines. Still, I’ve been tempted, he’s just a dog and I’m curious. He likes the graham crackers that have gone stale and is almost through both boxes. It’s no to apples, pears, oranges, cabbage, onion and zucchini but tomorrow we’ll try banana and water chestnuts, perhaps a pickle. Lord only knows what kind of trash he’s eating when he ranges far ahead on the beach.
He can be affectionate and will snuggle.
The snakebite showed up as two little bleeding puncture holes just the right distance apart on the knee of his left foreleg. A mature rattler, and there is one living there, about four, well three and a half fat feet long that was only a foot away on the deck when I walked out early one morning to water the sagebrush, will sometimes bite and not inject any or much venom. This single bite is often enough to warn off potential predators. The two small spots, about an inch apart I discounted as just a scrape, another person perceptively attributed them correctly as from a snake. The dog hadn’t yipped or come running back. He didn’t seem to be in any pain. People and dogs will die on bright blue sunny days.
We never saw the snake, not this trip. He’s made several notable appearances on other trips however and the time may come, beautiful part of natural design or no, he may have to go. The wound grew progressively worse overnight and the next day, enlarging into a couple of small dime sized dark red wrinkled warts but the hound didn’t seem to show any other sign. He was as ebullient and energetic as ever. He even learned to go rafting. Seeing the red spots and resulting necrosis was what convinced me to accept the other person’s diagnosis but a day had gone by and the dog wasn’t limping or twitching so…. Two weeks came and went, the welts shrank and became mere bare hairless spots that have begun to fill in already. I may not tell the owners anything even though they paid me to watch the dog.
Once he was just walking along and his hind leg just suddenly shot out straight horizontal.
A splash nearby wakes me from reverie in time to wonder who’s throwing rocks on this empty beach when an osprey emerges from beneath the waves carrying a golden bellied fish as long as my forearm. It shakes its wings and the soft breeze carries the droplets it sheds landing cool upon my face. A loons cry, the grunt of sea lions bring the reverie back as I see Mount Rainier is now buried beneath the pyramid of clouds it has built up. The dreamlike trance breaks again as the dog comes ripping by me, tail between its legs and a mad, full grown deer running in a strange wide legged kicking haste with its ears laid back and its teeth bared chasing it, murder in its eyes. They blow by me within about five feet, neither paying me any mind but the dog opens up a gap and the doe slows her charge and makes her way up a low hill. A minute afterwards a yearling and a fawn stumble out of the blackberries and follow their mother up the hill. When the dog returns a few minutes later he sits close at my side, panting.
He wore the Elizabethan collar for a couple of weeks and his raw spot cleared up. Three or four days went by before he chewed a new place on his other side. He actually appeared to welcome it when the cone was returned. I will have to wash the comforter when he leaves. His owners are sure to wonder about his three new scars.
When we leave the beach I rap on the metal sign and he comes and sits still to be leashed. He’s a good dog.