Like those sporadic fireworks that people set off the week before the Fourth of July, the gun fire in Washington County gets more frequent just before hunting season starts. So there’s always some warning for people like me who know it’s coming but aren’t exactly sure when. When I heard the gun shots in the distance as I loaded the donkey feeder with hay this morning, I was reminded that this is the first weekend of hunting season.
What hunting season means to me is that for about two weeks I won’t be taking walks in the woods. Jon and I will be walking the dogs on the road. Some people won’t even do that without an orange vest and hat during hunting season, but I choose to be paranoid about other things in my life (like not leaving my closet door open at night, you never know what light sensitive creature might be hiding in there) and take my chances on the road. It also means Lenore and I won’t be taking our hikes together in the woods behind the house.
These hikes have become something special to me. Lenore, who has the appropriate reputation of being the Love Dog, a cute and cuddly, food focused, not so bright Lab, becomes a different dog on our walks together.
In the woods, when it’s just me and Lenore, she becomes my spirit dog. We connect in a way I haven’t seen her connect with anyone else. She doesn’t want to lick the backs of my knees (like she is constantly doing in the house) or chase a ball or look for a treat. She doesn’t follow me or walk at my side. She becomes her own dog, a wilder dog. No longer the Love Dog she wanders the woods, within sight or at least hearing of me and does what she does. And I don’t really know what she’s doing, but it feels to me likes she’s in her most natural state. Running, sniffing, eating she becomes a chronicler of the woods. Taking it all in, getting to know it as only she can.
On these walks it’s as if we’re walking together but in our own worlds. Experiencing the same thing in completely different ways. It’s as if there’s a thin spider web between us, keeping us connected. We walk with the confidence that the other will never be far way. If I stop for longer than a few minutes she waits for me. But she waits at a distance, she doesn’t snuggle or even want a reinforcing scratch behind the ears. She seems more serious, focused and driven.
And there’s a level of trust I have with Lenore on these walks that I haven’t had with any other dog. My solitary walks in the woods have always been healing and expanding to me. if I had to worry about her running off or making demands of me, it wouldn’t work. But somehow Lenore seems to know exactly what I need. And I trust that she’ll know.
Lenore enters into my walks like a spirit making my connection to the woods deeper, as if she’s the link between me and nature. It’s as if we both understand what it is we’re there to do. To have the freedom to wander, stop and go as we please, to get to know the woods around us and to become a part of it for just a little while.