Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Seeing Roman Home

. . . and Other Dog Adventures

Yesterday's spectacular sunrise faded within a moment to a gray day. But I was there at just the right moment to catch the good part.

A few hours later, I was at the right place to see the Prestons' dog, Roman, over a mile from home. While I was turning into our bottom driveway, I saw him about to enter the cow pasture across the road. I figured his owners had gone out and Roman had chased their van all the way from where they live (across from Hainted Holler ). He's bad to do that. I called to him and he responded. I didn't try to catch him; with window open, I just drove down Listening Hill Road and called him from time to time. He ran along behind me.

While I waited for him to catch up, I took a picture of the old graveyard and the plowed fields around it.

The orange-flagged stake in the foreground marks where the big power lines will come through.

Eventually he caught up, and I drove on, slowly because Roman's top speed is 15 mph.

Roman's about 1/4 home here. The trees at the far left are where we started.

When I neared the curve, I saw a silver van behind me—Roman's owners. I sped up and Roman followed the van. In my rear-view mirror, I saw them turn in. Roman made it home. He must have been tired.

Yesterday afternoon, Claudia and I walked our stock dogs—the first time I'd done any serious walking for over six weeks. Maggie and Hubert were glad to get out. They hadn't seen Belle and Penny for about two months.

Penny and Maggie come out of Polecat Creek.

The walk was marred by two bite-fights between Maggie and Belle. Both started after Belle had growled at Penny. Now, Belle and Penny growl a lot in play, and neither was actually threatening the other when Maggie jumped into the fray. Neither Maggie nor Belle was hurt—no blood, but a lot of dog spit—and they pulled apart without biting Claudia or me.

For a while, I couldn't understand Maggie's actions. She likes Belle, so why fight her? Later it occurred to me: Maggie doesn't understand the concept of a play-growl. To her, all growls are serious and require immediate action.

Maggie never growls when playing tug of war. She never growled when she played as a puppy. She was only six weeks old when I bought her, so she wasn't really accustomed to puppy play.

Jack, who was elderly and thus beyond playfulness, was her mentor in her formative months. If he growled, it was serious. When Maggie was a few months old, she heard Jack growl at a coyote and then take out after it. Maggie ran for a while, too. Did she get the message then that a growl was a danger signal?

Or did she learn in the kennel? When the other dogs growl, they mean "Keep away from my food." That's when Maggie mostly growls, too, although she'd briefly growled earlier yesterday when she wanted to play catch and I commanded her to sit for a few minutes.

So, I'm wondering if "what we have here is a failure to communicate." Does Maggie, in her zealous attempt to "help," misunderstand the language of other dogs?

In the woods—lots of good things to sniff! The white spot is Maggie's tail.

For a few minutes, snowflakes fell and the air felt like snow, so we headed back to our trucks. Despite the bite-fights, the walk had a lot of good parts.

Back at home, my dogs and I were tired.

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Blogger Roanoke RnR said...

I love your sunrise pictures...I only get to see a sliver of mine because the trees in my yard block most of it out. At least in the winter I get a peek.

12:54 PM  

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