June 2012

Dog owners will tell and re-tell stories and experiences they’ve shared with their canine companions to anyone who will listen. Some are common every day experiences, others not so much. Such was the case recently with Buddy. It was a perfect spring day for Buddy and I as we set off for a stroll. Afternoon sunlight set the hillsides ablaze with a rich amber. A cool breeze of freshly spread manure pushes through my fleece. We make our way past a tranquil clear running brook on forest floor still damp with the season thaw. A robin lands on nearby branch with a fresh worm dangling from it’s beak. I notice the fuzzy green silk unfolding everywhere from cigar buds. It’s somewhat of a favorite place for Buddy and I; an emerald pasture spattered with brilliant yellow dandelions that we have frequented countless times over several years. At certain times of the year, this meadow is used as grazing pasture for a large number of cattle and various livestock. Today seemed like any other visit. Buddy stops and waits for me to unhitch him. I unlatch the gate as always and set Buddy free. Instantly he’s off. I begin to make my way towards the pasture as my thoughts begin to drift after a long day, paying little attention to my troubles or even Buddy’s’ exact whereabouts for that matter. Finally, I notice Buddy and the fact that he seems to have a significant spring in his step. Clearly he’s hot on the trail of a possible new found discovery. Maybe it’s a mouse on a mad dash for cover. Maybe a deer. With his nose to the ground, he turns on a dime with the stealth like sniffing maneuvers of that of a young pup. I haven’t seen Buddy act this excited in a long time. I step up my pace on his lead towards the open pasture. Suddenly, Buddy disappears but I reassure myself that by now he must be either sniffing fox tracks or leaving his mark on cow patties. Still brushing off any concern, I return to my thoughts and stroll along at a snails pace, head down and relaxed in quiet contemplation. What happened next is something I won’t soon forget. I stopped abruptly, realizing that I had almost walked right into the backside of Buddy. He was stopped dead in his tracks, stiff and motionless like a statue. The tuft on the ridge line of his back stood up straight at attention. It was almost as if he had seen a ghost. Head held high, chest fully puffed, his entire body was frozen still. Not a single ounce of air entered his lungs; his eyes fixated without a blink. All dog owners have seen this before and clearly this was it: the battle stance. It’s when a threatened dog will freeze for a brief moment; adrenaline rushing to their blood stream. Normally this is when a dog comes upon another dog and decides instantly if he wants to be friends. If the pheromones show a red flag, the alpha dog will try and show his dominance with a full on and sometimes vicious attack. It’s “kill or be killed” and anyone who has experienced this knows there’s a fine line between fight or flight and only seconds to grab hold of a collar before the mighty explosion. While it may be true that a dog will protect his master at all costs without hesitation no matter the circumstances, Buddy however, may have just met his match. It was on this day that ol Buddy hesitated. He simply needed more time to make his precious decision to protect his master. Entranced with fear, he stood there like a colonel meeting his enemy on the battlefield before the mighty charge. He stared straight off into the horizon, stiff like a prized stuffed trophy. And as I glanced upwards, I discovered what he did. There before us, perfectly still and staring right back, was an entire herd of long-horned Scottish Highlanders wondering what we were doing in their pasture.

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