|Kerouac, taken a few years ago when we lived on Inca Street, in Denver.|
Minutes later, I am outside in the woods, where it is much warmer because the wind can't penetrate the thick bramble of branches. I am still amazed at these woods, coming from Colorado where a forest means trees spaced at a healthy distance apart. Once you step beyond the part of the yard that is mown, you walk into a wild world of native (and probably non-native) plants, most of which I still don't know the names of. I pass under the osage orange tree, ringed as it is by its rotting fruit: hedge apples. I go down a slight slope past the huge oak tree with the forlorn deer stand. I pass the empty dog house. Below me, I see the creek, reflecting the still-blue sky, its water barely moving. Periodically, I call for Kerouac. But the woods are silent this morning, save the noise I make walking: breaking branches, the soft crunch of the leaves on the floor, the slurp of my boots in the mud underneath those leaves. I emerge from the woods, amazed at how thick the undergrowth is, how the blackberry brambles seem to penetrate surprisingly deep into the woods, and how far away I feel. As I emerge from the woods, I see my neighbor's son, Alvin, walking down our driveway, away from our house, and I just know that Kerouac is home, safe and sound.
As it turns out, while I was initially looking for Kerouac in the woods with the other two dogs, he was walking the perimeter of the garden. This is a walk I took him & Happy on a lot over the spring and summer, in an effort to let them let their presence be known to any wildlife thinking about free food. Alvin saw Kerouac stop and watch him drive down the road, and once Alvin got out of his truck and get his mom's newspaper, Kerouac ran down the road to say "hi." I did raise Kerouac to be a sociable dog. So Alvin said good morning to the dog, and picked him up and walked him back to our house, depositing him inside. A few minutes earlier, I had been thinking, hoping that Kerouac must have picked up the scent of something, and hopefully had the good sense not to jump into the creek, and not to get swept into the culvert that goes underneath the road, and didn't wander into a pack of sleeping coyotes, or met one of the elusive bobcats the paper said are more numerous than folks think. I was prepared to have to drive him to the emergency vet. But no, he tried to stay within the confines of his yard, until the urge to see a friend overpowered all... I thanked Alvin, and got a chance to chat with him a while. So that was good. I told Alvin I was going to plant some tulip bulbs I'd forgotten about, and since the ground still hasn't frozen, figured it couldn't hurt. He agreed, and later this morning, I planted about 50 tulip bulbs in a few places in the yard, surprised by how thick and moist the ground is, and how unfrozen for it being the last day of January.
As the day went on, it seemed something did happen to Kerouac in the woods. His right eye was swollen. My guess is he walked into a stick while looking at something else. I couldn't find any puncture wounds, so figured he hadn't woken a barely-hibernating snake. He got a little allergy medicine, and that seems to have helped him. The swelling went down, and he got a little groggy for a Jack Russell Terrier... Until he saw another neighbor pushing her granddaughter in a stroller. Now Kerouac loves children, but he goes into ecstasies around babies. He was thrilled to visit with a toddler in a stroller, unable to get away from his kisses. She didn't mind, luckily, and after a short visit, I stupidly put him down. And he was off like a shot. Happy kept up with him, and first they ran down the road west a bit to their favorite pee spot. There's always coyote scat right there, and they like to mark it. Then Kerouac took off at an even faster pace east, toward my neighbor's house. Was he going to see if Alvin was still there? I don't know. But I hate running. Especially in slippers. I eventually caught him and carried him back home. So he's on the leash again. At least until he gets over this crazy spell he seems to be under...