Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Peace is a pack of dogs...

Peace is a pack of dogs asleep together in your home.

I look upon these half-wild beasts, entrusted to my care by their owner, and I wonder at their love and trust. Each such a unique individual, each capable of such power and violence. But stroke a cheek or rub an ear, and each opens his eyes and gazes at you with utter, unrestrained devotion. The privilege of it is intimidating at times.

Ghost, he with the legs of a greyhound and the hide that blends so beautifully with the terrain. He disappears into the brush, preferring to find his own way, but is always nevertheless a part of the hike. I used to worry about losing him when we turned some unannounced corner, but soon learned my concern was unwarranted. I may seldom know where he is, but he always knows where I am. His speed on the trail is beyond compare, and his owner always used to joke that he walked five times as far as any of the other dogs, while covering the same ground. Our forward scout, is Ghost.

Magnus, alpha dog extraordinaire. I once saw him take down a Rottweiler that got uppity with him, in the blink of an eye. It happened so fast I actually missed it, though I was looking right at it. One second the Rotty was standing there in all his ugly, menacing glory. The next he was on his back, with a Labrador’s enormous jaws hovering at his throat. ‘Do you feel lucky, punk?’ That was years ago, and Magnus is growing old and much more likely to leave the derring-do to the other dogs. But he still takes no bullshit.

Fritz the Terrible, a German Shepherd who when younger so desperately wanted to be head dog and was constantly being put in his place. Though enormously powerful, he was a buffoon and a bit of a coward. Grown older now, he’s much less the jackass he used to be. To be gazed at with those clear, brown eyes is to know a deadly creature that absolutely loves you.

I watch them, curled or sprawled in their places in the lair or loping happily on the trail, and I know my purpose. How can it be, though – any one of these animals could have my throat out before I could reach for a weapon, and yet any one would die in my defense. All I do to deserve it is feed them and assure them that they’re loved. It’s all they want from me, yet it seems hardly adequate.

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