Written by Gus
love and light
It all changed in an inhale.
Sure, we were on the road, thousands of fetch throws from home and half a mile and counting inside a dense Virginia forest. But this whiff… it was different. And I knew it the second I leapt from Betty (that’s our car).
At first, I tried to sniff past it. Through it. Around it. Anything really. We’d been in the car long past our daily drive time and I wasn’t in the mood to play MacGyver. I was in the mood to run amok. Off-leash. Off-hours. You know, be a dog.
But who am I kidding? A dog with a dad is a dog with a purpose. We never clock out. And when dad and I came around that next corner, I couldn’t fight it any longer. My nose had officially redlined.
Now, before I go any further, and before you say that dog’s smell everything, let me give you the 411 on our nose. Don’t worry, I’ll keep things “human” simple.
You see, a dog’s nose is like a mother’s intuition: off-switch not included. To question such an instinct is to question the sun and the stars — a blasphemous action indeed. Wanna dodge the dog house? Do. Not. Fuck. With. It. Ever. Comprendo?
Gus! What did I tell you about cursing on the blog?
That’s there’s a time and a place??
Exactly. Great execution, son! On with the post…
As I was saying, this smell wasn’t a typical canine curiosity. This was a scent of the cautious kind. A full-blown nostril explosion. It felt big. It felt alive. And the fact that I couldn’t pinpoint it, I knew one thing and one thing only… wherever it was, whatever it was, I had to be there first. Slowly, I distanced myself from dad.
The trail narrowed to the size of a fetch stick. This sudden lack of space brought my deepest fears to the surface. I was supposed to be dreaming about the waterfall at the end of the hike. God, an afternoon dip would really hit the spot… Instead, the scent drew nearer and clearer. I felt my ears lift.
What is it pup?
Shit, dad’s on to me. So much for a covert operation. Stupid box head!
Just looks like a fallen rock, bud.
Yeah, I see the stupid rock. It sat in the middle of the path just a short toss ahead. I ran it through analytics five minutes ago. But the big smell… where was it and why couldn’t I analyze it?
All my life I’ve trained for a moment like this. Hydrants. Suitcases. Friend’s assholes. Hell, one time I woke dad in the middle of the night to chase an opossum out of the backyard. Smelt it down the hill, through the drywall, while sleeping. They don’t teach that at PetSmart.
And then, without warning, but with the authority of a Spartan warrior, my dad’s voice froze me in my prints.
In all my days, never once have I heard such a tone. Every furry follicle of my being could feel its vibration. Dad wasn’t inviting, dad was commanding. As I made an about-face, the picture came into focus. Dad found the smell first!
There they were. Forty feet to dad’s left, forty feet to my right… two black bear cubs frolicking on the green hill. Behind them with a very fixed eye stood mom: large, lengthy, and surprised – a shared sentiment. Everything slowed down yet everything sped up.
The difference in elevation gave the bears a much closer appearance. Dad stood still, his eyes on a timeshare with me and mama bear. Now the cubs hid behind her. I stared back bracing for a sudden move.
Third command. Oh man, I’ve never gone to third command! Decision time. Do I return to dad or stand my ground? I want dad to know that I’d fight to the death for him.
Pride aside, I go with the former. When master’s call, it’s a dog’s soul duty to honor said call. (Plus I’ve seen the Nat Geo Channel. Dog versus bear doesn’t end well). I return to dad and submit to the leash. As we flee the area, mama grunts twice as if to expedite our exit.
Good boy, puppy dog!
And here’s the golden nugget:
Bear or morsel, respect the energy around you. Suck some air. Gauge the room. The wisest instincts often mean walking away.
Do it and you might just get a treat. I did. Dad hides mine behind the dash.