What the dog thinks.

Yesterday the dogs ran away.

Now, don’t get all panicky. This is not a new thing. Those damn dogs run away at least three times a week, or, if I rephrase it to sound more like the truth, every damn chance they get.


I ask this every day.

I mean, they have everything a pooch could need within paw’s reach in our yard –all the sticks to chew on, all the mud and poop they could possibly need to roll in, a stock dam for swimming and drinking and splashing, plenty of squirrels and turkeys for chasing, a big moon to howl at and a nice warm basement for sleeping if they just scratch at the door.

But, apparently that’s not enough.

Since we’ve moved back to the ranch, that’s never been enough.

The snacks taste better at Mom and Pops’.

Or on the highway where construction workers are dropping sandwich crumbs.

Or at the neighboring oil site where they might land a steak, a night on the soft cushions of a camper or a shot at getting into the building where the lunches are stored.

You’ve heard this before. Since we’ve moved back to the ranch, all we ever do with these damn dogs is look for them. Go and get them. Cuss them and then load them in the back of the pickup and bring them home.

Someday we will build a fence around the yard so they can’t get out, but first, well, we need to finish building our own house, dammit.

But this is all besides the point. Because I’m having a moment here. A confusing moment where my annoyance at my wandering four-legged friends is mixed and muddled in with something else.

See, when I brought these dogs to the ranch three summers ago, all of us, humans included, didn’t quite know where we might fit in. The pug was pleasantly blindsided by the transfer from sidewalks to dirt trails, having only been alive and under our care and management for a little over a year, but Big Brown Dog, the lab I bought for my husband a month after we were married, had been with his crazy couple for a long series of misadventures and these days, I can’t help but wonder what the hell he’s thinking.

I mean, when I brought him to Husband, the poor guy’s little paws barely hit the ground before I disappeared for a two-week tour and he was alone with a tired man who smelled like oil and ate an unhealthy amount of Dinty Moore portable meals. He must have been terrified. puppy on bootsI look in his droopy brown eyes and wonder what a dog like him has thought of our decisions through the years. I mean, we have never been a married couple without that brown dog at our feet, so if I could ask him, I wonder what he’d say?

Would he thank us for adjusting our lives around him? Would he appreciate that we searched longer and paid more for the only decent duplex with a yard in town that would allow dogs?

What would he say about our long jogs along city sidewalks and the only time he ever showed his teeth at a stranger? How would he explain that? Would he say he was protecting me?

What about our fights in the kitchen, the ones where I said he was wrong and Husband said I was too emotional and I threw my hands in the air and slammed the door, leaving the brown dog laying on the linoleum and my husband shaking his head. Would he say we were crazy? Was he wishing to be let out and away from the tension an animal like him can sense for miles?

What’s it like when it’s so close to him?

And what about the night we left him alone and he destroyed one of our good pillows, leaving a sprawling feather explosion covering every inch of the apartment and every inch of that brown dog.  How would he explain that? What possibly overcame him? Was it for fun? Was that pillow threatening him somehow?

Oh, and our movie choices. Yes, I’d love to hear his opinion on sitting through an argument between vampires and Ryan Gosling. Somehow I think that brown dog would pick neither and then ask if maybe there’s room for him on the couch between us…all 105 pounds of him.

And all the times I cried so hard, out of frustration or sadness with only him to know what it’s like to see me so vulnerable. I don’t have to ask. Even if he could, I know he wouldn’t tell.

Then I would want him to tell me about the time he heard my song come on Husband’s iPod when I was away and he spent the entire duration searching the house, searching for where my voice was coming from, whining and wondering where I was.

Hondo the Big Brown Dog has a gray beard now. This is what I’m saying. He’s seven years old and these days the years are showing themselves a bit louder in the creaks in his joints and the slow way he rises from his spot at the foot of the steps in the morning.

Last week, after a particularly long journey away from home, Hondo’s attempt to jump in the back of the pickup left him tipped over backwards on the scoria driveway with a shaken confidence and no desire to attempt the feat again.

So I had to lift him. The day came when I had to lift him.

I tried to tell him that he’s getting too old for traveling so far from home. I tried to ask him why he wanders.

But to our dogs our voices are muffled, words cloaked in nothing but the emotion they can feel radiating from our bodies. I knew he couldn’t answer. I knew he didn’t understand, the same way I cannot understand what it is that he’s looking for when he roams.

I suppose it doesn’t matter anyway and I suppose I know what he would say.

He would say he’s a dog. My dog.  And sometimes a dog just follows his nose, the same way, sometimes, his human gets in that car and drives away.

We all need to see what’s over that hill, he’d say…

And then he’d thank me for the lift.

17 thoughts on “What the dog thinks.

  1. Hi Jessie,
    I love to read and follow your blog. It’s very impressive to me to get an insight to your life out there at the ranch. Sometimes I feel it is quite melancholy and lonesome (?) out in the country. On the other hand it seems to be a little paradise, now disturbed but enriched as well by this huge oil discovery. I like your photos and even more am I impressed by your music.
    Keep on blogging an best wishes from Switzerland.

  2. Love them while you can! A week ago tomorrow, I had to put down Dusty (11) my husbands dog, (and he’s out of state) her liver was failing and she was sick for 5 days ( I thought she was missing him) before I looked at her gums and whites of her eyes and saw yellow. It was a horrible experiance putting her down, and every day her sister Sammy and adopted puppy Blue, she raised and is 5 now (and needs help getting into the back of the truck, cause of hip dysplasia) miss her…… Part of your heart goes numb, when you lose a animal child. My 12 year old cat died in my arms over a year ago, from hemobartenella, in the end his liver failed also, so devastating…..
    Have you hugged your animals today?

  3. What a poignant and lovely post Jessie. Blessings to all of us (whether we have two legs or four) who feel the pull to wander a little. Or a lot.
    He’s a very lovely fellow, your Hondo.

  4. Our Bailey will be 10 years old next month and has bad hips and elbows the vet says. Thank goodness for anti-inflammatories. She’s been with us since she was 8 weeks old. They become family.

  5. Have rescued two “Rez dogs” in the last 8 months and lately they have disappeared for 2-3 days at a time. Just when you have written them off and dealt with it emotionally, they show up on the porch, hungry and tired. Have asked myself, where do they go, even considered mounting a trail cam on one of them to document the trip. Thanks for the story- can totally relate

  6. “We all need to see what’s over the hill, he’d say” — you have captured him well. Even when we had to start lifting old dog, his quiet dignity never wavered. He endured it because he knew we needed him so much.

    Loved this post,

  7. As a dog owner and lover, I often wonder why we attach ourselves to them, and them to us. What makes us so special? Why do we love them, when in the end they are only going to break our heart. Love them while you can, and love your pictures!

  8. It was a sad day when after a short hunting trip, I had to lift my german shepard, yes a german shepard that was a great hunter, onto the pickup. Shortly thereafter she went down hill fast, as I think she knew her true passion was over. We since have gotten a new dog but she has large shoes to fill and you never forget that one great dog.

  9. This post reminded me so much of my 1st dog – Dino who passed away and still miss so much!!! It also reminds me of the two girls I have left that are true Divas! Dogs are truly mans best friend! I’m so grateful to have Daisy and Jasmine!!!! What is with them always wondering off and rubbing themselves in dirt especially after a bath!!! LOL

    GREAT POST!!!!

    Marta from Philly!

  10. What a great post! Now that my boys (with 2 legs) are grown and gone my girls (the four legged variety) keep the house from being quite and are alway so excited when I come home from boomtown!

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