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I have mentioned before that neither Strudel nor I are much into hiking. But we do venture on a reasonably brisk perambulation twice a day.
I was going to say that we take a reasonably brisk promenade. But, of course, that would really be appropriate only if we were parading down some grand boulevard or mincing along the seafront.
Vermont does a nice variety of gravel tracks and dirt trails, but I don’t think it runs to grand boulevards. And I don’t think a stream, six ponds, and the fact we visited a lake on Sunday counts as a seafront. I’m also not convinced that either of us is great at mincing. So “brisk perambulation” will just have to do.
Or so I thought until yesterday evening. We began by taking what has become one of our regular routes, but then decided to turn off down a trail we hadn’t explored before. After a while, though, the trail seemed to run out.
So then we had to make a decision: turn back or go on? Well, I thought there was a decision to be made, but Strudel had no doubts. She charged straight ahead.
“No problem,” you might think. But you’d be wrong. Largely because she was on the leash at the time, with the other end in my hand.
You might be wondering why she was on the leash. After all, the property is large, hunting is banned, and Strudel is at least twice the size of the local foxes. (She is, admittedly, less than half the size of the small bear next door. They say it’s a Bernese Mountain Dog, but I know better. And I think Strudel does too, so she keeps her distance.)
The problem is that Strudel is an urban hound. For example, she’s in her element in large crowds of people in or around Jannus Live or the bars or farmers’ market in downtown St. Petersburg. She’s learned that it pays to be well-behaved in such places, because that gets her tons of attention and plenty of food.
I don’t understand it myself, but people who are spending large sums of money on dining outside seem quite happy to give large portions of it away to every friendly dog that passes. I suppose I could economize and just walk her up and down Central Avenue and Beach Boulevard each night so she can get fed. Then I wouldn’t need to buy any kibble.
But then she might acquire a taste for the high life and demand “a rather good cab” when we got home instead of a bowl of water, which would mean my spending more than the money I’d saved. So, for now at least, she has to slum it at least some of the time and make do mostly with kibble.
Yet, while I can take Strudel out of the urban lifestyle, I can’t take the urban lifestyle out of Strudel. At the crowds at the farmers markets here … ahem, what am I saying? …
At the crowd (singular) of the farmers’ market here, she knows where she is, and she’s precisely where she wants to be: among people and food. (Fewer people, admittedly, and rather less food too, but what’s a dog to do?)
Strudel remains, however, distinctly wary of the ways of the country. On the first day we arrived here, we embarked on our first perambulation with her off the leash. We hadn’t gone more than a hundred yards when she decided she’d had enough, and turned and ran for home.
Why? Whenever she pushed her face into some long grass, looking for something to pounce on, she’d arouse the attention of some local insects, which would start flying around her.
Nia has told me before that I should get Strudel some doggles. Perhaps they would have saved the situation here. But my (admittedly improvised) solution was to put her on the leash and encourage her to keep out of the long grass. Of course, she insisted that I lead the way. But this seemed to be working fine.
Indeed, the people next door are big supporters of the local international horse show that has just been taking place here, and I think their influence was starting to rub off on Strudel. Her walking turned less into mincing and more into a type of dressage, with formal carriage and tail high in the air. And her show-jumping was a thing of beauty as she leapt over fallen trees with gay abandon.
Yesterday, I think some strange spirit entered her. I think it might have been the ghost of Truffle, the dog with boundless energy. Although I’m not entirely ruling out the possibility that one of Linda’s relatives slipped her a Mickey Finn on Sunday.
Whatever the cause, Strudel plowed deep into the wood, with me hanging on, trying to ensure I didn’t get poked in the eye by low-hanging branches. (That’s the problem when your companion’s head is little more than two feet off the ground; she just doesn’t appreciate the safety issues at higher altitudes. I have much the same problem with short people carrying umbrellas.)
After a few minutes of this, the ground finally flattened out sufficiently for me to put the brakes on and bring Strudel to a halt. By this time, of course, neither of us knew where we were.
We walked ahead for a bit at a somewhat slower pace until we came to an unexpected and almost sheer drop. It was at this point that I remembered that the area is called the Green Mountains for a reason: it’s green and mountainous. Which means that everywhere looks much the same and you can’t move far without needing to go either up or down.
I don’t know why but, at that moment, Strudel expressed a strong preference for up. Well, I say “expressed”. That’s more because she took off as though she’d been fired out of a rocket. (I know Nia won’t believe that. But would I lie to you?)
It’s a while since I’ve done any mountaineering, but I needn’t have been concerned. I didn’t have to expend much energy at all. My job was just to ensure I remained upright. Strudel, on the other hand, performed a creditable impression of a local haulage truck with four-paw drive.
In no time, she’d pulled us up to the crest of whatever mound we were on. But I still had no clue where we were. (By now, I was thinking that maybe Strudel knew, but she remained inscrutable.)
I wondered about consulting Elaine, though I’m not sure that mountainous woods are really her thing. After all, there wasn’t a traffic signal in sight. And then I heard a disembodied, contralto voice!
Spooky, or what?
Well, actually, all that charging up the mountainside had evidently caused some button to be pressed on my cellphone. So I was lost up a mountain with my crazy dog. But I did have the consolation of a journalist running through the day’s political events.
Great cellphone reception, too! The first time I’ve got any since I’ve been here. It’s just a pity that the only way to pick up your voicemail from a scam warranty salesman is to climb up a mountain with a dog that’s doing her best impression of Scooby Doo. (Where are you? Or we?)
When we eventually got back, Strudel was naturally rather hungry. But I didn’t have any Scooby Snacks. So she had to make do with kibble.