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  • Writer's pictureElke Konetski

Pale Pale

Retired dog exercise is probably one of my favorite things I feel I “have” to do everyday. Some "serious business". I believe my husband endearingly calls it "playing". Whichever word you want to use, it usually comes in the form of early morning walks on trails that wrap around our forty acres with a very full coffee thermos in hand or, a late morning jog. (The jog is post coffee, hence the late morning) I love it, every single day. Our oldest dog is Pale Pale. He’s maybe a hundred years old but acts like he's a satisfied 8. We mastered some jogs together last summer and hes completely aced the walking bits this season so I figured we’d up to a jog and get comfortable with it again together. We set off, and i'll admit, while his trot is spry, it'll take a few of these to get the speed going again. He hangs back about ten to twenty feet for the majority of the jog. Still finding time to smell suspicious grass clumps and splash through puddles. About five minutes from home, I check in with him for maybe the forty eighth time to see how he's doing. He's gone. What? I looked back two minutes ago? He was there then? Shit. We double back but we’re on a more or less straight trail, sandwiched between state land and a fellow musher's seventy acres. There's nowhere to go but to wander through the trees (which he's entirely apt to do as he forgets he’s mostly blind. But, he responds on a dime when you say his name and recalibrates his route. Easy trail partner.). We call and call, no Pale. Matt takes off back home with the other doggos to drop them off then jump on the wheeler to quickly retrace our steps in case he doubled back. I stay in the stretch we lost him, jogging back and forth calling his name in the hopes he found a shade spot and just decided to take a quick cat nap. Knowing how well he responds and after jogging the stretch 5 times, im starting to feel useless; right when I hear something interesting. Dog yard sounds can be alot. They can be loud. They can bark, they can howl, they can play wrestle, you name it. To a stranger, the noises can be classified in usually just one way, loud. To the owners? We can tell the difference in what the style of noise signifies and usually even whose voice it is when it's not the full yard cacophony. When I was jogging back and forth, I heard the sound our yard makes when Matt got back with the other retirees and mascots. I heard the sound of our dogs howling murmurs when he took off on the wheeler. And then I heard the particular noise that got me leaving my post, jogging home and feeling pretty damn sure what id find there. The soft noise the dogs make when they notice one of our retirees doing something out of the norm. Our retirees have free range of our acres, putzing around during the day and pretending to oversee the other sleddies while sunbathing on the porch. When they wander out of one of our gear tents, from behind the kibble shed, back into the main lawn from the surrounding trees, our dog yard will make a particular noise at this. As if they kind of forgot where the retiree was and are surprised to see them again. Playing their best guard dogs but to a dog they very much know, just practicing really. I heard the noise and just knew. My genius, blind, old man dog decided to dip from the jog early and take a shortcut home. Nevermind the acres of trees between us and the property. I bet he found a path home and would be sitting on the porch, sipping his proverbial iced tea, entirely pleased with himself. It wasn't the porch, it was a nice patch of grass under the sun, next to the porch. My handsome, crazy old man, we’ll try a shorter jog next time with no cutzies.

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