Okay, okay, I hate it when people brag about their pets, kids, spouses, etc. in the way I’m about to do. I admit it – too often when people are telling me something they were impressed with, I’m secretly doing a rough statistical equation in my head and hoping my filter works so I don’t say the words I want to. “Yeah, yeah, yeah, your dog is the cutest thing since…oh I dunno, the other million pure bred poodles that are are being bred as we speak?” Or, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, so your kid got all A’s and is gifted. You know what, I got all A’s and was called “gifted” too. See where that got me?”
See? Good thing I have a filter, huh?
But what I’m about to tell you is really COOL!!! My dog is smart. All dogs are smart in ways humans can’t even begin to imagine. Here’s what happened yesterday.
I took Moscow on a mountain bike trail about 20 minutes from my house. The trails were closed due to muddy conditions, perfect for a great hike with an element of adventure for us. Moscow loves to run through the woods and the conditions of the pet trails at the metro parks near my house are really muddy, so I thought I’d try this new place for a change.
Starting out, I noticed there were 3 color codes for the trails – red, yellow, and orange, and the sign said “6 Miles of Bike Trails”. Woo hoo! We were off!
It was about 4:00 and I was ready for a nice 1-2 hour hike. So we hiked. And hiked. I wasn’t paying much attention to the trail signs. I admit, I had other things on my mind. And, I was even going off trail a bit because there were lots of things to look at. I would wander off trail for awhile and then get back on the trail, but I noticed after about 45 minutes that I had NO IDEA WHERE I WAS. So I started paying attention. I mean, how hard can this be, right? Just follow the trail signs and you’ll be back to where you were.
Easier said than done. The trails curved in and out, back-and-forth, and all over the place! I didn’t really think about mountain bike trails before this, but now I realize that this is probably how most of them are designed.
So I was completely turned around. I got out my phone and began trying to use the GPS function. Moscow was looking at me, somewhat intently. I’m not sure what made me do it, but I looked back at him and said what I often say when we are turning back after a long hike to go home. “Let’s go home, Mosc! We’re going home.”.
He turned down one of the trails we were near. There were about 4-5 of them around us at the time. I followed. After about five minutes of following him, he went off trail. We came up on a stream bed, but the drop off on each side was pretty steep – about 7 feet. I started to question what I was doing, letting my dog guide me through woods I had never been in before. Was I crazy or just really stupid?
I turned back and we got on the trail again. I told him we couldn’t go that way, so we walked about 500 yards on the trail and as it weaved around a bend, I suddenly saw a bridge that passed over the creek we had just tried to cross. Moscow glanced back at me over his shoulder with a little bit of a smile as we passed the spot we had tried to cross. I’m sure he was saying, “See, that was a shortcut. Too bad you were chicken.”
I kept following Moscow for about five more minutes. He proceeded ahead of me with a sense of urgency. Suddenly, I heard traffic noise and I knew we were getting close to the parking lot. Within another minute or so we were back at the car! I couldn’t believe it. Within less than 15 minutes, we have traversed the trails that were on for 45+ minutes. Moscow took us home!!
If it hadn’t been for him, I probably would have been out in those woods for quite awhile longer, and I would have needed the GPS on my phone just to point me in the right direction of where to go.
About 6 years ago, I read a wonderful book by Ned Rozell called, Walking my Dog, Jane. It’s a story about a man, his dog, and the travels they have as they follow the Alaskan pipeline through the state. It provided a wonderful history lesson of the pipeline, the effects it had on the Alaskan economy, people, and their culture, and the bonding of the author and his dog. Ever since reading that book, I’ve wanted to take Moscow on a long hiking trip with me. In the next two weeks, I’m doing just that – we are going on a back-packing trip in the southern part of Ohio.
Moscow turned ten in January and his hips show it. He’s on Adequan, which is helping, and I plan on making sure we have some for the trip. I remember reading the first few chapters of WMD, Jane, and feeling sad when the author described his dog as being at the age when he knew he shouldn’t wait much longer to take her on a long trip. I feel that way now about Moscow. He’ll hopefully have many more years left, but I want to make sure we take a long trip like this one when his pain is not so severe. I want his doggy dreams to be pain-free and full of being outdoors, smelling the scents that only his nose knows. I want his tenth year to be full of doggy joy and adventure.
I’m looking forward to spending time with him on this trip so I can learn from him what I’ve always suspected. Every animal has a lesson to teach us, every day of our lives. If we ask them and pay attention, not only will our minds be opened to new wonders, but our hearts will be opened to even more love as we realize how truly special they are.