It’s been four months since I got married, and they have been the best four months I can remember, in so very many ways. But it makes me bit wistful to think of the life I lived in the the mountains when here I am, quite warm at my own desk, with a delivery menu in the kitchen, netflix that streams, mail that comes to my door, my car in a heated garage, a home without mice, (…or chipmunks or bats!) trash pick-up, sidewalks with street lamps, museums, concerts, baseball and then art stores and salons and paved roads, glowing windows to look into as couples prepare dinner, fashionable girls in stylish winter coats, and handsome, clean-scrubbed boys in their cold weather blazers, with ruddy, snow-brave cheeks, all within walking distance… But when I start to think about how civilized it all is, and, oh, where are my beasties and bears and hawks! there is still something quite wild to be seen on these streets.
The dogs. (and oh yes, I do mean even the sweetest.)
My pup was just groomed at a doggie style place with “urban” in the name. He is looking quite handsome, and has the strut to prove it. When he lived in California, grooming was a regular habit, thanks to grandma, but when he lived in the mountains… well, he sported a more Bohemian look. I did, too, perhaps – the water came from the well, on the property, and though it did go through pipes, and was (sometimes) heated, it often went out. Two (thankfully) separate weeks are particularly memorable… but enough of that. Lets just say that snow baths are not just an option for dogs. And no matter how well behaved, and no matter how much maltese he may have in him, and no matter how much he sleeps on your lap (or bed), your dog is wild.
Many of the dogs I see here are rescued dogs, most of them are mixes, many are mutts – and then there are the Bernese, the St. Bernards, the Poodles and the Yorkies. And I think most of them, if they had lived in the mountains, would have been much like Osha, a husky who played hide and seek with my pup, dashing behind snowbanks and popping up again when my pup went searching in the snow, and then running off again to the next place to hide, so quick that we often lost track of him on our walks for minutes at a time. And my closest neighbors on the mountain have a bouvier, and he told me about reading one day, looking out the window to see a bear (yes, a bear) amble by. He went back to his book but looked up again, to see his dog racing after the bear into the woods. Then he spotted the bear again, going the other way, and fast, with the Bouvier on his heels. I think my pup might have been a bit on the small side for that particular game (stop, snack, resume?) but he held his own on hikes and huskies’ games and wild horse encounters in the woods.
The city dogs get lots of play time, and I think are no less happy – one of the wonderful things about dogs is how much they need their friend-beasts (thanks to matthew inman for that phrase!) But, like us, dogs are wild creatures that have learned to love the sidewalks and parks and pathways and grassy spots…. just like we love the brick-wall bars, the wood fenced gardens, and the copper rooftops of the city. Are we less wild for living here?
Differently wild, perhaps. I still have dreams where I am a woodland creature, burrowing into soft grassy spots, drinking from streams, eating flowers and berries, following the tracks of another animal. A human woodland creature? Perhaps. A wild one? Yes. Listening for wolves, thrilling and terrifying, just like my own pup listens, small as he is, polite and domesticated and cultivated as we are. Sophisticated, wild, and in love with unpredictable animals and trees and mountains, wind and snow and sun. Isn’t it wildness that teaches us how to remember to play? Isn’t is wildness that drives us out into the mountains? And isn’t it wildness that lets us fall in love – today of all days – with a mountain boy, a pup, or an unexpected snowfall.