After a week of tearing down dog camp at Mahoosuc Outdoors in a freakish early fall heat wave I was ready to be done. Last night, I accomplished just that around 7PM! I think I sweated through at least three T-Shirts yesterday, climbed up on top of my truck at least fifty times, hauled gravel to fill in holes my dogs had dug like the champions they are, moved stones, and packed up a summer’s worth of adventure into my truck… By the end of all of this, I was covered in dirt, sweat, and other dog yard grime! Needless to say, you wouldn’t have wanted to give me a hug. But I appreciated those who did as we said goodbyes! Anyways, let’s get to the point, I was exhausted!
After driving a fully loaded Ford F-250 with a trailer through New Hampshire’s lovely roads at night… That was a joke. I still can’t believe my Alaskan insurance company feels they can justify charging me $20 more a month because Alaska has ‘bad roads.’ Sure, Alaska is wild, but it does not have hundreds of years’ worth of frost heaves that break mufflers, bend rims, and cause you to have to drive 20 miles under the posted speed limit. Also, most of the roads here were built to be old carriage roads, so they are twisty winding roads through the mountains for trotting horses at eight miles an hour. They were not built for a dog truck and trailer! Anyways, I trailed off again… By the end of a three hour drive I arrived at my parents’ house in central New Hampshire ready to be done!
I opened the door and let my co-pilots, Tuk and Kinley, out and without hesitation, they bolted! This is typical when I get home; Tuk is usually so excited to visit my parents that she can’t contain herself. They live in a great place, back in the woods with tons of room to roam. A doggy paradise! After letting them out, I proceeded to let the rest of the gang out of the dog box for their evening stretch and bathroom break. Kinley came back like the good girl she is within five minutes of stretching her ridiculously long legs, and they are long, folks. We’ve clocked her at 36 mph before we ran out of room. She’s not afraid to use those legs! But Ms. Tukdog did not come back with her…. Now, Tuk and I have a 10.5 year bond of her little tradition of not coming back when I want her to, and we have come to an understanding, but this night it seemed like she had ulterior motives. An hour passed and she still was not back. Again, still typical, but it felt like it was going to be one of those nights…. After I put all the other dogs to bed, I began the waiting game. I put on a movie, wasted time on Facebook, ate some late dinner, really whatever I could do to pass the time. I am sure some of you are thinking why did I not go out and look for her? Well, I used to play that game. It is in fact what Tuk wants me to do! If I go into the woods looking for her, then she retreats further into the woods. She views me entering the woods as an okay to continue to pursue what only she knows. She is a tricky dog!
So after waiting and calling her for hours, I stepped out onto my parents’ back porch and listened to the night noises. Early fall apples falling off trees, the gentle collision of an autumn leaf colliding with the ground, the hooting of an owl off in the distance, and an occasional howl from one of the sled dogs in the truck. With the stars out, it really was a peaceful setting. EXCEPT FOR THE FACT IT WAS ALMOST TWO IN THE MORNING AND I WAS LOOKING FOR MY DOG! So here I was listening, and then I heard a scream! I know Tuk is tough and she can handle her own in the woods but still, I am sure even Rambo’s parents panicked a little when he had to jump off the cliff and collide with tree branches to avoid being shot by the man on the helicopter! I quickly grabbed my headlamp, a hoodie, and my boots and I entered……. THE WOODS! I broke my rule of not chasing after Tuk, but that scream was definitely hers and I have to admit, I do care about her a little bit…. So here I am running through the woods I grew up in at nearly two in the morning running towards a sound that caused my heart to pound. Besides the fact that I could potentially come up to an injured Tukdog, there is also the wildlife issue. I have seen bears, coyotes, moose, deer, and ferocious porcupines in these woods! Let’s just say, my senses were on high alert, and of course, I left my trusty can of bear spray in the truck… So I am ducking tree branches, running over New Hampshire’s famous granite stone walls that were built nearly a century ago by sheep farmers who inhabited the region. Now, the walls are all overgrown by a recovering forest. That is a side story, but read up on it sometime. New England’s forests are kind of like walking through some Central American jungle with hidden pyramids and remnants of a forgotten past. It’s kind of cool!
Back to Tukdog, so here I am running, ducking, and jumping, and then I see eyes illuminated by my headlamp! Now, I feel like they are Tukdog’s, but still I stop and approach with caution in case it was whatever Tuk was ‘playing’ with. I glanced around, checking for more eyes in case it was a heard of deer, or a pack of coyotes. We have a small problem with coyotes harassing the neighbor’s cattle farm, so they are usually not too far away! It was just one pair, and they seemed to be moving away from me. This caused me to approach with caution, but like I said before, if Tuk sees me in the woods, she thinks, ‘GAME ON!’ After watching these eyes move through the woods, I relaxed a little, because if it is Tuk, she is moving just fine. So I am not too worried about an injury, but I am concerned about a potential porcupine encounter…. She has played with those twice before, and she has lost twice before… So after moving towards the glowing eyes, they disappeared. Now, I am standing in the middle of the New Hampshire woods again, listening to night noises. Then I hear it, ‘JINGLE JINGLE JINGLE!’ It was Tuk’s tags jingling as she approached, and then she appeared! Best of all, she looked fine, with no porcupine quills! So my panic had now subsided and now the job of convincing Tuk it was time to go home was my next task. She would not come to me. The innate wild dog in her was in full gear and she was dipping and moving with ease over the ground like she belonged in the woods for the rest of her days. Well, a dog who does not come when you call it is not a dog you go after, at least when it comes to Tukdog. After years of experience with this lovely lady, I walked around her and tried to push her in the homeward direction. One of those mental advantages I sometimes gain on Tuk. She thought she was leading me, but I was pushing her! At least this is what I wanted to think, but I am pretty sure Tuk realized what I was up to, and she made sure to make this the most awkward half hour of my life. She realized it was time to go home, but of course, it was going to be on her terms. Not with the leash I had in my pocket! She pointed her nose in the homeward direction, but she went in an entertaining zig-zag fashion with me following her!
The best part was she led me out of the woods and onto some distant neighbor’s lawn! Now I have to take a moment and apologize to all my neighbors whose lawns I walked on last night with my headlamp on at two in the morning. I was waiting for one of them to come out with a shotgun or for the cops to pull in and charge me with something! Anyways, to get to the end of the story, Tuk was found. She is safe and eventually came home (on her terms). And I got to bed at about three in the morning only to have to get up in four hours because I need to get ready to head to Alaska!