I have a love/hate relationship with November in Maine. November has long been my favourite month. I love the ice in the wind presaging snow, the bare trees revealing their spooky branches against the grey skies, and I love Thanksgiving, the best of all holidays that is all about food and no co-dependent expectations.
Alas, it is also deer hunting season so the woods that are normally the domain of the wildlife and Murphy and me have hunters with guns who think that the deer belong to them, as if they are anyone’s. We wear our blaze orange to signal that we are non-combatants in the deer war but I worry that Murphy will encounter some stranger in our woods and be misunderstood in a deadly way.
The thing is, that Murphy is a Great Pyrenees mountain dog by temperament and, ever vigilant, he is serious about keeping all unauthorized intruders from our hill of woods. Worse, with the cooler weather he has more energy and the bare trees and drier air allow for barking to carry nicely across the valley. All summer he stays out all night because it is cooler and is quiet but come November, when I tie him outside after his dinner, he barks non-stop until I decide that neighbours need a break. It’s my compromise, he gets to bark some but not past 8PM.
Then, there is the chance now, until there is a lot of snow ( another reason to wish for lots of snow) that Murphy will not come home from the afternoon walk in the woods and instead do his bark about thing. Basically he stays at the top of the ridge and roams from one end to the other, covering 100+ acres, barking. Ruff, ruff, ruff, pause, ruff, ruff. Repeat. I’m fairly sure that he could keep this up all night. It’s the Pyr way of avoiding actual close-up repelling of evil-doers. Any bad-ass predators will hear him and hunt elsewhere.
So, a couple of times a week I get an additional walk, near dusk, up the hill to entice him home. He won’t come if I call him of course, because he KNOWS that what he is doing is far more important than any agenda I might have. Ah, the independent Pyrenees. So I try to position myself so that he will be moving toward me. I act suspiciously, make random noise, stay still. When he is within twenty feet or so I address him conversationally and usually he’ll come over as if to say, hey, Lynn! You’re in the woods too! I hook him up, praise him for his excellent job patrolling, give him a couple of treats I happen to have in my pocket and suggest that it might be time to come home. So far I have always succeeded although a couple of times I’ve walked back in the dark with the dim circle of my headlamp lighting my way.
Smarter than the average human am I because I have learned not to call out to him as I close in because, like as not, he’ll go into silent running mode and it is just not possible to find a dog that isn’t barking. Yet another thing to be ambivalent about because if he’s quiet the neighbours aren’t alerted to him on patrol. It’s a fine line I walk between allowing enough activity within his genetic parameters to allow for well-adjusted dog behaviour and controlling enough so that he complies with societal regulations.
We, that is, I, bend the rules. After all, I’m the one who has to live with the Captain of the Palace Guard.