A friend called me a dog the other day: not as in “You old dog,” which I’ve been called before, but a hipper version. “Yo Dog… what up?”
It got me thinking, sort of, about dogs here in the southern Rockies, how they penetrate our lives and language – sly dog, lucky dog, dog tired, etc.
Everyone has heard of dogs as man’s best friend; probably because dogs were the first animals, after husbands, to be domesticated. And while most husbands don’t usually chew on shoes, roll in horse dookies, plop in a mud puddle right after a bath, knock fleas off their ears with rapid-fire pawing, drag horse skeleton bones into the yard or howl at the moon, they all know well what it means to be “in the doghouse.”
A few of my buddies actually wish they were dogs, would like to come back in another life as dogs, for the lifestyle and fringe benefits: a friendly rub behind the ear, scratches on the stomach as you roll on your back, tongue hanging out, bowls of food and water and tons of time to torture cats or lay around on the couch.
Dogs are an integral part of any mountain town landscape: you’ve all seen the poster of a “Montana Double Date” – two cowboys in an old truck, two dogs seated between them. In fact around here, most dogs come with a pickup truck.
It doesn’t take any special talent to earn a dog’s devotion and we have our own special way of talking to dogs, sort of like we talk to small children. One local sage claims that a dog is really just a kid dressed up in a dog suit.
And we all like to tell stories on our dogs. Lately, some of the local dogs have developed a hankering for travel and adventure; we’ve been blaming it on the moon. Usually they’ll turn up after a few hours, sometimes days, but one local Lab named Bubba wanted a longer vacation. His tale, near as we can tell, goes something like this.
Bubba loved to run through the woods behind his house which borders national forest. He rarely got lost; he knew the woods well. When he disappeared one day, his owner feared a pack of coyotes roaming the forest had lured Bubba into their lair. For days his owner called for him, hunting throughout the area at the dog’s favorite old haunts. Finally, someone found posted at a trailhead near his home a note saying a black Lab had been found by some Boy Scouts from Philmont; Bubba had shown up at their campsite. Taken, presumably for safe keeping, to Philmont, he was handed over to one of the administrators – Scouts can’t have dogs at camp. Bubba changed hands a few times – he was a great dog, lovable, gentle, just liked to wander – and long story short he ended up with someone from Golden, Colorado, as their new pet. But Bubba soon slipped his collar and ended up at the dog pound in Golden. Weeks later, Bubba’s owner got wind of his trip north and called the pound inquiring about Bubba.
“Yes, we have a dog like him here,” he was told. “There’s an $80 charge to pick him up. Also, how do we know he’s your dog?”
“Look, pal,” he responded. “Do you think I’m going to drive six hours up there and six hours back and pay for a dog that’s not mine?”
So he made the trip, bailed Bubba out of jail and had a thorough father-dog discussion about his wayward ways all the way back. Knowing what was good for him, Bubba laid low, not arguing.
But when they drove over McEvoy Hill overlooking Eagle Nest Lake and the Wheeler Peak mountain range, Bubba’s ears pricked up; he could sense his home turf. He was more than ready to return, already dreaming of dinner, maybe chasing some ducks before a nice nap in the sun on the porch.
You don’t have to chase ducks on your visit here, unless of course that’s your thing, but you should save some time for a nap or two during your stay. Maybe you want to do some yoga-practice your downward-facing dog.
Welcome to the southern Rockies… oh, and do bring your dogs.
— Joe Haukebo, Publisher
This article appeared on page 8 of the 2005 print edition of HighCountry.