Monday, February 7, 2011
Whose bright idea was this?
The first winter Max lived with us we took him and Bear tobogganing.
We were on the logging road I walked everyday with the dogs. It was just across the street from the wooded area in which we rented a tiny house on the bank of the Current River. The road disappeared around a bend and then ascended steadily, alternating between gentle slopes and more tasking uphill treks. From the summit we could stand and look across bald rocks and the twiggy clamour of new-growth trees to the sometimes turquoise, sometimes gray ribbon of Lake Superior where it blended into the lighter sky.
Around that first bend in the road was a good uphill climb, just about the right size for some casual tobogganing. The hill wasn’t very big, but we could pick up enough speed to make the world blur around us, and it curved to the right, which made it slightly more challenging.
When Morgan and I first climbed the hill that day and stood at the top with our Crazy Carpets at the ready, Bear and Max poked around in the snow behind us enthralled by interesting smells, completely uninterested in what the humans were doing until, first I, then Morgan, made our running starts and launched ourselves, yelling, down the hill. Bear and Max barely had time to think before instinct kicked in and the two of them, presented with low-to-the-ground, fast moving prey, gave chase.
Noses and teeth blurred with our surroundings as they head-butted and nipped at our toques and mittened hands. Bear easily kept pace with us, her excitement escalating with each run, but even as Max started to tire and lag behind, he was determined to follow us up and down the hill.
“Stay where you are Max,” I yelled over my shoulder as I began to jog back up the hill. “I’m coming right down again.” I looked back to see Max plodding determinedly behind me, his powerful front legs striding confidently across the ground while his back end slowed him down, hips swaying drunkenly, toes dragging in the snow. I started to run. My red Crazy Carpet banged against my legs making me sound like an approaching thunderstorm.
When I reached the top, I turned quickly, took a couple of running steps then flattened myself out on my stomach with my Carpet positioned beneath me and rocketed down the hill.
I could see Max’s head peeking up over the snow bank at the elbow of the turn, but it wasn’t until I rounded the corner I saw he was walking up the middle of the run. “Look out Max!” I yelled, as I put one booted foot down to try and steer around him.
I have no idea if he even had time to consider moving out of the way, but in an instant Max’s body filled my entire view. I turned my head away and felt his weight push down on my legs as he let out a surprised groan. The extra weight combined with my dragging feet slowed us down as we slithered our way to the bottom of the hill together.
When we finally slid to a stop, I twisted myself around to look at Max, his front half draped across my legs while his back half sprawled on the snow. He stared back, “What the hell?” he seemed to say, and I had to laugh at the startled expression on his very serious and dignified German Shepherd face.