Monday, September 19, 2011

Treasure hunter

Muted light from an overcast sky trickles through the trees. I stand on the deck waiting for Bear and watch leaves drift slowly to the ground through still air already carrying the rich smells of autumn.

Bear emerges from the trail. Her black shape sways casually against the glowing backdrop of a yellowing forest. She stops briefly in front of Murdoch before angling sharply to the right, skirting around the limits of his line.

I watch as she picks her way through undergrowth awash in hues of pale greens and deepening yellows. I lose sight of her for a moment behind the dark trunks of trees. But I can see by the way she moves, how she carries her head, that she’s hiding something. I call to her and she turns in the opposite direction throwing me a quick suspicious glance. Her cheek bulges on one side.

“What did you find Bear?” I ask as she spits out whatever it is into a small drift of leaves. It can’t be a bone, I think to myself as I step inside and slip on my boots, Murdoch would have been all over her.

I find Bear trying to roll a black shiny object about the size of a golf ball under the edge of the ground-level deck beneath our kitchen windows. It’s been a long while since Bear has attempted to bury any treasure. She used to do it all the time.

Bear would tiptoe around the house, head down, trying to conceal the toy or bone she carried in her mouth, and search out a safe hiding place. She bustled from room to room throwing glances over her shoulder every few seconds, convinced we were following her every step. Inevitably she would tuck the object in the folds of a sweater dropped on the floor or under a blanket or behind a chair and then lie down not more than five feet away and try to act like she wasn’t guarding something.

If we so much as glanced in the general direction of where she “hid” her treasure, she would snap to her feet, roughly uncover the object, and storm off in a huff in search of an even better spot; usually under a pillow on the bed or behind a potted plant. Eventually we would have to take the object away so she could relax and stop obsessing.

“Bear, what is that?” I ask again as I walk towards her. She stops trying to roll it under the deck, scoops it up in her mouth and slowly begins to inch away when I reach her side. Bear looks past me as nonchalantly as she can, unable to make direct eye contact. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she seems to say around the bulge in her cheek. I reach out and lift up the edge of her lip with my finger.

“That’s the tip from Morgan’s cane!” I say. “Where did you find that?” Bear wags her tail and wanders over to the trees to lie down with her prize. The fat rubber end from Morgan’s cane was lost in the woods beneath a thick blanket of snow last winter during a firewood-scouting expedition.

It always amazes me what lost objects Bear uncovers that the woods have swallowed. Just last month she found a ball that disappeared two years ago. She came wandering out of the woods with it clutched between her teeth as though she had known where it was the whole time. She probably did.

I kneel down beside Bear as she lovingly noses her latest find. She won’t tell me where she found it; she never does even though I always ask. Instead, she plucks it up with her teeth and chews on it thoughtfully as her tail thuds against the ground, disturbing a scatter of leaves.


  1. LOL! This is great. So vivid, I was there watching the whole thing. The description of her efforts to hide things is great. None of my current crew has ever done this, but your post brought back memories of Jessie. She would wander from room to room, searching out the perfect hiding spot for the rawhide I'd given her. Eventually she would begin to whine with frustration, and I would end up taking it away from her to spare her the misery!

  2. We used to get a kick out of watching Bear try to find a "good" hiding place since her definition of good differed greatly from ours. I guess she was kind of limited in the house. It's funny that Jessie was the same way. Poor dogs getting stressed out by what was supposed to be a special treat.