Monday, June 14, 2010

Lost Dog. Please Return.

One of the reasons Ben and I live in Selah, is not because of the scintillating nature of Selah, but for the surrounding country.
The Cascade Range runs from Northern Washington into Oregon, and we sit just east of a portion of it.
Despite disparaging comments from family in the past, it's actually quite beautiful here. If you don't like high desert, or rolling hills with orchards, within 30 minutes you can be in high mountain canyons next to rushing rivers.
You can head up Highway 410 toward Chinook Pass, where Mt. Rainier juts spectacularly as soon as you crest the pass. Or, you can head up Highway 12 toward White Pass, which eventually leads to Packwood and still more mountains.
There are a plethora of places to explore, but some Sundays we simply head to Trout Lodge, a rustic restaurant with views of the Tieton River and a perennial mountain garden. We eat burgers, visit with owners Larry and C.J., and then explore nearby canyons or go further into the mountains to run Taz.
We used to take Casey and Shy, who knew how to behave in the mountains. Taz is another story.
Sunday we ate our burgers and then headed up Bear Mountain road, another 20 minutes toward White Pass. We saw Mt. Rainier in the distance, Rimrock Reservoir, full to the brim below us, and had a view of numerous surrounding peaks in the distance.
It was a surprisingly well-maintained dirt road that goes for miles and miles through stands of clear-cut forests which are coming back, places to hunt Morrel mushrooms, camp, hike, bird watch, and scream for a lost dog.
We stopped the car by the side of the road and put on our boots. We let Taz out of the car and off her leash. The whole idea is to give her room to run without getting into trouble. Right.
Rather than walk the road, which to Ben is passe, and to me, dusty, since there were a few other cars and trucks on the road, we headed up into the woods. We scrambled around for awhile looking for an animal trail we could follow. Daniel Boone Ben followed me for awhile, but I, feeling a little insecure heading blindly into the woods, led us back to the road.
At that point Daniel said, "Okay, follow me."
"Yes, dear."
Taz had been following...well, leading the way, sniffing here and there, staying close, and having an adventure.
But then, in a fleeting moment of clarity, I watched her as she caught a scent. She was circling, tongue out, eyes ablaze. I should have grabbed her collar and put her on the leash (as if I could have actually grabbed her...she's faster than a jackrabbit).
Instead, I followed Daniel into the woods, thinking our 8-month-old puppy would surely follow.
How naive we were, especially knowing from experience that any scent is a thousand times more interesting than the humans in her life.
Within just minutes we realized we had lost our dog.
TAZ! Clap, clap, clap. TAZ, clap, clap, clap, TAZ.
No response.
We weren't exactly frantic. Just sort of disgusted, scared, frustrated, all at once.
"We lost our dog? Unbelievable," I kept saying.
I was imagining her running far into the Cascades tracking a deer until coyotes spotted their dinner.
I also envisioned Ben's sadness over the loss of our dog. I would get over it quickly, I convinced myself.
Ben, being the optimist, of course, thought she'd be waiting back at the car.
We were both very worried.
We walked into the woods for about fifteen minutes shouting lamely into the wind for Taz, before deciding to return to the road.
It was probably more likely she'd come out on the road, and I didn't want strangers picking her up.
Just as we came down an embankment onto the road, a truck full of 'strangers'  stopped and said, "Did you lose a dog?"
"OH, gosh, yes, oh, thank you."
"I hope you don't mind, we fed her some chicken."
"Gosh, no, thank you so much. We were scared. Thank you for picking her up."
Then we looked in the back seat of the truck.
There sat a gorgeous Doberman.
"Oh, ... that's not our dog!"
We all laughed,...sort of.
They had been thinking, "Man, that was easy, find a dog, find the owner. Bam."
They asked us if we had a piece of paper so they could leave a note on a car further up the road.
We told them we did, at our car, just around the next curve.
They drove ahead, and we walked.
Just as we rounded the curve, we heard them yell.
"She's here!"
Ben was right. Taz knew enough to return to the car. She first barked at the 'strangers' in the truck waiting at our car, and then ran to us, apparently relieved she was not to be a coyote feast.
When we got to the car, she jumped in the kennel, laid down, and silently promised us she would never, ever, run away from us again.
The strangers wrote their note and headed back up the road.
We drove in the same direction, intent on doing more exploring.
After about ten minutes we saw a woman in an open jeep coming our way with a beautiful Doberman sitting next to her.
She was on her cellphone (I want to know her carrier) probably telling someone, "I FOUND HER. Ohmygosh, I'm so relieved."
All's well that ends well.
Next time? We'll probably let her run. (And carry a whistle.)

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