Tuesday, August 26, 2008
been there), but it’s rather a day for discussing the area right next to their little beach.
It’s a cute, sandy beach with its own dock and canoe, and to the immediate left, as you look out at the lake, the shore becomes mud—a special kind of rotten leaf muck. Left to his own devices, Gus will take a tennis ball and squish it into the mud with his front paws and then dig it back out, over and over, until he looks like this.
Goldens have a double coat, and it’s that two-layered characteristic that gives them their particular look. The longer, shinier “guard” hairs are darker (particularly dark on these two), and they help repel water. The undercoat is made up of fluffy, lighter-colored hair. In direct sun, even when damp, dark Goldens like these two shine in reds, oranges, whites, and golds in all the variations of wetness and the angles of light.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Blogger isn't great with video, so this is the best I could do in converting the original, much larger video of this photo sequence.
(Photo credit: Donna Tippy)
Fetching is the epitome of an action done for its own sake, an undertaking whose entire point is the process itself. The dog doesn’t bring back the ball and then wait to see what will happen. He doesn’t bring it back and then take a coffee break. Once you pick it up, he takes a few careful steps out ahead, waiting for you to throw it, and hoping you will so he can enter into the process again.
A dog takes simultaneous joy in motion, in connection with you over an activity that he’s absolutely sure you want him to do.
Then you can toss something Comet likes but Gus cares a lot less about (Gus will prioritize tennis balls over anything else, including treats, things with squeakers, live birds, anything). Then Comet gets to bring this squeaky bumper thing and Gus gets the ball. It’s a nice arrangement for the dogs, but a little complex and wet for the thrower.
As you saw in the video, though, sometimes Comet does get the ball.
(Photo credit: Donna Tippy)
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Now that Comet’s full size, he and Gus will race. We take them on leashes across the street and up the first few feet of the path, and them have them stay while we unclip them. When we let them go, there’s this breakneck steeplechase of twin Golden butts pounding away from us. Once they get around the corner, I whistle them back, and there’s a renewed competition on the way back.
There doesn’t seem to be any way to truly compare their speeds, though, since Gus only runs full-out for tennis balls—regular trail joy doesn’t quite coax out his top speed—and Comet won’t compete for tennis balls, since he never once beat Gus. Now that he has a chance, he doesn’t know it.
I’ve been careful not to put them in direct competition for balls very often, since I didn’t want Comet to decide fetching was pointless, but he won’t try for it if Gus is going too.
So the question—who’s the fastest Golden alive?—will remain unanswered for the time being.
A dog lives in the present moment, free from the kind of specific, reflective memory we have and free from the forecasting logic of the future that hovers over us constantly. I hesitate to idealize that kind of mind without reservation, since it is precisely those qualities that enable us to better ourselves, to think morally about our actions, and to appreciate art, pain, and beauty.
However, I do like to share in those qualities when I see them in a dog that loves me in his own pure, limited way and runs back to me with fresh joy when I whistle that particular falling sound (stolen from hermit thrushes and my mother’s father) that Gus and Comet both recognize as a call to attend and return.
They seem to be able to contain the contradiction of wanting to run back to us and wanting to run ahead to new territory. The dogs sprint to return, but as soon as they’re told they’ve come back far enough, they wheel and sprint away down the trail. I wonder if a human being could ever simultaneously want to go backwards and forwards in space or in time without experiencing at least a little cognitive dissonance. Or perhaps there’s no cognitive dissonance when there’s no complex cognition in the first place.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Once I got off the mountain safely, I headed down to New Haven and climbed in a car with Andy and the dogs, and we headed up to New Hampshire to spend the week with my parents at the cabin they’ve rented almost every summer for the past quarter-century. It’s a place with lots of memories for me, and it situated on a gorgeous lake in easy striking distance to the tax-free outlet towns of New Hampshire.
The dogs like it even better than we do. It’s Comet’s first time up, but he took to it just as fast as Gus has during his times here. They swim every day, and they never pass up the opportunity to scratch their itchy, wet backs in the grass after a good romp in the water.
Comet’s just as handsome wet as he is dry, and wet he was, at every opportunity. In fact, the first night we arrived, it was rather late, and it was as dark as only a rural location really gets. As Andy and I brought bags around the side of the house in the dark so we could go in the back door without waking my folks, we heard a huge splash.
We immediately assumed Gus, who had been here several times, couldn’t restrain himself and jumped in, and we threw whispered chides into the dark, “No! Gus! Get over here! Bad Dog!”
Once we got in and turned the light on, however, we realized that it was Comet who was soaked. There’s no way to be sure what happened, but I can only assume he ran out onto the short, narrow dock with Gus and didn’t realize where he was. He must have been one surprised little dog. Well, not so little, I guess.
Rolling is quite an energetic activity for these guys. They go through quite an amazing series of contortions as they try to get exactly the right surface (dirt, grass, gravel) into exactly the right spot (back, shoulders, haunch).
The result is a dirty, satisfied dog.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
By the time we tried to leave at 10AM, the buzz on campus was claiming a total closure of Route 125 on both sides of Bread Loaf. Zach, Jamie, and I all needed to get back to the house, so we jumped in my intrepid Jeep and went to see for ourselves.
The first thing we noticed was that the Frost Road, a dirt road which heads uphill, straight as an arrow, north off of 125, had largely washed into 125. That meant rocks from the size of pebbles up to cobblestones, along with enough dirt to surface a road were all sitting on the pavement. We passed this with a few nervous comments but no trouble.
In the ninety minutes we spent learning about Chaucer (or in Jamie and Zach’s case, “Imagination”), the river had jumped its banks and gone running down the road—not just a few inches of standing water anymore. What you see in this photo are rapids several feet deep running down the road itself. I’m estimating the depth based on that black Ford Focus that’s been pushed off into the ditch.
Obviously, we weren’t getting down this way.
We backtracked and turned off down the Goshen/Ripton Road, a dirt road that the atlas showed as an alternate route off the mountain, but about a quarter mile down we came to a section that had been half carved away by a tributary of the flooding river.
While the road was still just wide enough for the Jeep to pass, all three of us suffered through the mental image of the carved edge giving way under the tire and dumping us all sideways down into a roaring waterway.
I knew the road to the east of campus was far worse and had washed out earlier, and I knew going up over the mountains and down to the other side was probably impossible in addition to being impractical (it would have taken hours to drive around back to Middlebury). However, to the north of 125 are a series of dirt roads, beginning with Maiden Lane, which eventually wind down to Lincoln, a town to the northeast of Middlebury.
My first thought was to take the dirt roads around the washout we had seen. My assumption was that the paved road (125) was still the most likely safe, direct route if I could just get around the one place it was impassable. I successfully got around the pictured washout and all the way to the town of Ripton, which is about the halfway point down the mountain from Bread Loaf. However, just down from Ripton were far more severe washouts, which I never saw, since emergency services had managed to get as far as Ripton to close the downward road.
So I turned around and headed back up the ridge to the north. Every dirt road that turned westward toward Middlebury was washed out or otherwise impassable, and after three fresh dead ends, I finally ended up going due north for almost an hour before I was able to cut over to Route 116 on Notch Road. It isn’t labeled on this map, but it’s west of South Lincoln. 116 brought me down to the end of 125 where it joins up with Route 7 to Middlebury itself.
I got to the house to find another roommate, Liz, who had tried to go up the mountain at about 10AM for her class and simply couldn’t.
Frankly, the weather was more reminiscent of my class last year (Theories of the Sublime in Romatic Poetry by Men and Women), but certain passages in “The Miller’s Tale” from Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales also resounded with the idea of a flood, if not as specifically with the terrifying power of natural forces.