This is Blue. I don’t know all of his story. What I do know is that about seven years ago, shortly after our first dog, Spenser, died, my family went to the animal shelter to find another dog.
Mountain Papa and Mountain Kid 1 came home with a beagle/dachshund mix named Gibson. We renamed him Blue, a mispronunciation of Lou from the movie “Cats and Dogs.”
Blue doesn’t get along with dogs that are bigger than he is. But he likes escaping, which makes it hard to keep him out of the pound. I think the week we came home from the Marine Corps Marathon in 2015, he escaped six times.
He has separation anxiety and hates storms. He likes to be close, but hates it when the kids try to do anything other than gently pet him.
He is for all intents and purposes, my dog. No one else likes to walk him. Even for me, though, it can be a struggle.
Blue is a beagle, a hunting dog. Every time we go for a walk, he’s on the hunt.
He sees a flying plastic bag. It needs to be hunted down. That turkey vulture flying overhead? By God, it needs to be chased too. And every human needs to be barked at, especially if that human has a dog.
I have forearms of steel because of this. Blue pulls so much on the leash that the constant tugging for control is perfect exercise.
And since he needs to walk for what seems like forever, it’s the perfect time to collect my thoughts and clear my head.
When we are alone, all you can hear is Blue’s panting, the nature around you and your shoes crunching the gravel. You have to pay attention, be in the moment. Because the second you stop paying attention, a squirrel crosses your path and Blue is trying to run after it.
I used to try to run with Blue. But his hunting instincts made the runs difficult. Also, every time he escapes, if he sees me run after him, he starts running to, as if he’s reliving our adventures together.
Our “hunts” sometimes end in tears, on my end. The frustration with his constant pulling gets piled onto other things that stress me out. I just can’t take it anymore.
Other days, it’s fine and I accept the push and pull of our walks. He’s doing his thing. As long as I get to do mine, it’s all good.
These are the magical walks. Like today. We spotted a turtle together. Blue didn’t flip it over, as I kept his leash short and as far away from the turtle as possible. We explored as much as possible, taking a closer look at a cemetery on one of our routes.
The cemetery is a family plot, on of thousands throughout rural North Carolina. Like West Virginians who lived during the 1800s, residents of North Carolina used to bury family members on their properties, rather in church plots. So, where I live, you see a lot of cemeteries in the middle of plowed fields. Some of the plots are still being used as families still have ties to their family’s land.
This one we found holds the grave of James Iredell, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and several family members. It was cool to be close to history.
After our walk, Blue headed straight for bed. His 12 years of life were showing for the first time this humid, spring morning. I sat beside him and rubbed his belly. He looked at me with his brown eyes — a little sad still for some reason, but content.
Both of our spirits were satisfied. It was a fabulous, mind-clearing hunt.