The Golden Archipelago

Every dog needs exercise, but if Roo doesn't get hers, it's the difference between a frightened night and a restful one, and those frightened nights are not easy for Roo. If she doesn’t get the burst of happiness running free brings her, and doesn’t get knocked out, her hypervigilance is accelerated, and every little sound jolts her. She needs a combined three hours of running around, chasing birds, digging for moles and, especially, just running, which she always does laughing. You should hear her when she gallops past - you hear the laughing, athletically timed with her stride. She's young and tough and developing at an incredible rate. I can't imagine the shape she would be in if she hadn't been stunted by starvation and atrophied in her puppyhood. It probably accounts for how small she is and the places where her musculature is still out of proportion.

But lately, those hikes have been hard. Just putting one foot in front of the other has been hard. For a couple of days I tried wearing sandals instead of hiking boots, but in that terrain, and in the upper 30-degree weather lately, that didn’t work. To make it worse, Roo's favorite trail has lots of spots where a machete would come in handy, downed cottonwoods that you have to climb over, branches you have to crawl under and thorn bushes you have to pick your way through while they pull at your jacket and tear holes in your jeans. You have to balance on logs to get across the stream in a couple of places. At all those moments, Roo loves to run past me at full tilt. Show-off.

If when people say that dogs 'live in the moment,' they mean that they don't take their own past into account, I don't buy it. I am convinced that the confinement and deprivations she suffered as a little puppy make her all the more in love with those big doses of freedom. I've never seen a dog get more of a charge from pouring on the speed, all by herself, just because a river bank or a twisted part of a trail looks like fun. Better yet if there’s water to splash in at the end of it. Every move she makes out there is filled with the body language of some high realm of fulfillment. I wouldn’t trade that for anything. 

It also helps to listen to Volume Three of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago on the iPhone. Only Volume Three is available on audio. I read the first two volumes last year. Page after page is filled with the horror of what Stalin did to his people. People were not arrested and sent to camps for reasons. Arrest and forced labor descended on them like a plague. Women with nothing more than the summer dresses they were arrested in marched ten miles at the point of machine guns through Siberian snow in 65 degrees below to go dig gold pits with their bare fingers; men with no arms sent out to hop up and down to tamp down the snow around trees that other slaves had to fell… it starts to feel pretty petty complaining to oneself about how sick one feels walking a dog along the banks of a beautiful southwestern stream in America. 

Here's the Kahoo shaking off. I'll be getting better pictures in a few days when whatever this is, Lyme or not, starts getting better. The antibiotics have got to kick in sooner or later.

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Roo Kahoo shakes off the waters of the San Pedro River, between Sierra Vista and Tombstone, Arizona, January 16, 2013.