Unhinged Alaska: Fall and my dog Howard

I’m one of those offbeat types who enjoys the early morning hours where the eastern sky has yet to develop its personality and merely glows with a muted silver patina.


It gives me time to have my first cup of fresh ground coffee before stepping out on the deck to inhale the scintillating breath of the ocean’s morning breeze and let out our psycho dogs to rediscover everything that they excitedly detected the previous day and then promptly forgot about. It’s as if they start their life all over again every time they touch down on the dew laden grass.

This time of year is especially imposing because the fall air has the taste of a deep chilled Honey Crisp apple to it while the trees reflect a mother lode of gold and mountainsides flow red with carpets of fireweed gone to seed.

It is also the time that my ancient dog Howard becomes more cognizant of the world about him and decides there is more to life than eating, sleeping, and acting as a front room throw rug and comfy bed for our little rescue poodle, Princess. Lay off the smirks, she came to us with that name. She’s in such good shape now that we call her Thunder Butt although she still seems to prefer the royalty nomenclature.

Howard has always considered himself a primo hunter and in his earlier years he was a terror around the back forty when it came to scaring the beejeezes out feral pheasants. His only problem was that when he unexpectedly flushed one he’d burn paws back to the safety of the driveway so fast he almost set fire to the weeds he blew through.

It wasn’t a pretty sight but being a prime example of a quintessential coward didn’t seem to bother him a bit. In fact, once he calmed down from his latest retreat he’d strut around like he had been totally impressive while nervously looking over his shoulder to make sure something wasn’t sneaking up on him.

He did have a redeeming quality when it came to knocking off shrews and mice although it wasn’t something that he planned.

If he crossed paths with a rodent while trundling around the yard, he would trap the varmint between his huge paws and attempted to play with it. This seemed to deeply annoy the critter to the point that it displayed its umbrage by taking a nip at him which, in turn, resulted in a playful slap back that unfortunately turned the thing into something resembling a flattened hairy bass lure with feet. This much to the glee of my bride who immediately opts for the nuclear option if one the pests is discovered scampering around the interior of our cabin.

Howard has now entered into the phase of life where his heart is there but the old bod has a few stripped gears and he couldn’t out run a sloth given a 24 yard lead in a twenty five yard dash. Yet, still when fall arrives, something changes and recharges his soul.

Is it the cooling of his surroundings that brings back his hazy memories of when he ruled birds of autumn? Or maybe it’s that he simply enjoys the quiet and scent filled days that transcend the change of seasons.

I really don’t know nor care that much. He seems to be happy in what ever his world is now and that’s enough for me.

This morning the bay facing our deck rested in a deep slumber of calm with and nary a whisper of a breeze to titillate its arousal.

Princess had completed her duties and was back upon her throne bed snoring regally while Howard was stretching to arise.

As I stood on the east end of the deck mesmerized by the dawn’s fire pouring over the mountain peaks and spilling onto the ice fields and glaciers, I felt a slight bump as he sat down beside me.

We both stared as red streaks rolled across the tidal flats and settled into the reflecting sea.

The frost covered grass just below us picked up a pinkish hue while the icy still air seemed poised to shatter if a breeze intruded.

Neither of us moved until the colors faded and it was time to go in.

As we stepped inside, I felt lucky to have added another matchless memory to my cache of times gone by while Howard was even luckier. He had simply started a new life again.


Nick can be reached at ncvarney@gmail.com


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