Background Switcher (Hidden)

Chet Baker, Sweater Model

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Just as nature can be an implacable force of destruction, so can it be a comfort. I was thinking about this yesterday as I tramped through the woods with Chet. Our woods is hardly threatening. And yet, I could probably get myself into deep trouble by slipping down a rocky slope, or, as almost happened to Shila and me last year, getting crunked by a giant falling icicle. I'm not getting any younger, and as I scramble up and down the slopes, sometimes on hands and knees, I wonder if I'm crazy to be doing this all alone. I don't know if Chet would be able to jump in the open kitchen window, Lassie-style, and fetch me the crescent wrench to open the bear trap on my foot. He'd probably bring back a cheddar benneh, or a rubber stegosaur. One thing I'd have going for me: If I'm not in the house, and my car's in the garage, Bill knows where to look. The woods.

The woods is my resort, when everything in the civilized world gets oppressive. I go when I just need to get my blood circulating and my bones moving, and when my brain has congealed and doesn't work well anymore. Chet Baker sleeps all day, swaddled in blankets and pillows, unless we walk, and that's reason enough to get out.

Since our neighbor Gary passed away, there's been a mini-renaissance of squirrels on our land. Gary ate them all, but that's the stuff of another story (I'm working on that). The squirrels retain an essential wildness that is something to see, for someone who's been raised in the suburbs, where squirrels sit around the bird feeder like furry Schmoo's, stuffing themselves with high-quality food. Squirrels here in Appalachia git goin' when they see a human. I mean, full fuzz power on the tail, scrambling, falling all over themselves, racing across the forest floor, leaping from tiny twig to tiny twig to put as much real estate between themselves and the predator as possible. It's refreshing. And it means you can feed birds without feeding squirrels.

It's turned really cold, and I put a sweater on Chet for our walk. One thing Wal-mart's good for is cheap dog sweaters, acrylic things that sell for under $6, that help keep your Boston warm while he tears through brambles. The same item might sell for over $25 at the average chain pet store (bastion of outrageous overpricing). If he rips it, well, you just get out the yellow argyle, or the blue chainstitch. The hand-knit red one from Sue Robbins, with his name on it, is strictly a Sunday go-to-meeting sweater. Although I've been known to dress Chet Baker for fashion, let me say he really does need a sweater when the temperature drops below freezing. His close, silky coat has a negative R-value, and he shivers uncontrollably. This winter, he's started making a certain noise when he's cold, a gutteral ennnhhhhhhhhh that seems to issue from his very core. Poor little guy. He's not a girlydog; he's just ill-equipped for cold. He gratefully stands to have his sweater applied, lifting each front paw to put them through the armholes, then frisks around happily once it's on. I particularly like the way this one fits over his turd-tail.

Being wild, our squirrels provide a huge amount of amusement for Chet. He is a dog who looks up, and he's taken to checking the treetops for squirrels. He can cover tremendous ground when he spots one. His eyesight is excellent. Those googly orbs are good for something!

And so he lit out after a frantic squirrel that was so afraid I'd shoot him that he shot up to the top of the tallest oak, realized he couldn't leap to another tree from there, scrabbled back down, dashed across the ground to the next tree, and repeated the exercise until both he and Chet were way over the hill. I skibbled along trying to keep up, and found Chet half out of his cheap sweater, thanks to a clump of catbrier. No girlydog he.
I freed him of the encumbrance so he could be a natural dog.

We left the squirrel in peace and turned toward home.

Still coming out of my funk over James Kim. I fell in love with that family, identifying with them completely, and I guess I hoped so hard that it left a hole in my heart when things went south. I watched a video tribute to him today, and it only confirmed and intensified my feelings. Watch at your own risk. He was full of spirit, life, and love. Your thoughts are a balm. Thank you.
[Back to Top]