Making small sticks into smaller ones is one of Bowie’s favorite occupations, when he’s not digging into big logs and tall grass to see what lives there.

A few years have passed since a dog has shared our home. I’ve missed that. We filled that hole in December and have since been privy to an exercise in mutual education. 

For instance, as well-mannered as he normally is, he does not like being in second place to my laptop which, during our dog-less period, I had become used to reading during quiet times in my recliner.

Bowie — for the frontiersman with the big knife, though young people lean toward the rock singer named David — weighs about 40 pounds, small enough to fit across my lap but too large to walk across the keyboard, came into our family back in December and we’ve been training each other ever since.

Like the little kid he is — a little more than a year old, which is “puppy” for the Golden terrier lab in his non-exclusive genetic catalog. Watching him hunt is a thrill on our thrice-daily wanderings in the local forest. The other mammalian residents, among them newly-birthed bunnies, squirrels, feral cats and White-tailed deer, seem mostly to be getting used to his snuffling around.

Bowie snuggles between us at bedtime and sleeps quietly until he decides the time has come to greet the new day. The good news is he responded quickly and reliably to house training. The not so good news is when he decides he has to go out, pretty much the only human response is to get up, dress for the early spring morning chill, and take him out.

One night this week, the pup was leading me toward a place and purpose known only to him when suddenly there exploded within inches of his face a bunny of this year’s litter. The rabbit, obviously having decided it had waited very nearly too long jumped straight up several feet in the air, inches from Bowie’s probing probiscus, and almost literally flew away across the honeysuckle vines and winged euonymus. By the time Bowie realized he should give chase, it was too late.

In the house, Bowie typically has two modes — asleep and center of attention. cWhen I am in my recliner, quietly tapping away, he not so gently pokes his nose from behind the screen and tries to land, almost cat-like, on the keyboard and will not give up until I have set the device aside and dedicated my attention to his demand — which is not always clear.

He reminds me of a certain granddaughter who would, when sufficiently ignored in the car’s rear section, begin calling out, “Gramma. Gramma. Gramma …” until Gramma would finally ask what she wanted.

“U-m-m-m-m,” the young’un would reply.

We elders would go back to our discussion; within a few minutes, again from the back would come, “Gramma. Gramma. Gramma …” and the exercise would repeat.

But at least, the human youngster was suitably strapped into the her safety seat, unable to push between the adults and whatever had occupied our attention.

Meanwhile, I go on walks with the pup, though how long and how far depend mostly on the weather. In addition to rabbits and gray squirrels, he hunts mice and moles and White-tailed deer — and the occasional tick, on which more in a future note. He plows the carpet of dead leaves and grass, snuffling his way in search of whatever is there, earning the nickname Mr. Snuffleupagus. I do sometimes wish he could speak my language and tell me what he’s actually snuffling after.

We are off to a great start together — though he seems almost smart enough to learn to type. That is a scary thought.

©2024 John Messeder. John is an award-winning environmental storyteller, nemophilist and social anthropologist living in Gettysburg, PA. He may be contacted at john@johnmesseder.com