A few days ago I took my pup for a walk on BLM land close to the house.
The last few times that I have taken her out for a long walk Jamie has come home, slept and then woken up limping.
She is slowly but surely becoming an old dog.
When we lived in Alaska we routinely walked together on trails for many hours and for many miles.
So it went in Wyoming when we were here last year and so it went during our time in Tennessee
I am beginning to realize that I cannot do that anymore, and that I am going to have to be increasingly mindful that her hips are bothering her more and more.
On this trip I decided that we would walk mostly on flat land.
Still exploring, as she and as I love to do, but not as far and not as tough as before.
Jamie is a wonderful and loyal dog, who will go wherever we want to go anytime we want to go.
On this day she walked point, compelled to lead the way as she has always been compelled, eager to wander and explore.
On a warm day we walked down to the end of our dirt and gravel road, turned left onto a short trail that led directly onto BLM land.
Within minutes we were heading on trail, and walking irrevocably away from civilization.
As we turned right at the fence line and headed south, my dog and I soon realized that we had an audience.
There was a small herd of horses grazing on brown and tough grass and sage in a large fenced area, and when I looked up towards Carter Mountain I saw them and saw them watching us..................
One by one these very beautiful animals made their way towards the fence line, walking as close to us as their wood and wire barrier would allow, curious and wanting to be near us..................
Even as Jamie ignored them completely and was more interested in leaving her mark on multiple sage bushes, I stood on the trail for a few minutes watching the horses.
They were beautiful, healthy, watchful of us.
I have been in Wyoming long enough to recognize that the horse on the right in this picture was likely one of the wild mustangs, and likely one of the horses that ran wild and free at McCullough Peaks not far from Cody.
The wild horses are shorter and stockier than domestic horses, with long hair that runs down to and often below their eyes.
Every year a large number of wild mustangs are captured and adopted out to ranch owners throughout the country.
An effective way to control the herd size and ensure continued health of the herds.............
I smiled at these wonderful animals and then began walking again, continuing our journey away from the house and pleased at this unexpected and quiet encounter.
As Jamie and I continued walking on trail I was surprised to see that the horses were following us.
One by one the horses that had spanned the length of the fence began to head in our direction, apparently not yet willing to let us go.
As I turned often to watch them and follow their progress I smiled at them again, content that our unspoken encounter with each other was not yet over.
They were beautiful and the sight of them pleased me.
I knew that they would not be with us long. They would run into more fence soon, and would not be able to go any further, but that was alright.
Right now they were with us and right now I liked them......................
We were not heading into the hills.
We were staying primarily on flat land, and in reality Jamie and I were not very far from civilization.
We were headed for the house in the picture.
Just beyond that house was a trail that would drop us down to the irrigation canal.
I knew from previous explorations that I could walk beyond the canal and pick up another dirt road that would lead to paved road.
Basically we would be walking in a very large square.
The canal at this time of year would be dry. When it is filled with water I could not walk to the canal with Jamie - there was no way to safely get her across the meandering canal that snakes its way through the basin and that irrigates fields throughout the region.
At this time of year we should be good-to-go...............
Still following us, this horse had been totally focused on me and Jamie.
The rest of the horses were following us, but really were following this intensely focused leader.
But now she was done.
James and I were going to pick up a trail that took us directly across country, and so the corner of the property was as far as she (and they) would be able to travel with us.............
I snapped this picture of a private plane quickly and blindly and without a lot of thought, not certain (and not really caring) whether it turned out or not.
Surprisingly there are still a good number of private planes coming and going at the Yellowstone airport.
During the summer air traffic is almost non-stop - a continual and endless series of commercial commuter air crafts and private planes.
With the park closed for the winter I had assumed that air traffic would be almost non-existent at this time of year.
That is not the case.................
As we walked a series of rolling hills I watched Jamie with concern.
She took each small and rocky hill easily and without effort, and I watched her eagerly lead the way - she with the pigeon toed front legs, bow legged back legs, curly tail wagging happily from side to side.
She was OK and therefore by extension so was I................
There was a home directly behind me.
I knew that once we dropped down towards the canal we would quickly find more homes.
But I stood at the top of a small hill disregarding this last home and instead looking out over the huge, empty, desolate, isolated expanse of BLM land that was in front of me..............
I can't even count how many times I have run into the canal during walks, bike rides and truck drives and have had to turn back.
It weaves its way throughout the region during the spring, summer and fall - feeding livestock, feeding crops, providing much appreciated and abundant green to an environment that would be barren all year 'round without it.
One of many up-close interactions with the canal:
Jamie and I walked down a steep and rocky trail, wandered through sage lined trail and then stood in the now dry canal looking in both directions.
I had never stood IN the canal before and I smiled at the novelty and newness of this brief experience before moving on with my pup..................
Jamie and I stopped again, briefly watching the jet (and the long, clearly defined jet stream) as it made its way towards Carter Mountain.
In a sky containing multiple shades of watery blue, the white line in the sky was compelling to watch.
Another one of those quiet and simple things that pleased me...............
When we arrived at the canal for the second time I stood with my dog looking at this unexpected sight.
I had run close to this place all last year. I had walked this way a few times this year. I had never seen this before.
Curious, I wandered closer. Abandoned vehicles are not something you see often in this part of Wyoming. Wood piles wrapped in and around the old cars was also not a common sight.
I had (and still have) no idea where this all came from.................
I do not know why this was all laying alongside a small stream adjacent to the dry canal, nor do I know where it all came from.
It was a curious and unexpected sight, made all the more astonishing because it so completely disrupted the endless acres of empty and neutral terrain I had just been walking through.................
It is almost impossible to walk on any part of BLM land without running into remnants of an animal.
Over the course of the past year I have run into two separate "killing fields" - large numbers of bones, hides, skulls, body parts - all evidence that a larger predator routinely takes his kills to a favorite safe place to eat.
I have also seen random animal skulls, random animal hides, and certainly many small bones and fragments scattered over sometimes large areas.
They are all testament to, and a reminder of, the fact that there are predators that live on BLM land.
Last year we used to see large antelope herds running full speed across BLM land close to the house.
This year we did not see anywhere near as many.
Last year we saw many deer close to the house. Although they still live in pastures within only a couple of miles of the house, we did not see as many this year wandering in the yard and our neighbors yards.
Last year we never heard any coyotes. This year we heard many.
Jamie and I found more bones during this walk.
Sun bleached, all small bones, they appeared to have been in this place for a long time...............
When James and I first dropped down into the valley close to the canal I thought that I would come out by the road at a point I knew well.
As we continued to walk the trail beyond the first and then second crossing of the canal I realized that I was mistaken.
I had turned off one trail and onto a second trail too soon.
It was not a concern because I knew where I was and how to make my way home.
As we approached this gate I realized that I had only seen it from the opposite side up until now, and did not know if it was chained and locked or open.
As we approached it I mentally looked it over, trying to figure out how to get through it - or over it - or under it - with my small four-legged trail partner.
Happily it was unlocked and we simply walked through.
Picking up the dirt road I headed in the direction of the paved road that I knew was about 1/2 mile away.................
A view of our third pass over the canal, taken from a low bridge.
I have stood on this little bridge many times, taking pictures of the water-filled irrigation ditch and one day even capturing ducks as they swam in the fast moving water.............
When we hit black top we walked along the road and met up with five friendly and curious dogs who came to say hello to us.
After petting all of these friendly mutts four of them wandered back into their yard and the fifth dog walked alongside me and Jamie as we began to make our way back to the house.
We were still about 1 1/2 miles from the house and as we continued on our way I fully expected Dog #5 to turn back at any moment and go home.
Instead he happily followed us to the end of one road, and then happily followed us as we turned onto our road.
He frequently wandered away from us to explore in front yards, only to catch up with us again after each yard inspection.
With 3/4 of a mile to go I tried to shoo him away, sharply telling him to "Go Home!".
This friendly big dog, with the floppy ears and the wide open and friendly face refused to go home.
With half a mile to go I finally resigned myself to the fact that if I did not do something soon this big beast would probably follow us all the way to the house.
Reluctantly I called LC, explained our friendly-dog-conundrum and asked him to come and pick us up.
Saying good-bye to sweet and friendly dog we drove home after a quiet and very wonderful walk on BLM land.
Jamie slept all afternoon.
By that evening she was limping. Both one of her front legs and one of her back legs were painful and she could barely climb stairs in and out of the house or climb up onto the couch.
She rested the entire next day and is again acting fine and without pain.
With only a few exceptions we had walked on mostly flat land, and had been gone for only about 90 minutes.
It was too much for her. Next time we'll try 60...................
The dogs in our lives, the dogs we come to love and who (we fervently believe) love us in return, offer more than fidelity, consolation, and companionship. They offer comedy, irony, wit, and a wealth of anecdotes, the "shaggy dog stories" and "stupid pet tricks" that are commonplace pleasures of life. They offer, if we are wise enough or simple enough to take it, a model for what it means to give your heart with little thought of return. Both powerfully imaginary and comfortingly real, dogs act as mirrors for our own beliefs about what would constitute a truly humane society. Perhaps it is not too late for them to teach us some new tricks..............Marjorie Garber