Sufi at the Beach
by Laura Garren
A week and a half after adopting Sufi from the Animal Rescue Fund in Seneca, SC, my husband Chuck and I took her with us on vacation to Charleston.
We didn't feel it would be fair to leave her so soon after bringing her home; we didn't want her to feel abandoned. So we reserved a room at the Red Roof Inn--which we call the Red Woof Inn--because dogs are
allowed to stay there.
We weren't sure how she would do on a four-hour drive, but she was splendid. We bundled her blanket and her Beanie Baby squirrel in the back of my station wagon, and she rode happily all the way down the highway. She preferred to look out the back, seeing where we'd been.
Occasionally she'd take time to poke her fluffy head into the front seat and swipe our necks with her purple tongue.
When we finally reached our destination, we encountered our only problem, which was minor: Sufi was afraid to go up the stairs leading to our second-story room. We had to carry her up every time.
We never figured out why she thought those steps were so spooky, and I guess it really doesn't matter.
She quickly became comfortable in the room, however, as though she thought, "Okay, this is our new home." She flopped on the floor, tail waving, and crossed her paws in that very endearing way
We invited her up onto the bed, which she loved--more
opportunity to show us how much she loved us by giving us vigorous tongue baths. She did have a momentary surprise when she caught her own reflection in the mirror, whereupon she began barking at this upstart intruder.
After unloading the car, we hopped back in and embarked for the beach. Sufi was intoxicated by all the new smells and the prospect of a walk, when all of a sudden she was confronted by a vast, roaring entity: the ocean. She froze, sniffed, and began growling. Only with lots of encouragement was she enticed to approach this menacing monster, which hurled water at her. Finally, she relaxed enough to enjoy her walk, but she did not want to get her dainty paws wet.
The next day, we decided to leave her in the room while we went to eat lunch. It was too hot to take her and leave her in the car. We were gone for about two hours, during which time we kept saying worriedly to each other, "I hope she's okay."
When we returned, we were relieved to find that she has been sleeping. She greeted us sleepily, with tail wagging and tongue swipes.
Our vacation was a good one, all the better because we took our dog and she was well-behaved, relaxed, and happy. I think this is the beginning of a joyous relationship, and we look forward to many
more trips with Sufi.
by Laura Garren
If you like books and dogs and you haven't read Colter,
you're in luck because you still have it to look forward to.
Written by Rick Bass, Colter is the "true story of the best dog" he ever had, a German short-haired pointer who is the runt of the litter but blooms into a genius of a hunting dog.
This book is a love song from a grateful owner to a beloved pet, and is beautifully written.
Bass is already rich in dogs when he adopts Colter, "bony, cross-legged, pointy-headed, goofy-looking."
This endearing puppy goes home with his new owner to join hounds Homer and Annie, former foundlings rescued from the roadside.
When Bass begins hunting his ungainly young dog with a friend and the friend's golden retriever, Maddie, he realizes that Colter has surprising potential.
Reluctantly, he relinquishes this promising pointer to a field trainer, who will nurture and train Colter all summer and, Bass hopes, help him become the great hunting dog he was born to be.
For Bass, bird hunting is not simply the bloodthirsty pursuit of small feathered creatures, but a noble endeavor that requires the utmost respect, for both the quarry and for the dog used to find it.
He says that when hunting, "...you go past a certain place in the world, and in yourself.
The best way I can describe it to someone who doesn't hunt is that it's like traveling into new country, new territory: some unexplored land,
still in this life, but so sensate and crisp as to seem beyond this life; everything is felt more sharply, more intimately, and at a smoother, more supple pace."
More than just a story about a great hunting dog, Colter is the story of Bass's love of animals--especially dogs--and the outdoors. He tells how he rescued his hounds; how, as a child, he read voraciously the books that chronicled the lives of animals; and how he collected everything natural, from feathers and bones to turtles and frogs, and, most notably, soil.
From all over the world, friends of his father collected samples of dirt to bring back to the young collector, who labeled them and lined them up along his shelves.
After these musings, Bass returns, however, to the story of Colter, "the brown bomber," who returns from dog-hunting camp a top-notch pointing dog. Bass marvels in the dog's flawless execution of his craft as he goes "on lock-solid, drop-dead point... head and
shoulders hunched and crouched, bony ass stuck way up in the air, body half-twisted, frozen, as if cautioning us of some hidden deadly betrayal: and green eyes afire, stub tail motionless ."
However, a problem still exists in the hunting process: Bass can't hit a bird, which frustrates Colter excessively. He takes to shrieking when the shotgun fires and no bird falls. On one hand, Bass can live with his poor aim: "...it doesn't matter.
In bird hunting, one piece of bliss--one little window of dog perfection, one wedge of success, thirty seconds of grace, is enough to obliterate all the errors of a lifetime ."
However, he hates his ineptitude for his dog's sake; hates letting Colter down. Occasionally--by accident, he says--he hits one; but his guilt over his failure increases until he enrolls himself in a shooting school in hopes of improving his aim.
He does, much to Colter's joy. Along the way, Bass adopts two more pointer pups, from the same pair of dogs that produced Colter. He doesn't intend to get two, but can't decide between them, and so takes both, blaming his "problem of loving too much, of wanting too much," although to love dogs too much seems a contradiction in terms.
Bass manages to kill a few birds after attending shooting school, but he never focuses on his prowess as a hunter; that's not what hunting represents for him. Instead, he revels in his interaction with the natural world and with his dogs, and the fact that these magnificent creatures are doing what they were born for.
He acknowledges that he is privileged to take part in such a sacred pursuit, and he honors his dogs by the telling of this tale.
As all dog stories do, this one ends sadly. To love
something--especially a dog--entails the risk of losing the thing that is loved. We pay this price, and dearly.
However, anyone who has ever loved a dog will agree that the cost is worth paying, for the love of a dog is priceless.
The same can be said of Colter: this beautiful love song to a dog may make us sad and remind us of dogs
past, but is well worth the reading and, possibly, a tear or two.