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Meandering with My Mutts: Blessings


The sun is radiant and the sky brilliant blue, clouds feathered across its expanse. The calendar may insist that winter is just around the corner, but right now it feels more like a balmy spring day.
We’re out at one of our favorite stomping grounds, Lake Warren game lands in Upper Black Eddy. This outing is particularly special, as we are enjoying the company of a new member of our pack, a 15-week-old puppy named Noah. Like Jesse, Noah is a black and tan coonhound mix – mostly coonhound with just a smidgen of mix.
My initial intent had been to bring an older dog into our home, as we did with our beloved Buzzy. But having experienced the loss of Buzzy and our cat within the past two years, my husband lobbied convincingly for the youthful presence of a puppy.
So here I am raising a puppy, and as with many others in my situation, sometimes wondering what the heck I was thinking. Noah’s antics have me shifting from grumbling exasperation to sighs of frustration to smiles of joy to hysterical laughter. It’s a good thing that he’s so cute, funny,and sweet, as that’s his saving grace. Noah is a holy terror and pure delight all rolled into one. Deep down, I have faith that he has the makings of a great dog.
We walk the wide swath of turf that fronts the lake, the gray trunks of denuded trees rimming the lake on opposite shores. During the warmer months the lake is submerged under masses of water lilies, but now they have descended back into the depths of their roots, awaiting their turn to once again dominate the water.
A path takes us through forest to a secluded pond where, behind a curtain of cattails, a pair of lesser scaups startles and takes flight. Lesser scaups are diving ducks that feed on mollusks and aquatic plants, but most interesting is their tendency to play dead – head stretched out, eyes open, and wings drawn into the body – when grasped by a predator such as a fox.

Side by side, Jesse and Noah could easily be taken for older and younger brother in both appearance, as well as interaction; Noah finds it hard to resist slipping into pesky puppy mode at times, vexing for Jesse. Jesse disciplines as needed, and I couldn’t ask for a better partner in helping to teach Noah the ropes during our rambling training sessions, as Noah works to learn such commands as “near me” and “hold up.” It’s never too early to start basic “meandering” training.
On our way back Noah discovers something particularly scrumptious, and it takes all of my powers of persuasion to get him to “leave it.” On our daily outings he’s discovered a particular fondness for all things disgusting (think deer poop, dead mole, deer leg), and will do everything in his power to prevent me from putting the kibosh on his celebration of treasure found.
As I help both dogs into the back of my SUV – Noah because he’s too little to reach, Jesse because his back legs are too arthritic to make the leap – I tell them what wonderful companions they are.
This holiday season, may the comfort and joy that family, friends, and animals bring into your lives be counted among your blessings.
Cindy Woodall resides in Upper Black Eddy.