AUTHOR'S NOTE: Sometimes I'm just too busy to get a column out, so I asked a guest to step in for me this time. Please, no comments about her writing better than I do.
My name is Dotzie, and I'm a dog. A mountain cur dog to be exact, but maybe we will talk about that later.
The human guy I care for along with my sidekick Callie — she's a mostly retired English pointer — is Larry Case. Some of you may have heard of him; most of you have not. He does a lot sitting in front of that screen he calls a computer. He mutters a lot and rubs his head and says he is writing for newspapers and magazines. Callie and I walk over and nudge his leg and offer to help, but usually he just ignores us, although sometimes we do get an ear scratch.
It is usually obvious to us dogs when he is stressed about something. Callie and I can't understand why we don't just go huntin'.
Like most humans, Larry is pretty clueless as to how much dogs understand. Dogs, in case you don't know, can tell when you, the human, are happy, sad, lonely, confused, angry or furious. Dogs that live with people all the time quickly learn to tune in to what is going on with their human pets. If the dogs you live with are hunting dogs, you are really lucky, because many of your human problems can be solved by just loading us (the dogs) up in the truck and going huntin'. Larry seems to forget this sometimes, so we have to remind him: Let's go huntin'!
Like I said back there, I'm a mountain cur, but some of you might not know what that is. Mountain curs have a long history, and much of it is right here in the Appalachian Mountains. There are historical accounts of settlers coming west over the Alleghenies with cur dog puppies in their saddle bags. The early pioneers knew a good cur dog could be just as valuable to them as a flintlock rifle or a good axe. My ancestors guarded the livestock and the family, protecting them from wild critters and attacks by Indians. The mountain cur hunted for the pioneers, baying and treeing game — everything from squirrels to bears — so they could feed their families.
The modern cur was more or less bred in the 1940s, and today my relatives are mostly used for hunting squirrels and raccoons. I don't want to brag (curs are very modest), but we are known for being smart, hard hunters, as well as extremely loyal to the humans we pick. Yep, that's us.
Lately it seems Larry is muttering more to himself as he sits (for entirely too long) at that computer thing. He talks about problems with hunters not getting along, something about some hunters arguing about deer (I don't like deer myself; I think they stink, and Larry gets mad if we chase them), and there is always some gun he is taking out and shooting and writing about.
Callie and I don't really see the point with most of the gun stuff. I mean, unless we are going hunting, what is the use in fooling with another gun? We try to be patient, and we don't say too much if he goes out the door with another firearm to just shoot and make noise.
I'm a squirrel dog, and heaven for me is when we load up in the late fall and hit the woods. No silly computer, no phone calls, just me and Larry roaming the woods. I love it, and it is what I was born for. Sometimes we have other hunters along and they have squirrel dogs, too, and that is OK because I get along with most of them.
Fall is coming. It's not here yet, but it's coming: I can feel it in the evening, I can smell it on the breeze.
Cur dogs know these things.
Well, I don't want to go on too long, because that would not be polite (curs are always polite). If you have dogs around you, hunting dogs or otherwise, I would suggest you tune in to them a little more. They may not be saying much, but believe me, they know what is going on with you and they only want to help.
Larry may figure this out some day, but I am not sure. All we have to do is go huntin'.
"The Trail Less Traveled" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.