by Richard E. Wentz
This is the way it really happened. You see, I have these two dogs. One of them is mostly border collie, with a few touches out of wedlock from some Australian shepherd along the way. We named him Tristan because he just seems like the handsome young man who should be part of a Celtic tale, and needs to find a beautiful young princess named Isolde. Of course, he's "fixed," as they say, so the romance would have its ups and downs.
Tristan is a bit on the nervous side. For one thing he doesn't have enough to do and anyone knows a border collie needs a job. Still, he's a friendly fellow. He reminds me of that collie on the television commercial (Celebrex, I think) with the people in red smocks doing tai chi. Ann, the woman with the arthritic shoulder, in the front row, gets the giggles because this collie sits before her raising his paw as if to adopt the tai chi movements for himself.
My other dog looks exactly like a jolly black bear. Shadow Mae has a lot of chow-chow in her genes, but there's probably also a smidgen of shepherd. She's soft and woolly, cuddly, and dark as midnight in the pines before the new moon. But she's big and often walks about snapping her jaws like a pauperized crocodile.
Tristan and Shadow Mae share a large back yard; but I like to take them out for an occasional tram, usually in the national forest where they can just torment their souls with the scents of the woods its unseen residents and the spores of human roving and the ruptures of "anti-terrestrial" vehicles. Sometimes, as we walk, I hear a muffled commandment from an unsettled resident of the neighborhood, something about a leash law. But Tristan and Shadow Mae have this invisible leash. They just ramble along the side of the road, with once in awhile a circumstantial doglet into the outer limits of someone's private space. I pull on the "leash" with my voice or an ominous whistle, and back to the roadside come Tristan and Shadow Mae.
Like many Rim country residents, I love my fierce independence, which, of course, is as bad as it is good. But I like to share some of my freedom with those dogs, persons in their own way, just not as petty and mean-spirited as we human persons.
Imagine my chagrin a week or so ago when my canine friends and I were returning from the forest and a choleric human female head suddenly appeared in the space under a wooden gate in front of this fortress that probably needs a moat. Now, tell, if you were a dog and suddenly saw something on all fours peering out from under a gate, wouldn't you be curious? What would you do? Exactly what Tristan and Shadow Mae did they moved in to investigate the phenomenon of the crawling woman, the woman on all fours who immediately stood up and shouted angrily, "You get those dogs off my property!"
I thought of Robert Frost's poem about the king and his son who fled their empire. The ex-king looks up at the stars and says:
Yon star's indifference
Fills me with fear I'll be left to my fate:
I needn't think I have escaped my duty,
For hard it is to keep from being King
When it's in you and in the situation.
Richard E. Wentz is Professor Emeritus at Arizona State University and resides in Strawberry. He is the author of numerous books and articles and also is a professional storyteller. His column appears on the first and third Fridays of each month. Dr. Wentz welcomes comments and questions. Send them to the Payson Roundup at P.O .Box 2520, Payson, AZ 85547 c/o Richard E. Wentz.