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October, 2011

Watching the Dogs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the first five and a half years, the windows in my Silly Lake home always had two lines of smudges.  One was about one and a half feet off of the ground.  The other was at about five and a half feet.  It’s been almost two years since Tenaya passed away, and her smudges are gone.  Mine, however, remain on every window.  I like to lean my bare forehead on the glass as I stare out at the world around me.

The best feature my house boasts is its location.  The view from the twenty acres of the Swan Range is only mediocre by local standards, but it’s there.  And the view of Silly Lake, my own pond, is wonderful.  Moreover, my twenty acres at Silly Lake are pretty close to perfect for a musher.  The ATV training may be the best anywhere and there’s a labyrinth of groomed trails behind my house.  It wasn’t a problem to lay out a simple out and back sled run 80 miles long.

Location was the biggest criterion I had when I purchased Silly Lake, so it’s no surprise that that’s its best feature.  What I’ve come to love but had not looked for is all of my windows.  My living room, particularly, has big sliding glass doors facing north and east and a three foot by six foot window facing south.  Smudge marks run the lengths of all of them. 

My best view of the Swans is looking north through glass doors.  It’s not a lot, but I have a pretty good line on Fisher Peak and the ridges adjacent to it.  On clear days, alpenglow at sunset sets this ablaze.  I’ve eaten many dinners sitting on my couch facing north and watching the sunset on the Swan Range rather than TV. 

The other glass door faces east and provides something every outdoorsman looks for in a campsite, first sun.  I know I save a lot on firewood by opening the curtains on that glass when I get up each winter morning.  The same eastern exposure is a problem in the summer.  Even if I keep the curtains closed, they heat up and warm the rest of the house.  I have a thin plywood accordion type curtain I set up outside to keep the sun and heat out of the living room.  I know we’re in high summer when I put this up and that summer is over when I take it down.

With all this, it’s the south facing window that I enjoy the most.  This looks out on my dogyard and I can see everybody.  During the seven and a half years I’ve lived at Silly Lake, I’ve probably spent as much time staring out that window as I have doing anything else.

Among the more entertaining dog games I’ve watched is Tok playing with his neighbors’ heads.  The dogs usually know when I’m at the window.  With Tok’s games, they’ve often looked up at me as if to say, “He’s cheating!”  I just say, “Figure it out, he’s not doing anything he didn’t do before.”   More recently, I’ve watched as Kennicott became a total tease of Quid.  She’d place her rear end where he could just barely get a foreleg around her and try and pull her toward him.  With this distance, she has all the leverage and easily pulls away after he grabs --- exactly what she’d do time after time until she got bored---he never gave up. 

It’s not just entertainment for which I use that view.  From it, it’s easy to check up on the dogs.  Most of the time, I recognize the sounds coming from the kennel and don’t worry about them.  However, strange barks and squeals always result in my taking a look.  The two most common instigators are animals in or near the yard and a dog who’s gotten free and is wandering about.  And anytime there’s been a dog well enough to be in the yard but who still has me concerned, frequent views out that window have simplified my life.

To me, the most enchanting feature of owning sled dogs is their singing.  I’m treated to this a dozen or more times on a normal day and I usually just sit where I am and enjoy.  Sometimes, though, I step to the window and watch.  Tails wag slowly and mouths open to the sky.  As I scan the yard, every dog has joined in.  I know two things as I watch and listen.  These really are the progeny of wolves and they’re happy.

   
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