Montana Jones

Montana n: A state of the northwest United States bordering on Canada. Admitted as the 41st state in 1889. The fourth largest state in the union, it includes vast prairies and numerous majestic mountain ranges.
Syn: Treasure State, Big Sky Country, Last Best Place.

Jones n: slang. An addiction or very deep craving.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

For the dogs

The crisp air bit into my nostrils and the snow made a satisfying crunch under my boot. It felt good to be walking in the cold air, to be moving. My mind daydreamed off across its landscape of ideas and the serenity of walking through this day filled me with the warmth that the air lacked.


Holy shit! My heart jumped about halfway up my throat and my muscles clenched as I caught a glimpse of a big yellow streak charging the fence.


"You goddamn dog! You just scared the shit out of me. You did that yesterday when I walked past here too. When are you ever gonna get used to having me walk past your fence?"

The dog stood aggressively on his side of the wire mesh and continued to bellow at me. The dogs in the other yards down the street heard the commotion and joined in with their yapping. "Fucking stupid dogs." I mutter to myself and trudge onward, the calm splendor of the day interrupted, my heart beating a little too fast from the scare.

By the time I reached the post office I had one other dog charge me to his fence line and I was verbally accosted by at least three of the bothersome beasts from their distant pens. I never did like dogs all that much but Montanans seem to love them. I'm gonna be making this walk almost every day until the snow melts. I needed a way to shut those damn dogs up.

After the post office I went a block out of my way to a small market. The three dollars I had in my pocket was enough, but I was disappointed I did not have change left over to buy myself a soda. "You damn dogs better start appreciating me." I thought to myself. I'm sacrificing to make the world a better place here.

As per habit I followed a different route home so I did not see the big yellow dog again. But that did not stop his friends from yelling at me. Most animals were penned well away from the sidewalks but I did pass one yard where a large sleek black dog ambled out to the fence as I was walking past. He stood there a couple feet from me and barked loudly. I stopped walking and talked to him. "Hi, why are you barking at me? Is it okay if I walk by?" The dog stopped barking for a moment as though to consider my words and was apparently unsatisfied with something. He began his braying again with increased vigor. I reached into my bag and tore open the cardboard box I had purchased. I pulled out a dog biscuit and held it over the fence. The dog stopped its noisemaking, sniffed, and then accepted the treat. "So do you think we can get along?" I asked. As I departed the dog walked with me to the end of its yard and sat quietly panting as I walked away. When I looked back I could swear the dog was smiling.

The dog in the next yard reacted in much the same way with tremendous vocalizations until a dog treat was passed over the fence. The animal enjoyed the milk bone, gave another couple barks and then was pleasantly silent as I went on my way. I was curious to see how my nemesis the big yellow dog would react. Changing his attitude would go a long way towards more peaceful days for me.

One the next days walk big yellow was not in his yard. I guess dogs have appointments and days off too. Down the street there was a shaggy black and silver husky looking dog that brayed at me with a voice that reminded me of old men. His bark was raspy and tired sounding. When I approached his fence he barked more adamantly than before and backed away from the place I was standing. I offered a dog biscuit over the fence but the animal would not trust me or even sniff at it. It just barked some more. "Fine, be that way." I think to myself and drop the treat on his side of the wire. "It's yours if you want it." The dog did sniff at the ground where it fell, but was more interested in barking at me as I walked away.

After the weekend I made my usual trek past big yellows yard. He did not bark this time. He watched me but acted almost as though something was bothering him. When I approached the fence he actually retreated and whimpered a little confusion. I held out a dog biscuit and spoke softly but he did not approach. "I hope you are feeling alright." I said. "This is for you." I dropped the treat on his side of the fence.

Farther along my route was a yard with two dogs. The larger one was standing with his front feet on the fence bringing his face up to eye level with mine. A very large and intimidating animal. It did not bark but I offered a treat anyway and it took it from my hand with quick greed. When I offered a treat to its smaller companion the larger dog tried pushing between us to get the biscuit. I made sure the smaller dog got the treat. The larger dog continued to jump against the fence and whine as though I was being unfair.

I followed the same route home so that I could visit big yellow again. He was not in his yard this time but I did notice that the milk bone I had dropped was no longer there. I hope he associated the goodie with me when he found it.

Big yellow was missing the next day too, but old husky was in his place and barked his displeasure at my walking past his fence. Again he retreated from the offered goodie and when I dropped it across the fence and walked away he sniffed but every time I turned back to look he barked to let me know he was watching me. Just as I was about to disappear around the corner I glanced back to see him nibbling the biscuit.

It went on like this for a while. Sleek black and his neighbor started to run out and bark happy greetings to me when I walked by. They were always thrilled with the goodie. Old husky would still moan his barks at me, refused to get close to the fence when I stood there, but he did hurry to that spot as soon as I left to sniff for the dropped treat. I think he may have poor eyesight. He did improve from barking first and eating later to eating first and then barking some more. The greedy dog was never quite satisfied with the one treat and it became a challenge to part with the biscuit without also loosing a finger. Big yellow was absent more and more. When he was around he was not the aggressive creature I had first met; he would shy away from me at the fence. Like old husky he did start to get used to finding a dropped treat after I had left.

My standing with some dogs like sleek black did improve. Others like old husky continued to harass me even though they obviously enjoyed my treats. I don't know why big yellow turned from aggression to fear. Perhaps he is just a bully, the kind that can't face up to someone else taking charge. The greedy dog was never satisfied and actually more of a nuisance after getting a treat than before. The dog biscuits have failed to buy me peace and quiet on my walks. But the intrusions don't boil my blood like they did before. I have gotten more tolerant with the dogs through this game. Perhaps the gifts have made a bigger change in the giver.

Very nicely done Jones!
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