Susanna J. Sturgis   Martha's Vineyard writer and editor
writer editor born-again horse girl

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November 14, 2009

On our walk this morning, Travvy and I were trucking along the bike path at the far side of the field at Misty Meadows. It was rainy, it was blowy; during the night, the wind had blown my new red bicycle and its protective tarp over yet again, and I was trying to come up with a way to keep my bike reasonably dry. Maybe I could rig the tarp into a sort of tent on my deck instead of under it? Trav was trotting several yards ahead of me on his flexi-leash. My hand on the handle was, shall we say, relaxed. A deer bounded up from the field, dashed across the bike path, and headed into the woods. Travvy dashed after it. My fingers let go.

"Trav! Travvy!" I called. He actually paused to listen. This was more than I expected: prey drive in gear, he was way over threshold, which is to say he was barely hearing my voice, never mind paying attention. I ran. I had no hope of catching him, but I wanted to know where he left the bike path and entered the woods. Both he and, most likely, the deer, had taken the deer trail I'd noticed every time we passed this way.

Neither he nor the deer was anywhere in sight. I followed, calling, hoping that Travvy wasn't making a beeline for the nearest free-ranging chickens, taking immense comfort in the likelihood that any chickens free-ranging the state forest were there without human authorization. The likelier prospect was that I'd have to call Animal Control to report an AWOL malamute. The last time I'd done that was in mid-April -- maybe that was long enough to wipe the slate clean?

I heard canine whimpering up ahead and off to the right. "I'm coming, Travvy!" I called. The "undergrowth" was higher than my head, a dense and ever denser tangle of scrub oak, brambles, and who knows what else, all laden with dead leaves. Dead leaves are great camouflage for horse manure, but they didn't quite conceal the gray, sable, and white of malamute fur. I finally spotted Travvy through the brush. He wasn't going anywhere. Whew.

It took a little longer to reach him. The fully extended flexi-leash had caught in the formidable brush. The web lead had snapped in the middle. Half of it was now wrapped around Travvy's leg and several branches. I untangled him and found the half with the handle on it. I tied the two halves together. If you're ever in a similar predicament, be warned: that web stuff doesn't hold a square knot. Fortunately I figured this out before Travvy realized he was loose.

Holding the short end of the lead, I looked around. How in hell had I gotten here? The thicket was impassable in all directions, though I must have crashed into this spot from somewhere. Trav was helpfully nosing a way out, but he wasn't taking into consideration that he's 25 inches tall and my head is almost 40 inches higher above the ground than his. I wasn't even 100% sure what general direction I'd come in from -- on a rainy, blowy morning like this one sky and shadow aren't much help -- but I had a pretty good idea. I headed in what I thought was the direction of the field on the far side of the bike path, holding Travvy by the end of the broken leash. After a few yards I spotted the deer trail. Double whew. A couple minutes later we were back on the bike path.

Travvy was a model citizen all the way home. I bought a new Flexi-Lead this afternoon at Shirley's.


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