Friday, January 25, 2008

The Dog that Broke My Heart

At the end of the night, Dan and Bonnie brought out blankets to me in the barn to help pad against the hard floor, and Dan whipped out a propane-powered heater to set up by me for the night! Luxury does not get any better than this on the trail.

I slept warm and good all night.

The next morning, the cold temperatures had finally passed into something comforting moderate, and Dan and Bonnie continued their generous trail magic. Bonnie had real milk to go with my cereal, and put out muffins and bananas and all the fixings to make myself a sandwich for lunch. Wow.

I got a late start on the trail, sucked in by Dan and Bonnie, not leaving until 10:00 in the morning, but it was worth it.

The trail continued on, not nearly as scenic as the previous four miles, but happily free of cows and cars.

When it came out near a trailhead, though, my good luck finally came to an end. An adorable little dog trotted up to me on the trail. At first I looked up the trail for its owner, then I realized.... there was none. The dog was alone.

Oh, the dog was adorably cute and friendly, the tongue hanging out and the tail wagging, seemingly happy to see me.

I tried to ignore it and passed it on the trail, not daring to pet it in fear it would never stop following me.

But it didn't work. The dog started following me. "Shooo!" I told it, waving my arms around wildly. "You don't want to follow me."

But the dog continued to follow me, though at a distance further back. I gave the shoo speech again, apologizing for not being nicer, but the trail was no place for this dog.

Finally, the dog sat still when I continued on.

I went about a quarter of a mile, before I realized it took a shortcut and was ahead of me again. I hadn't lost the dog.

That cute, adorable little face. I could so adopt a dog like that, but I couldn't take this dog with me. Who knows what sort of wild animals would make it dinner.

I had to get this dog to stop following me. At the trailhead, perhaps someone could give it a ride into town and give it a proper home, or find the owner. With me, nothing good could possibly happen.

And I finally figured out how to ditch the dog once and for all. The trail followed alongside a barbed wire fence, as much of the trail along this section does, but this particular fence also included chicken wire near the base so small animals--such as a dog--could not get under it.

If I put the dog on the other side of the fence, it wouldn't be able to follow me anymore.

I started waving the dog closer to me, then petted it, in tears at the betrayal I was about it do. Told it over and over again how sorry I was, but he couldn't keep following me. Then I picked him up--he didn't resist or anything--and pushed him out to the other side of the fence (at that point, he did resist a little).

He dog landed on the other side, turned around, and watched me, seeming to ask, "Don't you like me?"

I started to cry all over again. "I'm sorry--you can't go with me." I was more than a little upset the owner of the dog had lost it out here in the first place.

The trail followed alongside the fence for a short ways, and the dog followed along the other side with me.

"I'm already feeling guilty you stupid dog!" I told it, crying some more. I felt like I was giving it a death sentence, leaving it to fend for itself, but I figured its chances had to be better near the trailhead than with me.

I finally lost sight of the dog for good at what appeared to be a small house or building of some sort. It appeared well taken care of, in the middle of a busy farm where I could see people off in the distance, and I hope the dog found someone there that could take better care of it than me.

I almost wished I was miserable again instead of feeling so damn guilty.

The rest of the day was rather non-eventful. The trail passed into Avon Air Force Base, where I signed my life away on a form at a kiosk at the entrance. The next 12 miles I pushed through as quickly as I could, wanting to reach the northern border of the base by dark, which I did, about 25 minutes after sunset.

I could have camped on the base, but I planned to meet Amanda the next day at River Ranch, and I wanted to get as close to it as possible to meet her there when she arrived. I still would have a long 14 miles to River Ranch, but it was a huge improvement to the 19 miles I'd have to cover if I camped at the last designated campsite in the base.

So I pushed myself through the base, a relatively nice walk despite the cows grazing, and reached the northern border just after sunset, setting up camp a few minutes later in an open area among a field of palmettos.


Anonymous said...

So will we be seeing a picture of the little dog?

Anonymous said...

What to do! What to do! A bit of joy for you to see the doggie, and then the sorrow of leaving him behind must have been meant to happen. I believe you did the only thing possible, given the situation. Just sad you had to experience that sorrow. A tender touch never hurts anyone, and shows just another side of our Green Tortuga we may never have seen otherwise. Take care,
Okie Dog

jjjaker said...

River Ranch...such memories. We stayed summer for band camp. So many years ago. :) I love when you hit a landmark I know, which has been often.

Anonymous said...

Whoever buys the movie rights to this adventure is going to have a field day with the dog following him.

What name did you give him Ryan? ;-)

midlandtrailblazer said...

good to hear from you!

Anonymous said...

glad to hear you had a warm night after all the cold you had experienced. and all the yummy food and wonderful company. sorry for your sadness. glad you were able to find a farm house that will hopefully be a good home for the little guy. our great green one has a soft side inside his shell :J


Anonymous said...

Oh Ryan,
We'd welcome the small heartbreaking dog into our home!
He'd be happier on the farm, I am sure,... BUT...!
Your tale had me crying as well.

lorax (who feels there is always room for one more creature in her life!)

Anonymous said...

"Duuuuuumb Dog, Why are you following me? I ain't gotta crumb dog hows about letting me be. I aint gonna feeeeee yoooou, aint gonna care for you, neeeeeeed yooou, don't give a rap for you duuuuuuuuuummbbbb dooooooooogg... Duuuumbber than they coooooooome dooog.....

That's the fisrt thing that came to my mind after I cleared the tears from my eyes!

Poor Thing! Just keep thinking good thoughts about it :)

Team Springamajack

Mark said...

Hardest section...emotionally...of both adventures.
Wow, tough stuff here.

Anonymous said...

Wow! what a story...again, hmmm, wonder if that dog isn't Winn Dixie???
We are hoping this last leg before meeting up with Amanda goes very well. Woohoo, what motivation to go for the target.
We hope and pray this next leg is scenic and a wonderful hike, real smooth sailing for those 14 or so miles.

Pilgrims in This Land and family!

Anonymous said...

Now I understand why you are such a total goober. Boo Hoo Hoo.......I was hoping that the story would have some kinda wild animal preservation on the other side of the fence. You know, the ones that have lions and tigers that would have "taken care" of the stray.

In the words of the great Bob Barker, "Nueter your pets"!!!

DC Stones

PS - The good news is that you didn't step in any "doggie pies" that the "cute little guy" leaves on the trail.:)

Wooohoo Crew said...

The dog probably found a wonderful home at that farm. Dogs are resourceful. My Heart would be broken too, I don't know if I would be able to resist a puppy companion. I hope your guilt subsides.

Anonymous said...

My this episode was a tear-jerker...that poor little dog all alone! You did the right thing of course, but that doesn't make it any easier.

DIXIE said...

oh my...
I can't believe the tears pouring down my face :-( I soooo wanted the little doggie to be your companion and you his... but I understand it wasn't the right thing. We love you Ryan!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

That dog chose you. What a sad story....

Hike on!
~Twinville Trekkers