Thursday, July 3, 2008

Two Trees

On occasion I have seen Duncan shy away from people. I have seen him shy away from water. Loud noises startle him. He's tried desperately to avoid riding in the car. But I have never seen him avoid a tree. Until this afternoon. Trees are to Duncan as call girls are to Charlie Sheen: long, tall, slender sticks that are physically impossible not to approach and sniff. We have spent hours wandering aimlessly, without any sense of order or convenience, from tree to tree so that Duncan can check his messages and possibly leave a few of his own. I have stood back and watched him bark at squirrels and birds and try with great effort and very little actual pay-off to climb the trunks to get at them. The Three Sisters, the big cottonwoods which stand guard at the edge of the property, are covered in thin, undulating highways of busy ants, which wrap and wind around the trunks, swarm at their bases and carry bits of bug and leaf and whatever other scrap they can back to their colony. Duncan hasn't taken the slightest notice of them, even when he leans up against the bark and finds himself covered in tiny, wriggling black bodies which I have to brush away, pull out of the long hair of his tail and pat from his pink belly.

And yet today, on the far side of the baseball diamonds, he stopped in front of a tree we've passed a thousand times, a rather scrawny Aspen that hasn't quite come into it's own yet, lowered his head, raised his hackles and cowered at it's roots. I hadn't been paying attention, merely walking ahead, when I felt the drag on the leash and turned back to see him paralyzed with fear. "Did you find something?" I asked and stepped up beside him, head tilted back to examine the tree. The branches are still quite thin and what leaves it has are sparse and I imagine it's only been in the ground a few years, not much more than a sapling. It offers absolutely no shade and I can't imagine any creature would attempt to conceal themselves in its branches. There was nothing to see in it, not a bird not a squirrel, not even a ladybug. And yet Duncan would not move. The only other time I'd ever seen him act this way was at The Breakers when we'd first adopted him. Every afternoon on our walks we passed below a second floor patio that stopped Dunc dead in his tracks, raised his puppy hackles and almost always required me to pick him up and carry him a good ways down the walk. I never knew what was there that frightened him and to be honest, I never quite cared to imagine it. The last thing I needed to know was that Jeffrey Dahmer had taken to cooking dinner a few buildings down from me.

It was only with great coaxing and a few of Grandma Lucy's pumpkin treats that I was able to pull him away, and even after we'd moved down the sidewalk he turned and looked back over his shoulder as though some heap powerful magic had been placed on that tree.

No sooner had we left the Devil Tree behind than Duncan became enamored of another one, not for its cool shade or the sweet smell of its leaves but for the squirrel he chased up into it. Duncan milled around the trunk keeping his eye on the thing while I did what I always do (but shhhh, you can't tell anyone and you can never, ever ask me to do it at dinner parties), my squirrel impersonation. I don't know how I figured it out but somehow I learned all the dirtiest, meanest things you can say to a squirrel, things about his mother, about where he stores his nuts, the size of the cheeks on his ol' lady. Nothing gets them riled up quite like my chitter. Duncan's ears perk up and we've actually had squirrels come barreling down trees at us, their fur standing on end and their tails doing this violent jerky twitch-thing, which I'm sure is much worse than flipping someone off. A couple of times I've had to pull Duncan away for fear that we're about to be jumped. But not this little fella. He was as cute as can be, very inquisitive and didn't seem to mind my trash talk. He simply peered over his branch at us and watched Duncan smile and slobber all over himself, his own tail wagging in merriment, like something out of Disney.


Lori said...

"Trees are to Duncan as call girls are to Charlie Sheen: long, tall, slender sticks that are physically impossible not to approach and sniff."
ROTFL! Very funny line!
Wonder what the heck it was about that tree???

Chris & Mackenzie said...

What a cute squirrel! Fantastic pic.

Charlie said...

Oh how I wish they could talk. Sometimes.
- Anne

caboval said...

Oh you had me crackin up Curt! I can imagine the squirrels flipping us off with their tails!

Greg said...

What sort of squirrel is it you have out there? The behavior sounds like our red of whom gave me a serious talking to when I was potting up the garden last year. They make me laugh the way they get so into it their whole body's part of the dance. That they are angry, or at least highly annoyed, is never a secret.

This guy is just adorable. I wish I could talk to squirrels.

traci said...

This post was hilarious. Tell me, do you do a little dance during your squirrel impression? I think it requires a little dance.