Thursday, March 10, 2011

Pepper & the Pepper Tree

Pepper, mid-lope

I shouldn't laugh. It really is too cruel to laugh at an old gentleman in distress. But I did. And I still am.  Pepper, who is hilariously unworldly despite his nine years on this earth, is not yet able to go off-leash in an unenclosed area. Therefore the dog park is safe; the national forest isn't.  I hadn't quite realized when we adopted him that he'd literally never been off-leash in his entire life and so I gaily let him off by Little Tujunga Creek on the third day we had him, and he was fine and quite joyous for the first few minutes, but once he realized that he was untethered, he turned around and galloped back towards the road as fast as his long, deer-like legs would carry him (which isn't fast, but is certainly faster than I can run). He has a gait, not a run, it's an exaggerated lope, a rocking-horse motion carries him. It's very sweet and just a little bit funny to watch.  Now I'm very careful about letting him off-leash (one smashed iPhone and twisted ankle later).

from underneath the pepper tree

It's quite hot in the canyon today and I thought it might be fun for the dogs to walk down to the swale and hang out under the pepper tree.  The girls are very good. They run about for a sniff, irritate the dogs that live on Lookout Mountain and then come back when called.  I wracked my brains trying to figure out a method by which Pepper could run about with the others, but couldn't run off, and decided that two lengths of plastic-covered wire with brass safety clasps on each end (we use them to tether the dogs to trees in the wilderness when we go camping) would be perfect.  I found a double length halter rope and wrapped it around a branch of the pepper tree and then fastened one wire to the other and then to his collar, thus giving him about  50 feet of running leeway.  It was lovely.  He ran up and down the swale, chewing grass with the others, sniffing coyote trails and generally looking very jolly until he decided to pop over the edge of the swale which drops down at a rather sharp angle to the next swale down.  The hillside is covered with bushy grasses and pepper detritus, so it's negotiable but not terribly easy. The girls run up and down it with ease, but if I tried to do it, I might do better sliding down on my bottom.  Pepper, who isn't particularly limber (that is my mother's word -- it always conjurs up middle-aged ladies in black leotards and tights), took a leap off the swale and somehow managed to tangle his back legs in the wire and rolled over twice roly-poly fashion so that he was completely stuck halfway down.  The poor old boy started to mewl -- tiny, pathetic kitten noises came from his throat. On hearing this, the girls rushed to his rescue, and nudged him with their noses to help him up.  He was probably more alarmed than hurt, but he staggered to his feet and with me pulling on the rope-wire from the top, he came back up, looking a tiny bit sheepish.  We camped out under the tree (it's huge and light under the frond-like pepper branches, like a big, airy pepper-smelling drawing room, with a grassy carpet and shards of light beaming down) for a few minutes so that he could catch his breath and I wondered too my self whether I wasn't just a little too eager to try out my good ideas.

the swale -- Mt. Olympus in the background

Pepper reminds me of an old, lovely friend of the Maharishi's. He's a wonderful man we both met at college (and met his wife when I met the M), tall and handsome, a fan of literature -- the sort of chap that tells my son he should be reading De Tocqueville if he really wants to understand American polititcs -- and apparently very good at business. But he's just not very practical.  I'm used to my husband who can do anything around the house from making a sauce for a roast chicken out of pan juices to re-wiring the kitchen.  His friend is the opposite.  When I was pregnant with Minky, he offered very kindly to make me a cup of tea and managed to give himself third degree burns requiring a trip to the Cedar's Sinai emergency room because he didn't think to use an oven glove to pour the boiling water from the kettle which had been sitting on a searing hot stove for five minutes. Sweet thing didn't complain a bit even with a huge blistering bubble of burnt skin on his hand.

With time, I'm sure Pepper's muscles will get stronger and he'll become a bit more street smart, and soon he'll stop trying to make a run for it. But he must miss his man (who, I'm glad to say, is coming to visit on Sunday) and his more simple former life. This forced rural lifestyle (who else in Laurel Canyon crawls about in the swale and considers building treehouses in pepper trees?)must be fun but overwhelming. I'm loathe to reintroduce the chickens until he's a little more settled. Birds on top of everything else might quite possibly send him over the edge.

You can read more about Pepper here.


P.Gaye Tapp at Little Augury said...

what a lucky guy! I've never had a dog that could not manage to go "Pepper" after that realization of "freedom". I think it is more about the master than dog and what happens at the moment of their contact. Ive had rescues- neither can manage. my friend who has the weimaraners (both rescues) are perfect for her-though ON leash they can be a handful. enjoy reading about Dr. Pepper.

Carren said...

Hope the ankle's better :)

Miss Whistle said...

little augury -- glad you like the adventures of dr pepper. he's a constant source of amusement to us.

carren -- it's still swollen and sore, can you believe it?