Quality Time With the Beagle

Wilderness Beagle

Wilderness Beagle

I am an architectural historian. 

I can finally say that without wincing just a little, because in addition to seven years of school, more loans than I care to think about, and a dogged determination, I finally have my first freelance project documenting non-contributing structures at a National Historic Site waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay out in the country. Until today, I had been there exactly one time, during which visit I made three critical observations. 1) it is remote; 2) it is very large; 3) it is practically empty. From these observations, a formula was created: 

(remote wilderness + empty estate (huge land area))^2 = (City Girl freaked the hell out)^1,000,000 

I don’t even know if that’s a real equation. I’m an architectural historian.

Suffice to say that this urban explorer does not feel particularly safe in large swaths of empty wilderness. And I mean, we’re talking hundreds of acres. To reach the furthest flung structure, my round trip is a couple miles of trail. To hit all the structures we’re approaching six-ish miles, during which time I may not see another soul. So I’ve been kind of terrified of getting started, on account I’m fairly certain I’ll either be eaten by a bear, or accidentally shot by a hillbilly. In the very least, I had already confirmed that a lot of nature–bugs most especially–was going to touch me. 

As it happens, however, I came up with solutions to these problems. For the bugs, I purchased a DEET product so strong it warns me not to apply it to skin or synthetic fabrics. For the risk of nature contact, I wear pants, my Doc Martins, as much shirt as I can handle without incurring heat stroke, and a hat. 

And for the scary carnivores and hillbillies, it turns out that anti-social, shrieky beagle-ish I have comes in handy. 

So, armed with pesticides, a lot of clothing, and Calvin, I set off to get some work done in the desolate rolling hills of southwestern PA. 

But Fate, she is a cruel mistress. 

As soon as we turned into the parking lot, I realized I was being bitch slapped by Fortuna. There were, like, ten cars in the lot. Which is a metric fuckton of cars for a place that is literally twenty miles from nowhere. And all of the cars were full of people with dogs and babies. Babies placed into absolutely enormous and very threatening (to a beagle) strollers. Strollers the size of Hummers, as far as the eye could see, being pulled by dogs. I’m sure that was Cal’s first impression of the place. 

Yesterday, somebody dribbled liquishit around the bedroom while the humans were gone. We didn’t know which puppy. Today, I discovered it was Calvin. Not thirty seconds after popping out of the car and into a post-apocalyptic world where dogs and babies conspire to end us all by mowing us down with their twelve ton prams, Cal had several bouts of explosive diarrhea. 

Where I had expected peaceful desolation and an exhausting pupwalk, I was now faced with congestion and a digestively unsound, and increasingly anxious, wee hound. 

For the record, given all the ridiculous disasters around which I routinely tap dance in a performance I call “My Life,” I would eventually like for something to go as planned. I don’t want to be a hose beast but I really, really feel like I have it coming to me. 

Cal’s intestinal disturbance immediately removed the most distant structures from the realm of possibility, as I had no intention of marching him around in the heat with belly troubles. So that meant we had to stick close to the main structure which, of course, is where all the people and their giant, ravenous babies and hellhound-drawn carriages were. We knocked out an entry gate just before a stroller threatened, and then made our way to an old road trace before being chased into the woods, twice, by hikers with dogs. We set out to pick up a grave site, but were cut off by a meandering couple and a hoard of shrieking children who, I’m made fairly certain by their behavior, are parent-less and living, Lord of the Flies-style, on the property. 

All things being equal, Calvin really did pretty well. There was some barking, but no real screaming. And toward the end of our mostly futile afternoon, he seemed pretty well desensitized to ordinary, ambulating people and ceased expressing opinions about them altogether. 

I called it a day and we drove off the get fuel. Inocuous, no?

No. Because WHY ARE ALL THE GAS STATIONS IN RURAL ALMOST WEST VIRGINIA FULL SERVICE?????

I pulled up to a pump, was shutting down and locating my wallet when Cal suddenly lost his shit. I didn’t attempt to calm him down because, frankly, a stranger walking up to my car and fiddling with my gas cap is not something I really want him to be retiring about. I stared in horror, for a moment, before I thought to ask if all the pumps were full service. Gas guy confirmed and I said, over beagle-ish shrieks, that I’d just hit the next station. He laughed and carried on and said it didn’t matter because it was all the same price. 

Friend. Dear friend. Stretch the limits of your imagination and try to consider that cost is not my greatest immediate concern, here. I’m losing six decibels of hearing per second and I don’t have that much to spare NOW STOP TOUCHING MY GAS CAP AND LET ME LEAVE. 

I had to pass three more service stations before I found one that would let me pump my own fuel. And in that time, my GPS lady, apparently uncharitably disposed toward my frequent redirects to check gas stations, decided that I had some geographical comeuppance due in the form of patently refusing to take me to an interstate. So despite 1.5 uneventful rounds trips to the site, I was paraded all through the countryside to the tune of an additional forty-five minutes on the road, and threatened with a toll road (what even is cash?) before I finally overrode her with Google Maps on my phone. 

From beginning to end, Cal pup and I had five gloriously dysfunctional hours of adventure today, and the little guy is now sacked out at my feet. So hard to be Calvin, even on Small Hound Road Trip days. 

 

 

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2 responses

  1. Sounds like Calvin could use some desensitization and counter-conditioning. What you describe at the main structure sounds like flooding and possibly learned helplessness and NOT desensitization. Flooding can make things worse over the long haul. Strongly recommend you visit http://www.fearfuldogs.com. Debbie Jacobs has dedicated her career to helping fearful dogs and she is amazing.

    • Thanks. We work with a very awesome trainer (and also the vet, for his meds.) He has a pretty predictable arc in new environments–wary, reactive, then eventually settles with continued feedback–and he was significantly more relaxed and happy at the point he stopped yelling at people. I’ve been actively managing his anxiety for about three years at this point, so rest assured I’m not ignoring his strife or knowingly dragging him into situations that will harm him.

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