Leroy hears the approaching snaps and crackles on the road way before you do and shoots from the barn like a bat from hell. By the time you catch on, you wonder if this is his swan song but go through the futile motions of calling his name and loudly clapping your hands. You reach the threshold of the barn door to catch the parade of this Napoleonic little dog nipping at the passing car's tailpipe and raising hell with his newly mastered coonhound wail. Eventually he relents and parks himself in the middle of the road to finish his barking chorus as the intruder fades into the distance. His job done, he tunes you in and returns to the barn with his head hung and tail tucked. You're annoyed but mostly relieved to see he survived the knucklehead jaunt, so you don't inject too much anger into reminding him that he's a bad dog. The slight wag of his still tucked tail tells you he has you figured out -- his display of shame is a charade.
Later he leaves the barn to roam the land and returns after an hour to set something at the foot of your chair. At first glance it looks like a piece of tree bark, but you don't pay it much attention since your'e caught up with dispensing a litany of business clichés into the phone. He seems peeved that you're ignoring his offering and mutters a stifled bark. You wave him off and step outside to finish your call. Back at your desk a subtle funk permeates the air. You survey the surrounding area then look down to find him chewing on what turns out to be a pancaked dead mouse. Restraining the rush of salty saliva in the back of your throat, you backhand his behind, assuming he'll drop the chunk of rigor mortis and retreat. He darts off but with the prize in his soft mouth. You don't bother chasing because he loves that game and always wins. An hour later you have to mute the phone to conceal from your client the deep bellow of his retching in the corner. You consider it demented of him to be wagging his tail so wildly when he finishes expelling the dead rodent from his system. How can he enjoy that?
In the early afternoon your legs and mind need a good stretch so you decide to walk the property. You whistle and call for Leroy but he doesn't come. Did he finally get the balls to go rogue? No, there he is at a far outstretch of your land in the compost pile rolling around in rotten vegetables, egg shells and coffee dregs like some filthy swine. He sees you and makes haste to run over and rub the muck on your pants. You make a mental note to give him his third bath of the week before your wife gets home from work.
This meathead montage from a day in the life of your coonhound puppy endears him to you, but in the back of your mind you ponder: How deeply attached should you get to a country dog?
In the city it's seamless to develop a deep undying affection for your pet because there are regulations you must follow to maintain order and preserve his life. These urban parameters mitigate the risk of investing crazy love in the relationship because typically, unless you're a deadbeat, you can expect your dog to be around for a while. Out here in the country it appears to be a different ballgame, unless you choose to be a prison warden. The nuances and rules of dog ownership here, like many things, are much more relaxed, less structured. So when you brought Leroy into the fold a few months ago, you were confronted with a series of choices for how to manage his safety. You wrung your hands as you researched the array of constructs available to safeguard the little guy -- doggie zip lines, invisible fences, wireless containment systems. Ultimately you decided on a free range concept and set realistic expectations for what that could mean. Your love for him comes with an asterisk.
For now he seems to know his limitations and keeps his troublemaking antics within eye and earshot. Though you know that eventually he will push the boundaries farther and flirt with breaking your hearts, when you watch this little lug prancing freely and naturally about his domain, truly seizing this day, it feels worth the risk, and if you're being honest, you're a little envious of his spirit.