The short, sharp cries rend the fabric of the night — there’s a dog barking in the street. He’s likely yet another canine companion driven far from his suburban home and dumped along the rural route that follows the creek in these hills. I have actually seen flatlanders steer their shiny SUVs and laden minivans onto our gravelly shoulders and boot terrified animals out of their backseats. Some of these poor excuses for humankind have tears tracking through the dust that’s settling on their cheeks; most barely slow down and rarely look back.
In the early days of living up here, I wanted to save every damn one of these unfortunate creatures. I’d call to them in soothing tones, extend a low hand, advance slowly. But the confusion of having been recently abandoned made them instantly distrustful and wary. Displaced from their usual element, surrounded on all sides by tall trees and strange wild sounds, sizing up the two lanes of patchy blacktop that signify our one way in and out of this mountain town, these dogs often bolt away from would-be rescuers and begin to job back toward civilization. I saw more scared hounds veer into traffic when approached than come to safety.
So now I don’t even bother to make a move. I leave them be. They still invade my consciousness from time to time. I empathize with their whines and whimpers, their outright howls and growls. I, too, barked beneath the dim streetlights along the narrow, winding road upon finding myself so far away from all I’d ever known, all I thought I wanted in this world. I eventually adjusted to country life. And if they can avoid being eaten alive by this landscape or being hit by a speeding pickup truck, they will, too.