I love watching Beatrice the dog from a distance. Her nose down and tail up as she sniffs and moves across the very wide expanse of pasture surrounding the house and outbuildings at the ranch in the middle of the middle of nowhere. Sometimes I barely greet the new boyfriend with a hello kiss before I’m scampering off to find the dog. Before Indian summer turned to fall I wouldn’t even go into the house before I found Bea. I loved standing at the split rail fence in the yard facing west, the front range on the horizon and Bea’s buff colored coat blending with the scrub and grass. She is so completely unaware and is purely a dog. Her purity as a dog is utterly Zen. When you call to her she stops what she is doing and will run at full speed because you called. Her love is purely felt. But sometimes she won’t linger with me in the yard and takes off again because something—a coyote more than likely—has her fuller attention. Keeping the coyotes away is her job.
Bea is an outdoor dog and it took me a few months to realize there wasn’t anything wrong with this. She is fully domesticated, clean, quiet, friendly, and obedient. Bea doesn’t need to come into the house and hang with the humans. Nor does she want to. Her doghouse is snug and has plenty of hay for warmth during the cold months; her water is in a fancy bucket that keeps it from freezing. In the summer there is ample shade near the house for her to stay cool.
Dr. Doctor was sick of hearing me whine about “poor Bea isn’t allowed in the house and must stay in her dog house” so he challenged me to get her in the house. I had her up in the threshold of the back door last September and the look in her eyes was distrust and fear. It occurred to me this concept of being indoors and out of the elements was not important to her and shouldn’t be important to me. She didn’t want to be confined in the house. And why would she when she had acres and acres of grassland to run and explore. If she wants to visit with me, she waits on the back steps.
Bea rides in the truck with us but she wasn’t always comfortable. Dr. Doctor told me once she tried to crash through the windshield. Again, the concept of “inside” was daunting to her. But she’s mostly easy to ride with in her station on the bench between us, eyes peeled over the horizon alert to the birds, rabbits, prairie dogs, and always in hope to spy her nemesis coyotes. She also made a good hand and lap warmer this December when we went for a ride over the frozen prairie.
Bea is the most confident dogs I’ve met. There is never any doubt you will pet her, she doesn’t angle and position for snuggles and head pats. There is no pestering or barking or whining for attention nor does she beg for food. I believe this is in part due to her master’s very wise way of being with dogs and letting them be dogs. I commented on how well kept her coat is, given she has dense fur that only she grooms. “Funny how well dogs take care of themselves if you let them be dogs.”
Unlike any dog I’ve known, Beatrice teaches me about the importance of now. When it’s dusk and time for food, she doesn’t hanker or pester. She is too engrossed with roaming around, napping or communing with the cats. Bea reminds me the importance of attention towards the task at hand, even if it’s just a nap in the sun.
One morning as I was preparing to leave for home, Bea ran to me in a sort of frolicking dog dance which reminded me of the unfiltered joy of young children. It was almost zero that morning and I really wanted to get into warm truck but I stopped for Bea who was happy to see me; grateful for soft words, a vigorous ear and belly rub. But she didn’t stick around long and pranced off to the snowy field. I shivered as I watched her running and offering up barks to the morning. She was warmly dressed, she had a job, and a pack close at hand. All these things measured to unfiltered joy.
What more could a dog want?