The Dog’s Days of Autumn

Yorkie puppy carrying a leafThe color is starting to peak here in the Smoky Mountains. Leaves that first gave up their chlorophyll and allowed us to delight in the yellows, oranges, and reds beneath, are now either gently falling to the ground or being hurried along by the brisk winds of fall. They scatter and collect on our paths, drives, lawns, and gutters, providing us opportunity for work and wonder. For those that view this bounty as mere detritus to be swept or blown then burned or bagged, consider this a chore to be relished, especially when driving a car or playing with dogs.

Driving speedily through a pile of leave that have collected on the road is one of those guilty pleasures that I just can’t resist. Accelerating as I see a good pile ahead then screaming whee at the top of my lungs as if I were the GEICO pig while the leaves part in my wake may be a childish indulgence for a 50 year old man, but it’s one I choose to foster— at least I don’t have to work to gather those. But what really makes gathering leaves in weather best spent inside with a cup of coffee, a labor of love, is watching what puppies, dogs, and people do with them.

Gavin was born on the 12th of September and came to live with us in the middle of November. I remember two things about that first month with him. First, that it was an unusually cold November/December in Charlottesville and standing in a robe at 2 AM in the middle of my backyard with a flashlight repeating “Hurry up, Hurry up” was not my idea of heaven. Second, watching that little fluff ball lose his mind under a pile of leaves was worth the braving it.

We lived in a large house surrounded by forest full deciduous trees with leaves to shed and our back yard provided a perfect bowl for their collection. Gavin was no bigger than a Nerf football and the leaves blocked his path through the great outdoors. His problem was whether to climb over, tunnel through, or displace them.

Climbing only served to find new ways to fall into a tunnel, and displacing seemed to be an awful lot of work for very little results. “Besides,” he finally seemed to decide, “Tunneling is a blast.” It was during those initial forays into the cold dark night that we discovered his tunneling prowess.

After a while, our nighttime ritual started paying off. He finally grasped the Hurry Up command and dreams of short bathroom breaks danced in our heads, but Gavin had other ideas.

Figuring that we had some spare time on our hands, he took to disappearing into the leaves after he completed his transaction. You could hear the frantic rustling of the leaves and the determined bark of a puppy as he burrowed around the yard, popping up here and there to bark at me so I would give chase; as if I had nothing better to do than play hide and seek with him.

It’s one of those situations you find yourself in that is so absurd, laughing and playing along are the only sane responses. Luckily for me, we had no neighbors to disturb or to call the police reporting the lunatic rolling around in the leaves at 2AM— yet as cold and wet as those sessions left me some nights, I do miss them.

To this day, Gavin still goes nuts when any kind of leaf labor begins. Raking or blowing makes no difference, there are piles to be barked at, run though, and explored— and frankly, I feel the same way.

Enjoy your dog and your Sunday— and if the leaves permit, enjoy them as well.


Gavin & Kevin