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Saturday, June 6, 2009

Pack dynamics - the dynamic duo

K and her younger brother R have been sprinting, chasing, and leaping like perpetual motion machines on our recent trail outings. Yesterday evening, our remaining foursome headed out for a short hike. The two dogs crackled with amperage - streaking through the meadow so fast that all my photos blurred. I think that they're releasing their anxious energy about the vacuum in our pack and bonding more strongly to each other during these frenetic outings.
We briefly gazed at the sunset but the dogs quivered with the anticipation of more running so our stop was brief.In contrast to their obvious bond during our hikes, I'm sensing slight tensions between K and R around the house. I think that R is eying the top dog position, which K has held with quiet authority for years. He's making subtle moves like stealing her chew toys, and, in contrast to the past, K is letting him get away with it. K's passivity may be temporary - she's been subdued since S's death. But, I think that I need to let the canine dynamics settle into their natural order without my intervention. I see my role as assuring that K's sometimes fragile psyche isn't damaged.

Early this morning, as a fearsome foursome, my husband and the dogs ran and I biked a new trail. Here, R ran ahead, following a scent, in a small meadow. He and K seemed to revel in each other's company, galloping shoulder-to-shoulder at awe-inspiring speeds. They covered ten times the distance that we humans did.We glimpsed a snowy mountain from the aspen-dotted meadow.When the pine forest enveloped us again, an imposing antlered skull guarded the forest edge.After our pack ride, I pedaled solo to find a trail that I've been shown twice before but I had zero confidence that I'd find it again. It was my lucky day because I ran into a super-nice neighborhood friend who escorted me to the heavily camouflaged trail access point. I pedaled through a deep pine forest, repeatedly losing the trail and wandering aimlessly until I found it again, but not really caring. The sweet smell of warm pine needles, the soft sinuous trail, and the silence became my entire world. The peace of the deep forest was what I sought.

As I rode, I spotted a 'bone garden', that included some huge old bones, some fresher deer or elk leg bones, and a coyote skull. The variety of ages of the bones surprised me. Often, I'll find a pile of bones, all from one animal who died nearby. I wondered if a predator had started dragging bones from his kills to this secluded spot. But, my sixth sense didn't screech an alert so the bone pile didn't worry me.Through the trees of the pine forest, I kept my bearings by watching for glimpses of the Divide.The life-giving sun is shrinking the alpine snowpack at an incredible rate.
I rolled toward home through a deep green meadow, so full of life that I couldn't bear to end my ride. So, I turned away from home to ride another small loop. Next to me, I could feel a sweet yellow lab, whose joints had magically healed, galloping joyfully in the warm sun.


  1. Our experience is that the males and females do not compete for alpha position, but rather males compete with males and females compete with females. We always have observed two distinct hierarchies, though we also have always noticed that the females rule all final decisions (kind of like the human race - at least in my male experience - grins )

  2. Somehow I had thought that R was older than K. Interesting change in dynamics. Our Ellie is actually the alpha, although she will allow Lucy to take her chew toy or bone. But if they are in a new and threatening situation, Lucy goes behind for Ellie to take the lead.

    I am really enjoying the change of seasons there in the Rockies through your great photographs.

  3. S is always with go girl!

  4. A surprise gathering in the woods, wholly unexpected and nice to meet like minded neighbors and friends. That little encounter had me smiling the rest of the day!
    The energy level of our pack was high yesterday too, the antics and aerobics high on the scale. I take it as these creatures getting the most out of our beautiful countryside, and making me laugh as they do. I've never felt closer to my animals as I do now....they have so much to share.


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