>Dem Bones

>For a while now, it has been our habit, Bhikku’s and mine, to take a walk in the woods before lunch. Late morning, when I’ve reached a good stopping point, or have thrown in the towel at least, we leave my study and head downstairs. Bhikku stops at the coat rack and looks hopefully at my jacket, just in case I’m trying to pull a fast one on him. If I put my jacket on, that means we’re going out together and he trots to the side door, the one that goes into the garage, and hurries through when I open it. First stop is the backyard, where I do my usual grounds work—picking up what Bhikku has left behind. He will loiter nearby at first, but then will dash to the stock gate that leads to the pasture and will prance there impatiently until I join him.

When I open the gate he runs ahead of me along our path, straying left and right to investigate new smells since our last trip. And then, usually, we head down the hill on the creek-side path with me taking the lead because Bhikku has things to check out on the way. At the bottom of the hill there is a small meadow that occupies a bend in the creek, and we usually spend a few minutes there. (Yesterday, though, when we got to that point Bhikku took off, following, I thought, the scent of the two little Labs I’d seen in that vicinity earlier in the day; he disappeared into the woods and spent a good long time looking for him, finally making my way home, where I discovered him waiting for me on the porch.) Today he plopped down in the middle of the meadow and I saw that he had something in his mouth. He looked at me questioningly—“Can I keep this?”—and when I stepped toward him to get a better look he moved away, concerned that the answer to the question was “No.” It was a bone, more than a foot long, and Bhikku commenced chewing.

Bones are no surprise. The occasional deer carcass appears, usually near the road, although I once saw one in the creek, and I myself had to drag a deer into the middle of the pasture so that the vultures would dispose of her for me. But we’d been in the meadow just the day before, and if that bone had been there Bhikku would have found it, so where did it come from?

I assured Bhikku that I wasn’t going to take the bone away from him and I headed uphill on our usual return route. He followed, bone in mouth, but when we got to the upper pasture he stopped, lay down and chewed. “No time to waste,” he seemed to be saying. I called him and he came, but after another few yards lay down again. I promised he could take the bone home and chew it there—thinking it would be easier to take it away from him once we got back inside the yard—so finally he trotted alongside and we went back to the house, where he settled into one of his favorite spots in the yard and got back to work on the bone. Bone? What bone?

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