Youthfull Jonty and Reckless

He’s just a dog…but not.

Reckless came across a crab this morning. He stood, neck hairs raised, barking, not daring to venture too close. His instinct telling him that this is a character not to be messed with.

Reckless, no longer in his youth, has been with me longest, Willie, a Welsh Corgi, not far behind. All my dogs are working dogs, but not Jonty, he just stands in the pasture, with ears like radar dishes, and watches everyone else.

Reckless was the only dog in seven puppies. I had know idea if he’d work well but I couldn’t leave him to his fate growing up with six bitches. So, imagine my joy when several months old I saw that alert crouch on front feet, and his instinctive zig-zag run.

Reckless was born back on the island, in the barn of a neighbouring farmer. I’ve never trained dogs to herd younger than three years old; younger than that, a working dog is unpredictable, likely to act instinctively, out of control, which is dangerous for the sheep.

When a puppy, learning from Ruby, his mother, he sometimes snapped at the heels of the sheep. More often excitement than intent, but still, he took some shaping. Hard to imagine these days that this dog has ever been careless. Here on the shores of Mendocino, Reckless hasn’t yet perfected the herding of gulls, but he keeps up on his training daily. When the gulls settle close, he immediately goes into his crouched position, ears open in my direction, chest beating faster, eyes glazed on the object of his instinctive calling. He waits for me to instruct him, but these days just hears me mumbling… You’re done, lad, we’re both done, get off and play. He looks at me, eyes pleading. Finally, when he understands that no instruction is forthcoming, he’ll rush off like a child in a rage.

Reckless and I were both raised under the shadow of Ben More. We also share some traits, we drink alcohol, me McCallan, he likes a Guinness. In all the years we’ve been friends, we’ve never reached a proper understanding about where we sleep.

Some days when I walk him, I hardly say a word, busy with thinking, or just mindlessly walking. Reckless cannot be placed here in print other than to write his name. His friendship, trust, is everything to me. He’s just a dog…or not.

This evening the shoreline was a treasure ground of debris after the heavy seas came ashore. I found a very useful wooden box, intact. It will hold something, horse blankets, anything. I thinks it’s redwood, waterlogged but not by many days. Very solid. No way I could move it, so I brought the ATV onto the shore and towed it back around the far end, where there’s a track to the top of the bluff. I have no idea what its original content would have been. I went three times, each time collecting timber for the fire. It will be next year’s fire; soaked as the timber is. There is something about the spit and crackle of a fire that comforts. Flames, while dangerous, can also be a source of mental wellbeing.

I often light a small beach fire to romance my life, put some wind through my harmonica and pretend I’m anyone.

Two hundred yards of shoreline came with the house. A hundred yards north and a hundred south of the home. “It’s your own private beach!” That is what the realtor told me. I laughed. No-one in their right mind would enter these waters, full of rocks and rip tides the way it is. As for the beach itself? No man has a right to own such a thing. I tore the signs down. I never understood land ownership, we may have some responsibility for it, but we never own it. It will still be land when all the owners have gone.

I was frustrated today by my writing. The thoughts I had, well, they seemed to disappear as my fingers got set on the keyboard. Not unusually, I take myself off to the kitchen, make a cup of tea, and hope that when I get back some idea has mysteriously grown in my mind.

Clearly, I hear you say, no such luck today!

I once believed that good work, any work for that matter, came from pure moments of inspiration. I’m sure this does happen for some, but waiting for those inspired moments means, for me anyway, nothing would ever get written down.

I try very hard to work at my craft, but my skills are sorely limited, and frustration builds. I can scratch a week’s work in temper. I can ask myself what is the point of writing? I mumble, hold my head in my hands, and sulk!

But what pleasure it is to sulk over writing. Some inferno in me that cannot be extinguished. Howls of rage, and gut sobbing frustration seems to me to be a part of this thing. I know when things are getting bad, because Reckless creeps away on his belly, taking shelter under the coffee table, staring out from eyes that look dolefully at me.

This is the signal to stop, make a cup of tea, and when I return Reckless will be waiting to see if things are any calmer.

They generally are. Tetley is good for that.

Reckless today. We’re getting old together.



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Harry Hogg

Harry Hogg

I was born in London, adopted, lived my youth on an island off the coast of Scotland. Now living between Colorado, Missouri, California. I write to be loved