Preston was still trying to figure out his new world in our early days together. One day when we were still running at Bald Hill, he came upon a dead rabbit. I saw him sniffing at something, so I went up to him. He looked at me quizzically and nosed the rabbit.
“Why won’t this thing move?” he seemed to be saying. “I’d really like to chase it.”
“No,” I said to him. “Leave it alone. It isn’t going anywhere.”
Preston left it. We continued on.
Not long after that, it was a really rainy day with flooding and standing water all over the Bald Hill trails. At one point, Preston came up to me with something in his mouth. He dropped it at my feet. I looked and realized that it was a half-dead wood rat. I don’t know if it had gotten caught in the flooding or if something had gotten hold of it.
“Oh, no,” I said, “Leave it alone.” I grabbed a poop bag from my pocket and lifted the poor rat out of the trail and into the foliage on the side (for something else to eat).
Preston went on, but he never brought anything back to me again. I think he decided that it was better to eat it first and ask permission later.
On this same trail not long afterward, there was suddenly a hay bale next to the path that had not been there the day before. Preston was tentative about it. He stopped and lunged forward just a little, then drew back.
“It’s okay,” I told him.
He moved a little closer to the bale. Nothing happened. Finally, he went right up to it and sniffed it. After realizing that it was nothing, he circled around it to the opposite side, lifted his leg, and peed on it. But, as he lowered his leg, a loose straw came around and hit him in the hindquarters. He darted in surprise, then stopped and turned to me with that look of “I am sooo embarrassed!”
I gave Preston a rawhide chew once not long after adopting him. He chewed on it a little and then started walking around the yard with it in his mouth. I realized that he was looking for a place to bury or hide it, so I followed him to see what he would end up doing. He scratched a bit on the back of a little hill. That didn't work for him. Finally, he went behind the shed and beneath a stack of wood that I had on sawhorses. He actually got on his elbows and knees and crawled under the sawhorses, military-style. He came out without the rawhide. After he left, I crawled under to see where he had put it. He had actually put it up on a little shelf that had been formed by the stacked wood.
After I had crawled out from beneath the woodpile, Preston went back in and retrieved his chew so he could move it. I had discovered his cache. When he re-hid it in the dirt, I left it alone.
Preston was an amazingly curious dog. One day, I had to go under the house into the crawl space. I can’t remember what I was checking on, the sump pump or something. Anyway, the door to the crawl space was set aside so that there was an opening. Preston came in after me to see what was going on. He looked around and decided it was boring so he went back out. No other dog ever did that.
He always looked into new places and poked around a lot. He also slept everywhere. He would move around all day long: from the couch, to the floor, to the upstairs. I even found him sleeping in the walk-in closet once when we left the door open.
Sadly, I wasn’t there the first time Preston ever saw snow. It was Thanksgiving and I was at my brother’s house in Boston. Preston was staying with our neighbors, Kate and Jim. They had their new dog, Maggie, who was still less than a year old. As Jim told it, when he let them out in the morning while it was snowing, the two dogs just went to the edge of his covered deck and then looked at each other as if to say: “What is that?”
My dog Filbert had been an absolute mental case for snow. He loved to catch snowballs. He would find the smallest patch of snow, stand in it, and bark for you to throw a snowball to him. Sometimes, the patch was so diminished that it was impossible to form a snowball. When you told him “no, I can’t do it”, Filbert would cheerfully run on to the next patch.
Preston did not have the same love of snow. Especially when we had a lot of it. In January 2013 we had a record amount of snow (16 inches, thanks to climate change). We were housebound for days because Corvallis isn’t really used to such weather and only has a few snowplows. They plowed major roads, but side roads like the one Paul and I live on went unplowed. Also, we live on a hill and neither of our cars could get around without chains. And, we just didn’t see the need.
So, we took the dogs to an area behind us where there is a common space between houses. The snow continued to fly. Preston would trot along for a while. Then he would stop, lay down, and pick at his paws. He did this every few minutes. I finally realized that his feet were melting the ice just enough for it to refreeze to his fuzzy toes and he had to pull the ice crystals off once they built up too much.
I dug up some old pairs of dog booties and tried to put them on him. Of course, Preston would have none of that. Even when I could get one on, he would immediately rip it off again. So, he just had to put up with the ice between his toes.
We often had my previous dog’s (Filbert) friends over for dinner. On one night it was the usual: Jim and Kate (the humans) with Lexi (the dog), Dave and Melissa (the humans) and Eleanor (the dog), Mary (the human) with Sophie (the dog), and Kathy (the human) with Porsha (the dog). Since Kate and Jim lived right across the street, they arrived first.
Lexi was Fil's best girl. They hit it off wonderfully right from the beginning.
Eleanor was a dumb blonde. She was beautiful. If she were born in a later time period she likely would have been called Danearys or Khaleesi (for her looks, not her brain). Although her owners vehemently argued that she was smart, actions spoke otherwise. It didn’t matter. She was very sweet. My dog, Filbert, loved her. She and Lexi were his two best girls.
Melissa and Dave arrived shortly afterward with Eleanor. While we were all yakking away, Eleanor grabbed one of Fil's toys and started playing with it at the edge of the kitchen. Lexi stepped over and watched Eleanor for a while. Then, being the mischievous soul she was, she quickly grabbed the toy from Eleanor and started biting it and making the squeaker go off repeatedly. Fil saw this, very calmly walked up to Lexi, gently took the toy away from her, and handed it back to Eleanor.
Seriously. If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I would think someone was making it up and completely anthropomorphizing some small situation. But I saw it and that is exactly what happened. Eleanor just started mouthing it again as if nothing had happened in between.
Take this same situation later with Preston. Filbert and Eleanor had died by then. The same group of people were over for dinner with a mix of old and new dogs. When the guest dogs started showing interest and playing with the toys around the house, Preston went around and systematically grabbed each toy away from each dog and took it up onto our bed. Then he laid down to guard them.
So much for hospitality.
One of the things that Preston did have in common with Filbert was his reaction after going for a run in the morning, having breakfast, and seeing me at ‘his level’.
My typical morning ritual was very similar with both Filbert and Preston. I would wake up, have a few cups of coffee until I was relatively cognizant. Then we would go for our morning run (or walk).
The morning run was always an experience. The beauty of running (or walking) in the same place every day is that you actually do get to a point where you can appreciate any new thing. I am pretty sure that the dogs appreciated this even more than I did since they have a more granular knowledge of what is out there.
When I get back from these excursions, I feed the dog right away. Then I do my floor exercises (sit-ups, side lifts, etc.) Both Preston and Filbert would come to me after they had eaten their breakfast and start pawing me. Big paw to the knee. Big paw to the arm. Big paw to the face. Preston was a little less delicate about it than Fil had been, however. Sometimes, he would nearly rip my eye out with his big, hairy claws. But, it was so damn cute with his happy little face looking down on me. I always thought of those Big paws as “thank you, Kelly.” And I would always stop and hug him or pet him.
At Paul’s house, I always did my exercises upstairs in the bedroom because I hate it when Paul watches me. Every morning, I would be laying there on the floor and would hear the thumps of Preston running up the stairs after he had scarfed down his food. It was funny because any other time, Preston could move about without making a sound. On occasion, he would go into my office instead of the bedroom looking for me. I could hear his heavy breathing until it stopped when he realized I wasn’t there. Then, I would hear his heavy breathing coming back to where I really was and then, “Whomp” Big paw to the face.
Afterwards, Preston would lie down on the floor and we would have a little petting session. This was the only time Preston ever rolled over on his back for a human, or anything actually. Ursus laid by and watched with a look that said: “You may proceed at this time. However, if you try to get near Kelly any other time, I will get you.”
Actually, Preston could be extremely rough without meaning to be. In his younger days we had a game we played called ‘crazy dog.’ It was actually a game that was entirely left up to Preston. Sometimes he would play and sometimes he wouldn’t. Eric or I would run around the yard with Preston running after us. If Preston so chose, he would go into ‘crazy dog’ mode. You knew when he went into this mode because you could see the whites of his eyes and he had that, well, crazy dog look. He would sometimes run as if his back legs were constantly in front of his front legs. (After Mary and her new dog had moved into my old house, her dog did the same thing. Maybe it was something about the house.)
When he got like this, you did NOT want to be near him because you knew he was out of control and would likely hurt you. Unless, of course, you were Eric. Eric loved to whip him into this frenzy then offer himself up as a chew toy. Eric also liked to wrestle with Preston. Then, of course, Eric would complain that he’d been hurt. Just like a 15-year-old.
Preston didn’t bite hard, either. It was just that he had large teeth and a large mouth that he couldn’t completely control on these occasions.
Paul tried to wrestle with Preston…once. I had warned him about what would happen and it happened.
Even with Ursus, Preston was non-stoppable. I watched as the two of them ran around in the yard. Ursus had a tiny turning radius and could quickly switch gears. However, more often than not, this tactic ended up with Preston plowing right over him like a train.
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Yet, for all of his roughness, Preston could also be very mellow. After Eric left, I replaced him with a three-legged chinchilla named Arthur. I kept Arthur in a cage in what had been Eric’s office. I let Arthur out to run around for a little while every day. Preston would come in and sniff at him when he was hiding under a chair or table. Finally, Preston would lay down and his tail would wag away. He actually let Arthur run right over him and thought it was a great game.