That's Preston. Only Paul and I truly understand the phrase "he just disappeared." I have long believed that Preston can teleport himself. I have watched him disappear from one place and reappear at another in which he could not have possibly reached in the given time.
We went out once again to look for chanterelles. This time, we did more of a "car-spotting" hunt. No hour long hike just to reach the place we needed to. I did this for the sake of Preston so he could rest in between stops. So, we first stopped in a place that Paul had taken a picture of a Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus) because he wanted to take some better pictures. It was pouring rain on and off. Paul led me on a long expedition in which I kept saying to myself "there's no way he went this far the last time we came here two days ago." Well, we looked around every tree. Then, my ex-mycologist brain snapped in and said "hey, L. sulphureus is a wood rotter and would only be found on dead trees." Duh. So, I at least looked on on dead trees after that.
So, Paul wanders off saying he'll be right back. Well, about 20 minutes later he still wasn't back. To make a long story short, he somehow managed to get himself into a swamp and surrounded by Devil's Cane. As the name suggests, Devil's Cane is evil stuff that grows in groups and has lots of thorns. In the meantime, I went back to where we had started and went down a deer run. I spotted a very dead tree a bit on a hill and went to it. Sure enough. There was the L. sulphureus. It was all of five minutes from the road. Meanwhile, Paul was somewhere out about 15 minutes from the road trying to figure out how to get out of the swamp. I yelled for him and there wasn't an answer for a while. Then, when he was in hearing range, I kept calling so that he knew which way to go. Afterwards, I took him directly to the fungus.
That wasn't really the story I was going to write about.
Later that day...Paul got his pictures, FINALLY. We all loaded up in the car to move on to find a collecting spot. I looked at a place and said: I think this might be a good place. Paul pulled the car into a spot. As we were leaving, I said: "Do you think that we should leave Preston in the car?" Preston had looked very tired from the earlier excursion. "Nah," said Paul, looking up at the rather steep incline where we were about to go, " where is he going to go???"
Famous last words, as they say.
Well, we took off...me in one direction, Paul in the other. Preston was sort of stumbling around like a drunk. He would sort of wander in a direction, hit a log and be completely confused about what to do. Yet, he seemed to be okay otherwise. At one point, Paul said "He's coming over to you....glarble, gurble, blah." I wasn't about to go all the way to where Paul was to clarify, but Preston appeared moments later. He walked toward me, hit a log, and figured a way around it. I figured he was really tired. Simultaneously, I found a few chanterelles. A moment later, I looked up and Preston had disappeared. Ursus came running by me so I thought he was on Preston's trail so I picked another chanterelle. When I looked up, both dogs were gone.
I mean, it's one thing for fast little Ursus to disappear because, well, he's fast. But, Preston had disappeared in a blink. Truly a blink. I assumed that he had gone back to Paul who was likely travelling the easier path. So, I kept wandering around and collecting a few here, a few there. At one point I realized that I hadn't heard anything from anyone for a long time so I called out to Paul. No answer. I started working my way down to where the car was. But, as anyone who collects mushrooms knows: as soon as you head to the car, they show themselves in abundance. So, yes, it took a while for me to reach the car. I saw that it was steamed up inside, so I breathed a sigh of relief that Preston was in there sleeping.
Moments later, Paul and Ursus appeared. "Where's Preston?" he said immediately. "I thought he was with YOU," I said as the apprehension immediately hit me. "No, I haven't seen him since I sent him for you to watch," he said. I had no idea what he was talking about. "I said: he's coming to you. keep an eye on him," Paul said in response. I realized that the last bit was the 'mumble, mumble' I had heard.
Well, it had definitely been an hour since either of us had seen him. Paul said that he had mentioned to me at some point that, I either didn't hear or understand, that Preston: "seemed to be acting a little strange."
I really freaked right at this point. My 13 year old dog was gone and I had no idea where he was.
As usual, Paul was to drive up and down the road while I bushwhacked. Honestly, this is the best situation since Paul has a horrible sense of direction. Otherwise, I'd lose them both.
Unlike me, I was so frantic that I kind of went around the area that I had been collecting rather haphazardly looking for a sign of Preston...and yelling his name. The one fortunate thing about things was that Preston was wearing a "bear bell" and an orange_and_flourescent vest. I looked all over and behind every log I had crossed. I frantically looked all over the place. Below me, I heard Paul calling and honking the car horn.
Finally, at my rope's end, I stopped and thought about where I had last seen Preston. I knew the moment and, more or less, the place where I had seen him last so I went back. I started from there and remembered that I saw a large clearing in the trees that I really didn't want to go to at the time. NOW, however, I went straight toward it. I crawled through Devil's Cane. I crawled over logs the size of mid-size cars. I crawled around whatever I could. I reached the opening. It was a marshy sorta area where deer or elk had obviously bedded down. No sign of Preston. I walked through it. Around it. Beside it. Nothing. Then I just kept going on and on and around. I finally reached a spot somewhere far from that opening where there was an almost cliff down. I was calling all of this way and so was Paul, but at some point neither of us could hear the other. When I saw this enormous drop, I could only think of moments where Preston had lost his balance on small inclines. I looked down everywhere. I was determined not to give up. All I could think about was how dogs decide to wander off on their own to die. Or, I thought, maybe he had come across a barrier that he just could not get past. Mostly, I thought about the latter. I watched him in the past few weeks and know how much he has slowed down.
Fifteen or so minutes later I had no more ideas. I actually leaned against a tree, whispered to no on in particular: "Preston, please don't do this to me." And the tears began to fall. Almost immediately there was a tinkle of a bell. I looked up to see Preston about five yards from me, looking at me like I was crazy. I honestly thought that I was hallucinating. I went up, knelt down, and hugged him to prove to myself that he was real. He just looked at me like he was there to lead my sorry ass the way back. And he did. He immediately took off down this, what I realized now, was a forest road that had been left since...maybe?..30 years ago? He trotted along like he was my guide. I even yelled for him to wait a few times because he was able to go under things that I couldn't. (I could go OVER things that he couldn't, however.) In the end, he lead me and waited for me like Virgil. Finally, we were at the road and, although he didn't find the exact easiest way to get to where the car had been parked he was damned close. It was a bit of a drop that he kinda slipped down. I was a little slower.
In the end, it turned out that Paul was just coming back from one of his up-and-down drives as far as he felt he could go without getting lost and he saw Preston first. And he had a similar reaction to his reappearance that I did. I stumbled down the "ex"-cline shortly after.
Anyway. Both Paul and I realize that Preston MUST be an alien to do all of these things. I cannot possibly explain these things to anyone who doesn't really know Preston or....maybe there are others like him out there?
I don't know what Ursus thinks.