I tear away the plastic wrap encasing the bone. I show it to Muggle, my Australian shepherd. I don’t say a word, point to the door and lead the way outside.
Muggle’s excitement is obvious. He’s like a youngster on Christmas morning. When we’re out in the backyard, I look at Muggle.
“Do you want this?” I ask. Muggle is already drooling, his eyes as big as saucers.
This bone is the largest one Muggle has seen in his nearly 14 years of life. He can’t believe his good fortune and can hardly contain his excitement.
When I ordered the “dog bone” from the University of Wyoming Animal Science Department meat sale, I pictured a typical knuckle bone, maybe the size of a baseball. When I picked up the bone with my box of meat, I almost gave it back since it was so big.
“My dog isn’t a Great Dane,” I told them with a laugh. “He will be in heaven.”
And so he was. The bone was an entire cow’s scapula. After giving it to Muggle I didn’t see him in the house again for about three hours. I checked up on him at one point and Muggle just glanced up at me, paw on the bone, proud of his prize. He immediately went back to gnawing.
Muggle will be 14 years old next month. Based on doggie years, he is nearly a centenarian — 100 years old. While that conversion where one human year equals seven doggie years doesn’t really seem apt, he is showing his age.
We seem to be entering a new phase where Muggle still wants his daily walks but they can be very slow — a glacial pace. He had a limp at one point, so I shortened the route on one of his walks and, even when the limp disappeared, he seemed fine with staying on the shorter path. He seems happy no matter the distance as long as he gets to venture outside his own yard.
Muggle is nearly deaf and probably can’t see so well, but his sense of smell is undiminished. He derives intense pleasure in sniffing his p-mail and inspecting all odors along our route. We go extremely slowly, but I figure that is the highlight of his day. I patiently mosey and let him enjoy the outing at his own pace.
As we head down the street for our early-morning walk, usually around 5 a.m., Sprocket joins us. Sprocket is now a gorgeous long-haired grey and black-streaked cat. He was found on the prairie in the middle of nowhere nearly four years ago. He was just a kitten then, weighing in at less than 2 pounds, and was discovered by my friend, Peggy McCrackin, during the Tour de Wyoming bicycle tour. Peggy heard a faint mewing in the sagebrush as she pedaled her bike. She stopped and, low and behold, this little kitten appeared. Most likely the animal was part of a litter left to perish on the prairie. Instead, Peggy scooped him up, I brought him home and now he’s securely a part of our household.
While I realize it is best to keep cats indoors, Sprocket just didn’t take to being cooped up. We tried but, because Muggle comes and goes via his doggie door, the only way to keep the cat indoors was to also keep Muggle either in or out. We tried that early on, but Sprocket was a semi-feral cat when he was found and tends to remain very independent. He is also quite ornery and a real character. Staying indoors all the time just isn’t in his DNA.
Because he likes to go outside occasionally, Sprocket has a collar with a bell. I can hear him coming and going and hope that sound also limits his hunting success.
The cutest thing, though, is Sprocket is very attached to Muggle and likes to join us on our early pre-dawn walks. We go a few blocks to the prairie, then wander a bit before coming back. Sprocket tags along and sticks close to Muggle. It is the darnedest thing.
Lately, Sprocket has also taken to rousing himself from his afternoon siesta to join Muggle and me on our late afternoon walk. It’s a short mosey down the alley and back. Muggle checks his p-mail while Sprocket wanders alongside, often flopping down to roll in the dirt while Muggle sniffs around.
I admit that when I’m off doing fieldwork for my job as a wildlife biologist, the thing I miss the most is my morning mosey with Muggle and Sprocket. It’s a very peaceful way to start the day.
Now, I look forward to the day when I surprise Muggle with another cow scapula. A second one awaits him in the freezer. Soon, I’ll give him the second biggest bone of his life, and he’ll likely swoon with pleasure once again.
Amber Travsky earned master’s degrees in wildlife biology and exercise physiology from the University of Wyoming. She runs her own environmental consulting company, as well as a martial arts school. She authored “Mountain Biking Wyoming” and “Mountain Biking Jackson Hole,” both published by Falcon Books. She is the tour director and founder of the Tour de Wyoming bicycle tour, which crosses the state every July.