Sunday, January 30, 2011

Wilderness Adventures

You remember the ill-fated nature walk of Charles Gough I told you about last week, right?  Well, Gough’s fall and subsequent attendance after death by his dog is not a singular event.  There is no doubt about it – some dogs just won’t leave their owners in the woods – dead or alive.

Much later than Charles Gough’s hike in the mountains of the English Lakes District, in January 1990, Graham Nuttall went on a train ride and then a walk in the Welsh mountains with his constant companion – his dog, Ruswarp (pronounced Russup). Unlike Gough, when he didn’t return that evening, his neighbors immediately called the authorities.  Sadly, no trace of Nuttall was found, until eleven weeks later when his body and his badly emaciated border collie were found near a stream. The dog was given medical attention and survived long enough to attend his owner’s funeral where, it was reported, the dog let out a loud moan.

A statue commemorating Ruswarp now sits at the train station he and his owner helped to save. To see the complete story, go to the sculptor’s blog where you can also find a cool progression of the statue.

In July of 2001, Graham Snell went out for a hike in the hills of Altnaharra (Scotland) with his dog, Heidi. He fell and died and Heidi, his little Jack Russell terrier, stayed with him for the two days prior to being found.

While there are many more stories about the loyalty of dogs, what I find so compelling about these stories is not that the dogs stayed with the bodies of their owners, but that they stayed AT ALL!

My awe comes from my personal wilderness experience with my own dog, Morton.

I’m going to save that one for tomorrow.

In the meantime, I leave you with these two bits of wisdom: if you’re going to hike the mountains alone with your dog, make certain there are plenty of painters, poets, and sculptors in the culture you leave behind – this way, in the possible event that you die there, your misfortune can be memorialized across multiple art forms; and, if you live in the British Isles and your name is Graham, don’t even risk it. 

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