Duke: Rock Star or Scoundrel?
Saturday, November 18, 2006

ecently Duke, Ceilidh and I took a late lunch break at the C.B. South General Store. The dogs waited patiently in the car while I finished a tasty cheeseburger. Outside a bunch of guys loitered, chatting, smoking, enjoying the sunshine and avoiding work. As I departed the General Store one of the fellows caught my attention and asked,

"Is that dog from that web site?" He pointed at Duke.

"You mean flyingcracker.com?"

"Yeah, flyingcracker. That's Duke! He runs all over with a GPS on his back. I've seen that black dog too, she was in photos from the Walrod Cutoff trail."

"Yup, that's Duke and Ceilidh. We're heading up Cement Creek for a short hike."

"Are you bringing the GPS and harness?"

Hmmm, good idea. But first we had to get used to the idea of Duke being recognized by perfect strangers. Our new friend said he enjoys reading about Duke running all over, and that makes us happy. For his part, Duke seemed pleased to be recognized in public. He sat up straight and watched our every move, probably wondering, "Will I get any food out of this?" Before leaving we gave Duke's fan a few flyingcracker stickers. We never did get his name; whoever you are, thanks for suggesting Duke don the GPS yet again.

n Cement Creek road Duke trembled with eagerness as we affixed the harness, checked for traffic, started the GPS, and let him loose. In a flash he was gone, sniffing the ground like a hog after truffles.  Not more than one hundred yards up the trail we saw another hiker approaching, a tall lanky mustachioed gentleman (whose name we also neglected to get). When he got closer he exclaimed, "I know that dog. He's Duke, he runs up Reno-Flag-Bear-Deadman with a GPS!" Sure enough, the guy was another Duke fan, the second we'd seen within an hour. We chatted a bit about dogs, weather, and GPSes and then departed with a smile. After accepting his praise Duke had run way up the hillside, almost out of view. His actions seemed to say, "Yeah, I'm a rock star, but I've got important stuff to take care of, like sniffing the forest and eating dead things."

t first we thought all this recognition would go to Duke's head. After all, he is all about pleasure, instant gratification, adulation. But then we realized that although sometimes Duke demands attention, he usually quickly grows bored and moves on. He doesn't sit around waiting to be fawned over by adoring throngs of fans. In fact, like most dogs, he hardly sits at all when out on a hike. His main fascination on the trail is other animals and smells of the forest. In this respect Duke is like an obsessed artist, intent on getting every odor nuance just right, making sure all the forest smells are sampled and catalogued. You are probably familiar with the signs: head to the ground, seemingly random movement, ignoring most calls from his owners. This is not to say he totally ignores us, certainly not. Duke periodically checks in to be sure he's still with the group. Sometimes he needs water or perhaps a doggie treat snack. But there is another side to Duke, a darker, more disturbing aspect. We call this animal Duke the Scoundrel (or worse).

ne recent Saturday night offers a typical example. Duke had good runs on Thursday afternoon, Friday afternoon and Saturday. Normally after so much exercise Duke would calmly snooze on the couch. But during an evening party Saturday at flyingcracker headquarters Duke took every advantage he could. Unsuspecting guests found Duke trying to nab their food. Items on the counter were fair game as well. When he could not reach a morsel he begged. Generally he behaved rudely. As one guest remarked, "Duke is a trash dog." And it's true. No matter if good food is available in his bowl, Duke will exhaust every other avenue to obtain tasty people food before settling for Iams lamb and rice mix. Luckily he seems to have a cast-iron stomach. He once ate a 9 inch diameter, 2 inch thick dark chocolate torte, the entire thing, without any apparent ill effects. He also ate an entire lobster shell, tamale and all, left over from dinner. Although we later saw red shell fragments and lobster antennae in his poop, Duke suffered no gastrointestinal consequences. He is a canine garbage disposal. Nevertheless we just cannot trust him to be happy with his lot in life. He's always angling for something better.

coundrel is defined as "villain: a wicked or evil person; someone who does evil deliberately". We think most dogs would prefer human food to dog food, so you really can't call that scoundrel-like behavior. However, Duke's behavioral problems don't end with food. Sunday we worked in our fenced-in back yard, raking and mowing. Duke just wandered about lazily, happy to sit in the shade. But the moment my attention turned towards fixing a problem with the lawnmower Duke was gone out the open gate. At least that's what we think happened. One minute he was there and the next he was not. Later we talked with photographer Robb Pennie walking in front of flyingcracker headquarters. Robb said Duke had earlier dashed madly by him down the street. Eventually Duke returned to the front yard to munch on some crunchy snow. We thought he had exhausted his need for local exploration. But soon afterward, when a neighbor walked by with a big dog on a leash, Duke made a move. Luckily we anticipated this and had him sitting quietly until the dog passed well out of view. upon his release Duke sprinted down the street, intent on finding and sniffing the passer-by as if it were a life or death matter. He just can't let the world pass by without canine comment. This time we put him back in the house so we could finish chores in a timely manner. That turned out to be a poor choice as later we found Duke had reached up to a table, pulled down a favorite piece of pottery filled with candy corn, and proceeded to eat (almost) every kernel.

uke is unrepentant, bashful but not ashamed when caught, happy to come home on leash-free "heel" when he's caught. He eats Kleenex, parts of shoes and gloves. He wants to be nearby all the time, except when he doesn't. We love him and he drives us crazy. Please click on a selection in the poll below. Once you make your selection the current results will be shown. And if you have some good advice please send us an email: duke@flyingcracker.com. Thanks.

Note: We've already received our first "advice". Strangely enough this missive comes from good friend and Brittany, Margo, who lives in Houston, TX.

You are what I call a normal scoundrel, like me, and sometime rock star. It’s a “good thing”, (as Martha Stewart would say) that your parents have only one of you. How would they like me around as well. I romp every day at East End Park trembling and barking with excitement on the ride there. Once out of the car I take off. What’s to stay around for?? Leashes are for sissies, don’t you think? I am forever being “found” by other parents who think I’m lost. Ridiculous! Then they call my number on their cell phones. Can you believe? As for food, ANYTHING is fair game and tasty. Pretty soon I may become a rock star, too, because pretty soon I will be almost as well known as you. If you have any good ideas on how I can become more famous, please send them in cryptogram or code…..whatever.

Your buddy, Margo

P.S. Only one bad thing, I sometimes pick up those nasty ticks, yuck.