She doesn’t have much patience for fly fishing. There’s far too much inactivity, too many periods of standing around staring into the existential void for her liking. She’d rather be off exploring, following her whim up hill and down dale, than deciding which fly to tie on or what strength of tippet to use.
Her name is Kirwan, in honor of a famous rugby player. While something of a masculine name for a female dog, on many levels it has proved appropriate. For starters, she displays little of what could be termed stereotypical feminine traits — subtlety, gentleness or tact. She’ll spoil a special, intimate moment with an unselfconscious belch or some other manifestation of digestive volatility. Feminine-like squatting when relieving herself is for others; she’ll lift her leg and stand with the boys, thank you very much.
She’s colored predominantly black, with a white stripe down her front, coincidentally mimicking the black jersey with the white fern on the chest worn by her rugby-playing namesake. And like her namesake, she loves to run, very fast. The rescue shelter we got her from said she is primarily Labrador. What other fathers were present at her conception remains a mystery, but we are sure there was likely a pointer somewhere in the vicinity. While she displays the Lab’s love of attention and penchant for making friends, she is seldom content to lie loyally at your feet, rather fidgeting and scooching this way and that as you attempt to pat her.
But she loves the mountains. All it takes is sitting in the chair next to the back door and pulling on a pair of socks, and she is sure you are doing so solely for the purpose of getting her to a trailhead. She begins breathing heavily, skittering and jumping at your every move, following your every step throughout the house, regardless of your actual intent.
Perhaps with the requisite training, she may have become a regular fishing companion, but it was never my intent nor desire to turn her into something she is not. For her, the trail to a lake or along a stream’s course is there merely as a reference point, something to return to from time to time to check that all is well, before haring off again in another direction.
While not a natural swimmer, she loves to play in and around water, hence her only occasional invitations to high-country fishing trips. Beaver ponds are not there to cast to guileless brookies, but rather to noisily wallow in the shallows, stirring up mud and debris. Lake shores where hungry cutthroats cruise are for paddling in, chasing after dragonflies and other uncatchable creatures, rather than sitting obediently at her master’s side, silently complimenting each cast or drift of the fly.
And yet, panting hard with her tongue lolling out the side of her mouth, dripping water everywhere, the look of joy in her eyes is worth the occasional inconvenience of a spooked trout or muddied beaver pond. Much like her owner, she needs regular trips to the mountains, and the real crime lies not in her lack of etiquette, but in denying her the canvas on which she paints her own picture.
Hayden Mellsop is a Realtor with Pinon Real Estate Group and a former fishing guide.