Scout was born in October of 2002, one of a litter of seven born to Punkin The Wonder Dog, an Akita mix, his father a Border Collie mix known in the neighborhood as a lady's man. In coloration and hair, he resembled his mother, in size he was like his father, with a few wisps of black hair (that became more prominent with age) being the only contribution made to his appearance. He was raised in the yard of the Prairie Bungalow by his mother and three other female dogs, Annie, Libby and Serenity whom we called his "maiden aunts" even though there was no blood relation. Early in his puppyhood, just after the soft fur phase, my late wife and I were getting to dogs together to get them inside for the night and the puppy was no where to be found. We did a search but to no avail. Round these parts, if a dog is left outside at night, its pretty much a given that he's going to become coyote food and we resigned ourselves to that possibility. By early afternoon of the next day, we regarded that fate as a certainty. But around 3:00 he came running into the yard to be greeted by his mother and maiden aunts. From that moment on, Scout never ventured very far from the homestead.
Scout was never needy or hyper. He didn't bark much unless he thought there was a real danger, and he was never mean to people or other dogs. Scout never started a fight, but I've seen him finish several of them. He was a good friend, a good listener, and as mellow as an Autumn sunset. He was also the best trail dog I've ever had or known.
What makes a good trail dog? He always takes the lead. He sets the pace---he doesn't pull your arm off dragging you down the trail and he's not so slow he gets tangled in your feet. He knows the difference between a trail and a wide spot between trees with no underbrush. He doesn't stop unless its necessary (and you should respect him enough for that to allow for the fact that sometimes sniffing a bush is necessary). He enjoys being on the trail, and being on the trail with you. He carries his own food and water without complaint. In short, a good trail dog has the same qualities as a person you'd want to walk the trail with.
Scout was all this and more. In camp, he didn't crawl under my tarp and hammock so that I could protect him. He stationed himself outside and as far as his tie out would let him so that he could be on guard. He knew what his pack was and knew that when it came out we'd be going camping, so he'd sit by the car until it was time to go. He didn't bark, even at strangers, but his eyes never left them. That picture above was taken by a fellow camper who offered to take some pictures of me and my set up. He took several and in every one of them, Scout is looking directly at the camera---or to be more precise---directly at the man holding the camera. That picture is how I like to remember Scout, standing by me on a misty morning in the woods as I sip my coffee, his only concern being my well being and protection.
More important than being a good trail dog, Scout has helped me understand some things about God.
Grace is a concept that is incompletely understood by many Christians, and by even more non-believers. The shortest definition is "unearned favor", and if you believe, as I do, that God is Creator of the Universe we are covered by so much"unearned favor" that we don't even notice it. Because He created the Universe and all that's in it, this "unearned favor" extends to every living being, human or otherwise, Believer and Non-believers. Matthew 5:45 tells us