That first summer, Buddy was a joy to accompany and observe. Again, he joined me on my first backpack in the Black Range. He was often with me in a place called Vevay, a vanished settlement in the desert southwest of Anthony through which ran the main line of the Southern Pacific Railroad. There, in 100-degree heat, I’d watch the freight trains while Buddy, unbothered by the flames, bolted after jackrabbits he’d flushed from the mesquite, never catching one. Patrolling the cotton field behind our house, the hound would accelerate for no apparent reason, sprint twenty yards, stop, leap, and spin―a lean, young canine simply reveling in his canine youth. He’d pause to grab a stick from the ground, merely to shake it vigorously. Once, we gave him a foot-long rawhide chew; likely unaccustomed to such a feast, he wandered around our property a good part of a morning with the massive thing clenched in his teeth, apparently unwilling to devour it―the delayed gratification again at work?―but in a tormenting quandary as to where to bury it. He eventually interred it in the cotton field; who knew if he ever found it again. Lord of the manor, after breakfast he’d wander across the road and join the farmworkers in the onion field, occasionally making, somewhat to my embarrassment, a solid deposit among them before resuming his wandering. The workers ignored him.
And wander he did. Although every night he was either in his outdoor pen or in the house, during the day he’d often disappear for hours at a time, perhaps revisiting the territory, near or far, that eventually led, however circuitously, to our house. I didn’t mind this, nor, I presumed, did Linda. In fact, I liked Buddy’s independence, befitting of a “country dog,” I thought. His independence mirrored mine in this fabulous new place. Among other things, it reminded me that we were no longer living among the perils of the city. Foolishly, it never occurred to me that such independence would imperil him.