Rodney and I used to take walks together.
We would often go on trips and one October we found ourselves in North Carolina. Outside of Franklin there were circuits of trails that ran through the hills and low mountains. The two of us would spend our days walking these trails and wandering in the woods. Much of the forest had been logged at some point so most of the old growth trees were gone. But every now and then you would find one. Their canopy would be broad and the forest floor around their trunk would be open. These old trees are special. They reach to the top of the roof of the forest. It is said that the oldest, tallest trees are hub trees and act as epicenters of communication between all the trees in the forest. Because they are expose to the sky they are able to gather more light, which in turn, allows them to produce more sugar. The excess sugar feeds the fungi in the soil and the fungi in return shares nutrients from the soil with the trees. Roots beneath the soil are all interconnected, linking all the trees into a vast network of symbiotic communication. All underground and out of sight. The forest is alive and talking.
Sometimes while walking along a trail Rodney would stop. He would stand still taking in something that was around both of us but that only he was sensing. We had places in the woods that we would revisit time and time again. Special spots that just felt right. At one such spot there was a grapevine. It was old and gnarled. Its main vine was as thick as a tree and was the grey color of steel. It snaked its way up the steep hillside climbing at times into trees and over rocks. The leaves that grew from this vine were enormous. They could cover your whole face. They had the color of old leather, brown and soft, sometimes almost black. On rainy mornings we would hike up to the vine and collect the leaves when they were moist and pliable. I would stack them carefully like precious parchment.
I remember being at the vine one morning. As I collected leaves, Rodney sat calmly, looking off down the hill. Sometimes closing his eyes, not to sleep but to listen to the forest around us.
He was a wonderful dog.