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When you travel around the country by yourself, you get to experience lots of new and interesting things. One of those things is your “Fight or Flight” response in its full wild glory. In olden days, this hard-wired function was extremely useful for keeping us from becoming dinner for God’s fanged and furriest. In modern times, it’s exceptionally useful at freaking you the heck out. Save that thought, we’ll come back to it.

As I was headed up to Glacier National Park, I found my way into Browning, Montana. All I knew of Browning up to this point is that there was a company with that name who made rifles and stickers of their logo for practitioners of the Redneck arts to adorn their lifted diesel chariots. I have no idea if the two are affiliated. Point being, I got to explore a new place! And what an odd place it was. This was Blackfoot Indian territory, so I expected a high Blackfoot population. And there was. The few I talked with were gorgeous and sweet people. I’d really looked forward to this as I have some native American ancestry. What I was not prepared for was the Godzilla film effect of modern day Browning.

What am I on about you may ask? Much like the old Godzilla films, when first speaking to one of locals, the sound and picture do not match initially. It’s a mind bending sensation to see the bold and classic Blackfoot features, then to hear the voice of Keanu Reeves come out of those features. Intellectually, I knew not to expect an Old West broken English dialect, however, I was not entirely prepared for the Southern Californian soundtrack.

At Least Someone Likes This Burrito

This was only the first little surprise Browning had in store for me. After a quick stop for supplies, I went in search of something quick to eat on my way into Glacier. Options in Browning are not simply limited, they feel like parodies of restaurants you might find when traveling abroad. Case in point, this evening’s dinner was from a Mexican-ish fast food place. I knew I had made a questionable decision when I realized my burrito came with hash browns.

But hunger trumps my inner food critic, so I stuffed down as much as I could stand as I made my way closer to the park. As the miles rolled past, I couldn’t keep this gaping, slack-jawed look off of my face. If there are adequate words for scenery so singularly beautiful, I would love to hear them, because I’ve got nothing here. I couldn’t take it anymore and pulled over along the side of the road and started grabbing cameras. I was going to have pictures. Oh yes I was.

sugars-field

I swam through the tall golden grasses in the field down to a clearing and started snapping away like an angry crab. Every angle was stuffed with that freakishly accurate “purple mountain’s majesty” you’ve heard about from that song. Absolutely amazing.

In between the rapid fire snaps of the shutter, I began to hear a different sound. Distant but moving closer. And quickly.

Remember that fight or flight, punch or panic, response we were talking about earlier? The Danger Assessment Department in my head stopped filing its TPS reports and Reply All’d to an emergency memo from The Kung Fu Department. The subject line reads:“Are we a go for Crouching Photographer, Hidden Redneck?” Yes, very yes.

What I haven’t told you about Montana is that it has dogs in it. Not, Mr. Fluffums type dogs, but what the locals call “road dogs.” These are real wild dogs that roam the countryside. When I stopped for supplies earlier, I saw a pack of them roaming the parking lot of the little store and decided that standing there with an obscene amount of beef jerky might not be the best idea of the day. So, dogs. Wild “Dances With Wolves” dogs.

As I mentally prepared myself for battle, I could finally see what was making all this noise. IT WAS ONE OF THESE ROAD DOGS. But I’m ready for this. I’m from Tennessee. Davy Crocket killed him a bear, fought at the Alamo, Tennessee. As it approached I stayed low, ready to take it to the ground. Heart pounding? Check.

It’s at this point it’s close enough for a good look, and… she is adorable.

I’ve had a few dogs over the years, and if you have, you’ll know what I’m talking about. She has the “I need loves” eyes going full force. Still crouched down, she slowly walks up to me, circles around behind me, then sets her head on my right knee. Being an animal lover, this kills me. For reasons unknown, I start calling her Sugars. She’s far too thin and desperate for affection. Also, she smells like 148 homeless people. But that’s not going to stop me petting this dog. I talk to her and rub her head and she eats it up.

It’s then that I remember I have a half eaten burrito and the accompanying traditional hash browns left in The Runner. I toss one up in the air and discover she can play catch-the-hash-browns quite well. I really like this dog. By the time she’s eaten all my left overs, the sun is beginning to slip behind the mountains in the distance. I want to take her with me but there’s no way I could take care of her properly on the road. This bums me out. And I think it does her too.

 

As I try to tell her goodbye and climb into the car, she wiggles her way up to the door before I can get it closed and puts her paws on my leg, giving me the most pitiful “take me with you” look ever. Somewhere nearby I can hear Sarah McLachlan singing.

sugars-4

At this point I may have gotten something in my eye. I’m finally able to get her to back up with a surprise extra hash brown and pray that God would watch over the stinkiest dog I’d ever met.

Over the next few days I thought about her and wondered why I was concerned about her. I see dogs wandering all over the country. Not a strange thing. But then it starts to sink in that maybe it wasn’t her that “needed loves.” I too had been wandering the country by myself and I hadn’t touched another living thing in ages. She got petted and questionable Mexican food. I got to feel a little more normal and remember that even in a field in the mountains, God knows where I am and can send me what I needed – Sugars.