Dog on a Mission
Guideposts|August 2020
In my grief, I just wanted to be alone
STU REININGER

This dog! she insisted on following me every time I hiked this trail. Why couldn’t she see that I wanted to be alone?

It was a crisp November day. I was halfway up to Rocca Angitola, a breathtaking hilltop in the Calabria region of southern Italy. I’d lived in Calabria part-time for years, and this was the place I’d always come to find peace and renewal, the place I felt closest to God. But now I could barely take a step without this darn dog getting underfoot.

I whirled around, then picked up a clod of dirt and tossed it in front of her. “Shoo!” I said. The dog retreated a bit and cocked her head, thinking we were playing a game.

“Fine, have it your way,” I muttered and went back to hiking, the camera in my knapsack bumping against my shoulder. Maybe something on my walk would catch my eye and take me out of my grief for a moment—the sunlight coming through the trees, the eagle that nested high up on Angitola, the incredible panorama from the summit. I heard the dog padding behind me.

I couldn’t stay mad at her. She was just a puppy—a big puppy, weighing 60 pounds at least—a Maremma Sheepdog mix favored by the sheep and goat herders who have been bringing their flocks to graze these hillsides for centuries. The pastoral scene usually added to the sense of tranquility. That was what I’d been seeking these past months, ever since I’d lost my fiancée and my younger brother.

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