The well-worn path weaves a trail navigating the perimeter of the yard. The grass is beaten down and threadbare from the assault of many steps. It has taken the Sentry countless hours and a multitude of laps to carve out this trail. It is a serious undertaking. Head held high, tail stretched straight back, ears pivoting he starts the next round of the many circuits he will make today. It is not clear if a noise has induced this latest round or if some internal time clock initiated the reconnaissance.
The many stops on the route are indicated by rough circular patterns adjacent to the path. A prized stop is a large knothole in the far northwest portion of the fence. The knothole offers a panoramic view of the wash that traverses the desert sand behind our house. This dry creek bed is a favored byway of local animals, including wild horses. The large boulders haphazardly piled around the wash are dotted by geckos soaking up the dazzling sunlight. The Sentry spends hours in stillness, eyes glued to the knothole, tirelessly observing the world beyond the boundary imposed by the wooden fence.
The serpentine trail he has worn belies the purposefulness in his task. Our sentry knows the importance of keeping his home safe from intruders. It shows in the doggedness of his many rounds whenever he is in the yard. We know he would sound the alarm if the boundary of his territory is breached. For the Sentry is our boy, Taz. He will ensure his pack is safe. He has not had to defend his territory, harsh barks have deterred any would-be intruders. Still he cannot relax to sleep in the shade on a warm summer’s day. He retreats to a quiet spot and listens, head rotating left then right. Watching, always watching until a noise, unheard by the rest of his pack, spurs him into action. If the noise is distant he will start his patrol and check the perimeter once more; if the noise is too close he will verbally warn the stranger away.
As night falls the Sentry reluctantly leaves his post. It is only after we persistently call him that he enters the house glancing back over his shoulder for a final survey of the yard. He knows he can still keep an eye on things from the windows and our Taz makes sure he is positioned for the best views. Tomorrow he will return to duty and his vigilant rounds of the yard.
Over the years the setting has changed from the desert of Reno NV to the lush grass of Maple Ridge BC and Spring Hill TN, to the wooded enclave in Westerose AB. Through all the miles and changes in venue Taz remained our vigilant sentry and each yard was quickly marked by his footsteps.
It has been a year now since cancer claimed the life of our sentry. I am heartbroken as I gaze out the window and notice that the grass has grown over his pathways. The yard shows no trace of the guardian that once patrolled it so vigilantly however the path that he wove through my heart and soul still exists.