It started as a beautiful day. My friend, his dog Nube (pronounced noo bee), and I decided to do a quick overnighter on a section of the Uwharrie Trail to complete this months requirement to meet our personal goal of "at least one overnight hike every month in 2010", that we decided on in January.
We set out late Saturday afternoon for the 1 hour drive to a spot we've been to several times. It's about a 2 mile hike in to a small creek and a nook in the underbrush and trees just big enough for my hammock and his tent setup. We arrive about 2 hours before sunset and start in. I am so excited to be trying out my new Black Diamond trekking poles my wife bought me for my birthday last month. We are giddy with conversation because the air is crisp, the sky is blue, and we are simply having a great time. I am thinking to myself that this could be one of my top 3 favorite overnighters this year.
We get about a mile into the forest and haven't seen a single person. As usual, we unleash Nube who runs around like a playful horse, he is just as excited as we are to be free as we are and begins his usual exploratory digging at rocks and barking routine.
We get to our site and setup and just enjoy the weather. Strangely, we realize we haven't seen Nube in a few hours, which isnt all that unusual, he will stray a few hundred yards from us but always checks in from time to time hunting for a scrap of pasta, or an M&M. He did once disappear overnight, but was sitting in our camp waiting for us when we woke up the next morning.
So we weren't too worried.
About 5 AM I wake up to my friend calling for his dog. It's about 43 degrees and the sky is sprinked with autumn diamonds. I figure he'll find him, so I go back to sleep. As usual I awake about 10 am because I am so comfortable in the hammock and always manage to oversleep. My buddy is just getting back to camp. He has searched over 8 miles! He is getting pretty worried by now. So we pack up, walk out slowly, calling his name every few minutes or so. I fully expect Nube to be waiting down the trail or sitting by the truck eager to see us.
He isn't there. We decide to ride the dirt roads that surround the area where we were and eventually put out some flyers. We make almost the complete 10 mile loop in my truck and see some four wheelers. I stop and ask one woman with who looks very kind and motherly if she has seen our beloved lab mix who got away from us last night. Unfortunately, she said "yes, I did see him... but he was lifeless on the side of the highway. He was hit by a car".
We asked if she was sure and she said "maybe it wasn't your dog". Naturally, we raced over there... Our beloved friend Nube had indeed chased his last rabbit.
It appears he had made a direct line from where we let him free, to the highway... where it appears he was notoriously chasing a rabbit. It is very uncharacteristic for him to get near a highway as he has always been very cautious of people and cars. Maybe the thrill of this chase overtook his natural fear... we'll never know for sure.
We rubbed him for a few minutes, tried with all of our manliness to suck up our tears, but it didn't work. We carefully loaded him into my truck and took him on his last ride home.
This was my friends rescued animal that had to be fed goat's milk and warmed up in middle of the night until he was old enough to survive on his own. We have spent countless miles and nights on the trail with this fella; over 20 nights this year alone. To an animal lover, they will understand the bond we had with him. To others, maybe you won't understand.
I hate to sadden anyone reading this, but I needed to get it out. I hope you'll understand. I needed to tell let it out. I am fighting the tears as I type.
My friend Alex, and Nube.