Red runs the Maasto Hito Trails beyond Roberts Street on the Keweenaw Peninsula. He finally gets to be a dog! I’m not far behind, ready to whistle should he dip out of my sight.

The Winter That Wasn’t exposes our woods without their blankets of snow. It’s stark. Today feels like spring and yet we still have three months before it’s advised to plant.

It’s confusing. One day the ground is frozen, the ruts become tripping hazards. The next, the sun illuminates a blue sky and the mud softens. Back and forth. How will Nature respond?

For today, I’m blessed to get on the hiking trails early. Actually, I’m blessed to be on the hiking trails at all. I’ve longed for a companion — two- or four-legged, and have been hopeful that Red would be my hiking buddy. When Todd took Mause to the range, Red and I got a chance to test the trails.

What is important in a hiking companion? Someone with a sense of joy/fun/play. A good buddy will share your curiosity to check out this wonder and that. I also want a companion who will chill at an overlook or leave a leak on a tree. It feels good to share the trail with someone who forgives easily, especially if you are a mouth-breather.

Red, as a four-legged hiking companion candidate, also had to demonstrate recall, as in the opposite of running off. He can’t play coy as Mause does. She’ll pretend to come but swerve at the last minute, extending the merry chase of German Short-haired Pointers everywhere. Taking Red into the woods alone was the only way I could experience what he’d be like as a hiking dog.

We bypass two huge distractions — the tiny and large dog parks are both occupied. Red gets excited to see other dogs, so I’m wondering where his focus will be in the woods. Will squirrels tempt him? Will scents plug his ears like they do with Mause? We are now beyond the dog parks and I let Red loose. Ahead he goes.

He recalls easily with a whistle or two and remains visible as if we agree on shared lines of sight. He runs through leaves that crunch beneath his paws. He pauses often and stays at my side when I do. Red leaves a leak on a tree, and I notice it’s brief. He’s never marked, only needing to pee a few times a day and before bed. It’s un-dog-like. He lifts his leg for another short burst. He runs and leaps over a log, turns around, and leaps over it again. And he leaves a leak three more times.

Red proved himself a winning hiking companion. The greatest joy he offers is seeing the beauty I see, too. I laughed so loud a crow told me to keep it down. Crow caught Red’s curiosity, too. But the peeing was the best. Red felt at ease on the trail. Finally, he could leave a leak whenever he wanted. Freedom. Today was the first day he ever marked like a dog — he said, “Red’s home.”

March 12, 2024, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about leaving a leak. What (or who) is leaking? How can you use the leak to create tension? Expand the idea of leaks. Go where the prompt leads!

  • Submit by March 19, 2024. ***THIS WEEK ONLY PT 2*** Submit by email to wordsforpeople (at) gmail (dot) com. Use your Higher Intelligence to decode the email address. The Collection publishes on the Thursday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  • Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  • A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  • Please use this guidance for how to submit your story:
    • In the E-mail Subject line, write in All Caps: MARCH 12 CHALLENGE
    • In the body of the text, include your story title, byline (the name you publish under to maintain your copyright), 99-word story (please include formatting, including line spacing between paragraphs and dialog), and a link if you want to include your website or blog post. I will acknowledge the receipt of your story by March 12.

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