The world is awash with languages, from the tones of humanity to the communications of the natural world. The more time I spend in nature with my own mouth closed and my perceptions open, the more I begin to understand of the signals given off by creatures around me. With soft steps on a woodland trail I listened to the sharp calls of the little owl deep within the darkness and the familiar calls of the tawny finding their like high in the canopy above.
My gaze returned to the shadows of the woodland floor as I looked for my dogs. With a whistle akin to the call of the little owl I summoned them from their adventures. Clattering through the undergrowth they appeared on the trail beside me and in their own canine language began to speak volumes without words. My lead dog trotted around me with her head held high and her tail slowly wagging from side to side, closely following was my collie his pace matching the steps of my lead dog as she paraded. Their strutting caught my attention and I wondered why their manner had changed from a few minutes ago. Clutched in the mouth of my lead dog was a stick and for a moment I was reassured of their language and of a game they were playing to establish positions within the pack. I set off on the the trail with the two dogs circling me.
Moments passed before I again became suspicious of their behaviour, normally the stick would have been quickly broken in powerful jaws and the game would be over but the parading and strutting continued. Both dogs stopped abruptly as I demanded their attention and called them close. This provoked a stubborn reluctance from bearer of the stick as she tried to lure me into the same game being played with my collie. I refused to play and refused to lead the pack further on the trail until she came to me. Pace by pace she slowly approached until I could grasp the stick.
Beneath my glove I could feel of fluids of saliva and soft tissue on what was actually a bone of a considerable size. It took some effort to take it from her, but after a struggle I found myself holding part of a leg. Turning on the lantern revealed it was not the butchered discard of a picnic or barbeque from the daylight visitors to the woodland. This had been torn from a carcass and still bore skin and matted fur. It also held a coldness to tell me the poor creature must have died some time ago.
The lantern light reflected in the bright eyes of my dogs waiting excitedly for me to cast it aside, I decided they would not have the pleasure and looked about me for somewhere to dispose of it where it would be out of their reach. I placed the limb within a near by tree much to their annoyance, I suspect anyone walking the trail in the dawn would be given a gruesome surprise should a creature not discover it before they do.
For a moment I considered the fate of the poor fallen beast and a reminder to me of nature in the raw.