She had toiled up this lonely dirt road for quite a while, enjoying the work of the hike. Janice Warren was, to be sure, an enthusiastic hiker. She liked nothing more on these periodic days off than to get out, find a rural or hardly used road and hike it, watching where it would go. She had been slowly working over this very area for a while, and finally had gotten to this road, which looked as thought it would lead to a kind of a mountain. The area had once been littered with mines and she was wondering if she might find such a little higher up on the road. Nor was she dumb enough, she said to herself often enough, to go into any such abandoned mines alone. No, her purpose, if she found any such landscape features, was to film them. Amateur photography was her hobby, second only to her passion for hiking. She swung along the road, a gradual uphill at this point, using the thud of her large bamboo hiking staff as the rhythm maker in her stride. She was enjoying herself.
Janice was 27 years old and had only lived here in the 'valley' for about 4 months, since she'd taken the job with the management consultant firm. She'd moved here from a pr kind of job, enticed by the beauty of the area and the challenge of a new area that she was educated for but hadn't had a lot of experience with, although she'd found herself, in these months, fitting in well and adjusting to the demands of the job well also. She liked it, liked the people that she worked with, and had the respect of the boss for the job that she was doing.
Janice was the widow of a soldier killed in action in Afghanistan. It was really only much after the death of her Hal that she'd blossomed out, determined, as she'd been to not let the blues totally defeat her and close in on her living. They'd had an apartment and had only been married a short while, when he had to go for his stint.
Janice worked at not letting those remembrances invade her psyche and cause her problems or sap her of her motivation. Her main education for the kind of jobs that she had been doing and was now doing came only after Hal's death, and they had been the road out of the darkness for her.
For that time period, the very dark time period, following the announcement by the army that Hal, her explosives expert husband, had been killed working to defuse a bomb, was only made bearable by her wonderful Mom and her quiet but loving Dad. They'd been her rock in those days. She left the apartment and went back to live with them and it took a while to sort herself and her life out. But with their encouragement, she did it, and now was pleased with her job and her life in general.
Janice was tall, like her Dad and what would be called 'well formed', much like her Mom. She didn't dress sexy, or try to flaunt herself, that wasn't her style but she had arrived at a point where she was at home with herself. The possibility of 'dating' or anything like that was still a little out in the future for her. She was sure of that. But she didn't let it bother her. She had dwelt for a time period on the memories of her love for Hal and his tender reciprocation of that love. It was, for the time being, enough for her.
She had certainly had some overtures for dates but had only been consistent in telling those interested that she wasn't really ready for that yet. She'd said it enough that she was in a time of peace with herself. She knew that the other stuff would, could come in the future.
And today she was simply having a glorious day, having found this old abandoned road leading into the hills.
It was precisely then that she saw the dog.
One of Janice's quirks that she had in fact never really dealt with was her fear of dogs. As a girl she'd gone from her parents' home to her grandma's a number of times. She had to pass a house where they kept hounds and the dogs were constantly barking and jumping at the fences, when she passed by. They always made her nervous.
One day, of course, the gate was left open. She got to that part of the walk home and simply stared. She knew what was going to happen. It did. The hounds came pelting out of the gate after her and before she could properly react, one of them had grabbed the pant leg of her jeans and began to worry it, tearing it up the seam until it had split almost up to her pockets.
She remembered the scene and she remembered her wailing, her fright and panic. She was rescued after what seemed like hours but in reality was only moments and had gone home to her Mom crying for all she was worth.
As usual, her Mom and Dad were her advocates and took care of contacting the people, who were indeed contrite and promised that no such event would ever occur again. They even went so far as to pay to replace the jeans that had been destroyed by the dogs.
So here she was on this abandoned road, which suddenly seemed to not be as abandoned as she thought. There was a huge German shepherd sitting by the side of the road, not quite opposite where she was. It was staring at her. No tail wag; no sign of friendliness. Only sitting and staring, apparently waiting for Janice to make the next move, and she, at the moment, didn't know what move that was; didn't know what she was going to do next.
Then she heard the voice; a man's voice calling loudly "Tristan! Hey"
The dog's ears went up and he looked to the side, where a man emerged from the bushes. He seemed to be, if Janice was any judge of ages, about 40 or so.
(In fact John Beresford was, at that point, exactly 40. He was 6'2" and weighed a solid 200 lbs. He was fit, and was the owner of the German Shepherd 'Tristan'.)
"Ohhh," John said, emerging from the bushes. "Tristan, what have you done, cornering this lovely lady?"
Janice smiled at him and said softly: "I'm afraid of dogs."
"Well," he went on, "I'll just have to show you that Tristan is no one to be afraid of. He was just concerned about someone coming up on our hill."
"Your hill?" she said, the truth beginning to sink in.
"Yes," he said, smiling, "This is our property. That is, it's mine and Tristan's."
"But the road?" she asked.
"Ours," he said, still smiling, "Not on the county plats at all; it's one that I had put in myself."
"Ohhhhhh," she said, "I'm so sorry. I love hiking and thought that I'd found an interesting abandoned road to kind of explore."
"Until my faithful watch dog came out," he said, his smile widening.
"Now watch." he went on, and turning to Tristan said "Here!"
Tristan's ears went up and he trotted over to where John was standing. "Sit!" John went on with the dog, who obeyed instantly.
Then John turned to Janice and said, holding out his hand, "Im John Beresford."
"Janice Warren," she said, but was now getting a sinking feeling but John went on before she could process the feeling.
"Here's the word you need," he told her the word, it was a German word and once she used it, Tristan began to wag his tail and rub up against her, inviting her to stroke his lovely coat of fur. It almost sounded, from her point of view, like a growl, since she didn't know German well but it seemed to work.
"You just use that with him and he's your friend for life," John said.
"Well, I guess I should be going," she said, "I apologize for disturbing your peace and trespassing on your land."
"Nonsense," Johns said, "There is an old abandoned mine up there and the remnants of some miners' shacks to boot."
"Ohh," she said now with some enthusiasm. "Might I wander up there and see it?"
"Sure," he said, "Please be careful."
"I promise that I will," she went on. "I won't be long."
"Well, if you will," John said, "Since you'll be passing by our lair, Tristan and I'd love to have you stop for coffee or tea."
Janice blushed. "I don't know if I should do that, Mr Beresford."
"Well, if you don't wish to..." he began but she put her hand up in the air and said:
"I work for Coates and Worley," she said, "And I know now who you are and I don't want you thinking that I planned to break in on you just when you have an appointment with us to discuss using us for some of your management work."
He laughed. "I guess old Hal Coates might have a conniption! But Tristan and I insist. You enjoy yourself, and stop for coffee on the way back down the road."
"Thank you, Mr Beresford," she began but he held up a hand and said: "It's John, please."
"Thank you, John," she said and turning to the dog, still wagging its tail and regarding her, "And thank you, Tristan." she said, stoking the fur on the dog's head, as she spoke.
She went ahead with her hike up to the top of the small mountain. On the way she passed a lovely and huge log cabin styled house. She figured it was John and Tristan's."
She explored the cabins and the entrance to the abandoned mine and took a fair amount of photos there before she was finished. Then she did turn herself toward the walk down the mountain. She'd decided that he was nice enough that she would indeed stop in for a cup of coffee or tea. She also was hoping to get to know the dog a bit more. It seemed at least possible to her that having a positive kind of meeting with a dog like Tristan might just help her old fears.
Tristan was out on the porch, when she came swinging down the road. He barked once and she used the German word. Instantly the dog bounded off of the porch and went running to her side, wagging it's tail, it's tongue hanging out and pushing against her for some attention.
John came out on the porch of the house and said: "Looks like someone has made a fast friend."
.... There is more of this story ...