It appears my dear, sweet dog has a substance abuse problem. His name is Reggie, and he’s addicted to Indian Tobacco.

Okay, “addicted” might be too extreme a term. But I’ve never seen Reg tear into a cluster of plants–and refuse to budge from said cluster of plants–like he did with this bunch of Indian Tobacco (Lobelia inflata) we saw while hiking the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway to Eliza Adams Gorge this morning.

Reggie isn’t typically a lover of greens. Like any dog, he’ll eat grass or selected herbs when his stomach is upset, the foliage either calming his stomach or having the opposite effect, causing him to vomit whatever nasty thing is causing the trouble to begin with. When he does “graze,” he’s surprisingly dainty, nibbling off tiny bits of greenery with his tiny, barely bared incisors: “Look Ma, no fangs!”

There are some herbs, though, that Reggie simply loves. Whenever we happen upon a bunch of Common Cinquefoil (Potentilla simplex), Reg will stop and consume leaflet after leaflet, choosing the most tender or sweet-smelling and leaving the rest for the next, less-choosy dog. In the case of Indian Tobacco, though, Reggie’s manners go out the window: as I crouched to photograph the above-pictured cluster of blue-flowering stems, I could hear the lip-smacking sound of Reg wolfing down a bunch right behind me. Although I’ve never eaten Indian Tobacco, knowing it as a powerful herb used in some cases to treat respiratory problems and in others to induce vomiting, Reggie insists it’s damn good stuff.

While Reg was enjoying his impromptu woodland repast, I found nourishment of another sort. While my dog stopped to smell, er, eat the flowers, I spent some time poking around the trailsides admiring the still-green ferns and gradually changing foliage. As Reg has grown older and slower over the years, I’ve learned to adopt my pace to his, stopping to explore and take pictures while he sniffs, pees, and ingests the occasional bouquet of wildflowers. It seems silly to rush Reg when the whole purpose of going hiking off-leash is to enjoy the outdoors without worrying about schedule, destination, or the time it takes to get there and back. On beautiful day like today, you’re only concerned with going while the going’s good.

After I’d taken my fill of fern photos, I coaxed Reggie from his Indian Tobacco fix and we made good progress down the trail…until, at least, I stopped to write in the trail register at the turn-off to Spiltoir Campsite, where Reg raced ahead, suddenly in a pup-like hurry to go swimming at his usual spot at Howe Reservoir. When I started walking again, Reg was no where to be found…until I crested an upswell and found him standing in the middle of the path ahead, facing me with alert ears and an expectant expression: “You coming, Ma?” Stopping to smell, er, eat the flowers is fine and good…until you come to your favorite swimming hole. Then you throw caution to the wind and charge on ahead without Ma, knowing she’ll catch up in good time when she’s done with her own poking and sniffing.