Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Quincy finds his voice

Four months went by before we heard Quincy utter a word. He slipped into life with us as I imagined he adapted to everything, quietly, with his head down, one paw out the door while sinking the rest of his body comfortably into a well-worn spot on the floor.

He had an air of quiet confidence about him, cultivated, I was sure, by a life of roaming wide open spaces and traversing dense forests. It wasn’t long before Morgan and I began to think of him as the Littlest Hobo incarnate. He was the strong, silent type who was willing to let you in, but not too far. He hated getting his picture taken.

He took up walking with Bear and I. There was an old logging road across the main road from the little cottage community where we lived. It was the aftermath of a clear cut. There were a few clusters of forested area left, but mostly it was all new growth, scraggly and rough. The new small trees that clamoured for the sky were shorter than me, and the underbrush grew thick.

Somehow I felt safer when Quincy joined us. I knew he was bush-savvy. He moved like he had spent his life running free in the wilderness. Mud puddles were his weakness. Any we found along the way, the bigger the better, he would sit in those as he did the river, then stretch out and lie there as though he had found a little slice of heaven.

Always he would leave us after a while and disappear into the trees or brush that lined the trail, appearing again a short time later, having covered the distance through the bush, where Bear and I stuck to the trail.

I found myself watching him for cues. If he stopped and listened, ears cocked towards the bush, eyes focused, I would wait and listen, wondering what he heard or smelled on the air. I trusted him implicitly.

Usually when he disappeared into the bush for about the fifth time, he wouldn’t appear again until Bear and I were almost home, then he would join us for the last leg of our walk. Occasionally we would return to find him sitting at the house waiting for us.

I often wondered where he went. I felt like we were just a tiny part of that dogs life, his days were filled with other things, other places. Sometimes he even stayed out all night. The longer he lived with us, the more the mystery deepened.

I awoke one morning to find a shoe I didn’t recognize on the deck, just outside the door. Morgan didn’t know it either. It didn’t take us long to realize Quincy had brought it home with him. The shoe was completely intact. He hadn’t picked it up as a chew toy, he’d just brought it home. We asked around our neighbours, it didn’t belong to any of them.

I wondered how far afield he travelled and why he brought home this particular shoe. I tried to picture him sneaking silently from the shadows on to someone’s back porch, checking over his options, making his selection, carefully lifting the shoe in his mouth and stealing away into the trees, then trotting all the way home with it clutched between his teeth.

Once it was deposited at our door, he completely ignored it. Was he bringing us a present? I wondered. I was at the same time flattered and mildly embarrassed that my dog stole somebody’s shoe.

Shortly after that, on another morning, I found a sandal.

During the time he lived with us, Quincy became somewhat of a neighbourhood social butterfly. All our neighbours were dog people and everyone kind of looked out for him. He quickly learned which houses had the best treats and who would give him table scraps.

When we started visiting one of our neighbours for a weekly dinner and TV night, Quincy would accompany us to the house and then loiter just off their deck until we appeared two hours later to go home. Eventually he worked up to stepping inside for brief visits to say hello, then he’d collect a treat and slip out the door to wait for us.

One night when we left their house, it was pitch black outside. The darkness hung heavily around us and seemed to stretch above to the end of time. There was no moon, no stars and I could barely see Morgan where he walked beside me only feet away. I could hear Bear’s quick steps ahead of us crunching over the gravel, but other than that we could have been completely alone in the world.

Then we heard a strange bark from close behind us. It’s funny how you can pick out the distinct barks of different dogs, we knew the sound of the voices of all five dogs that lived in our community. This was one neither of us had heard before. We stopped and I felt a flurry of soft fur and wet nose and straw-like whiskers brush my hand. Then Morgan let out a yell as he was nudged from behind.

Who was that? Was that Quincy? We asked aloud of each other and the air around us. It was the first time Quincy had ever made such deliberate contact with us. We could hear him dancing around us in the darkness with Bear and we started to laugh. For a brief moment we floated away, the four of us, and it felt as though everything up until that point had a purpose after all.


  1. A most engaging and thoughtful piece - I especially loved that last paragraph: a vivid image stated quietly, a move to the transforming possibilities inherent in relationships. Thanks for keeping your pen so sharp!


  2. Oh Heather! I'm near tears. Such a beautiful story. I found myself reading passages over again to see and feel it more fully. More! More!