Sunday, March 14, 2010

Good dog, walking

The sky is darkening quickly. The once bright shimmering blue deepens and dims in what seems like a matter of minutes as the sun dips closer to the horizon, rushing to meet the mountains that clamour for the sky. Now the yellow orb sheds its intensity as though disrobing for bed and casting aside its finery for another day before sinking into the Earth.

It is the sun of late winter, a sun gearing up for a change of season. Climbing higher in the sky with each passing day, its heat intensifies as winter slowly draws to a close, casting a satisfying, gasping warmth, that fills you up like a hug from an old friend you haven’t seen in years. In some ways it feels just like that, a grand return, after months in which the sun made a fleeting appearance as it dashed across the sky just above the horizon, never gaining the strength needed to warm the snapping cold air that settled heavily over the land, like bricks piled up to build a fortress.

In the looming twilight the sun nestles deeper behind the mountains and sends vague memories of itself filtering across the sky, an afterglow that darkens trees to black, featureless shadows and makes melting blankets of snow shine with an eerie electric blue.

It is a magical time for a walk amongst the trees as the warmth dissipates in the surrounding air, like mist burning off a lake on an early mid-summer morning, and the coldness creeps up from the still-frozen ground and rushes out from the dense woods. It entwines itself around everything, clings to skin and fills lungs with the heaviness of a damp night ahead, yet holds the memory of the last wisps of warmth from the day. It is as though you are swallowing shadows of the sun itself.

I emerge from the snow-covered trail as the sun disappears completely and the sky is a deep indigo that paints everything the same hue, including the very air through which I walk. Murdoch trots along beside me, free of his leash, as our feet meet the dirt road. The road is wet after a day of melting snow and is a dark, smooth, endless path before us.

My feet crunch and squelch over the wet gravel. Beside me marches Murdoch’s shaggy black shape, a large stick clasped purposefully in his square jaw. We have just spent almost an hour playing fetch. While I kept a fairly even pace along the snowy trail through the woods, Murdoch dashed back and forth, his floppy, shaggy-haired back feet flying up past his ears as he covered great swathes of ground, a black blur in frenzied pursuit of the stick

Now on our way home along the road, Murdoch keeps pace with me, his four feet padding more gently over the ground, issuing quieter crunches than my own. In the darkening veil of twilight we become two shapes moving across the land. There is no other sound but us.

I am so very aware of his presence beside me, this black shadow that almost blends in with the dark brown dirt of the road. He walks to my left, his head is perfectly in line with my body. For a moment it feels as though we are moving as one. There is an invisible link between us, holding us together. As I tune in to our feet rhyming off a purposeful march, the sound moves through me and touches a smile to my lips.

I glance sideways at him and he glances at me. In the descending gloom I can see the whites of his eyes as he turns them in my direction, his head cocked slightly towards me. He never breaks his casual saunter. It is a perfect moment and my heart wants to leap from my body with joy. It’s just me and my dog, together, walking.

We are both completely relaxed and I can feel him there, in the moment with me. The glance we share sends a knowing look between us that says ‘yes, this is good.’ The smile remains on my lips and I keep myself grounded in the moment as long as I can. I don’t know how long it will last. I have learned to cherish every good moment I have with Murdoch. They are becoming more and more frequent, almost as if he is actually morphing into the good dog I always imagined was lurking deep within his bad dog exterior.

Now, approaching the spot where I don’t dare pass without him firmly attached to me, lest he decide to chase our neighbour’s dog, I unfurl his leash. He changes course and veers towards me, sitting at my feet and waiting expectantly for the treat I always have ready for him. The last two minutes he has been the model of a perfect dog and I think how lucky I was a car did not appear or another dog, or any moving target for that matter. His good dog persona would have been shed in an instant, left crumpled on the ground by my feet, forgotten, as he dashed off, lunging at his target, all-in for this new game.


  1. What to say, I have lived with that connection, with our dog bear. Much like a light switch that had been turned on so long ago, years ago......that is my dog, well she was till Heather stole her :)

    But I have never felt that way about Murds, ever, Happy yes, vaugely connected yes,

    But never as one...

    Nice writing, good story, I will see if I can be a character in an upcoming chapter :)

  2. I believe the emotional element of art is perhaps its most important quality and in this Murdoch entry your work deftly captures feelings and personal interpretations. You do not merely deliver description but a sensual experience, an experience connecting us to what it means to be alive, to be human, to be part of the natural world. The beauty of your expression, the imagery in the opening paragraphs transports the reader to another place, an emotional place - I love such clean lines as "It is as though you are swallowing shadows of the sun itself." And, Murdoch, slipping quite naturally into such a darkening landscape, brings you to a reflective mood. Nicely handled. Also, the photograph of a small and dark Murdoch squeezed by the looming edges of the black forest is absolutely magical. Heather, it's a "real" pic [right?] for I know you are not a devoted fan of those photoshopped images. Good job!

  3. Great entry Heather!
    Reading this gives me so much hope for my crazy man that I am just now seeing those glimpses of a sane dog lying beneath!!