Monday, September 6, 2010

Doggone crazy

I sat in the back seat of the car as it glided along the road, tightly hugging turns and bouncing over dips, my eyes flitting from scene to scene; corn field here, house there, giant tree, blue sky, white clouds, dog asleep in the grass.


My eyes locked onto the unmistakable shape of a black lab flopped on the lawn in the sun. It lay with its back to the road just off the front porch of a small farmhouse, along the edge of a perfectly straight line of shadow cast by the roof overhang. Sun shimmered familiarly off the midnight fur, making it glisten against the bright green grass. I whipped my head around to watch it as we drove by and it was all I could do to keep myself from telling my dad to stop the car, jump out and run across the road to lie down beside that dog before throwing my arm across its body.

Even in my dog-deprived state I knew that would be crossing some sort of line, so I sat back and sighed and missed my dogs even more.

It was two and a half weeks since I had last seen Bear and Murdoch and I was starting to go a little bit crazy. I knew I would miss them when I left town to visit family, but less than a week into my trip I found myself focusing on any four-legged, wagging-tailed, furry animal that fell within my line of sight to the complete disregard of everything else around me. I knew I was really in trouble however when within the second week I was torn between my two-day-old niece and the puppy visiting my sister’s neighbour.

As we stepped inside the neighbour’s house with the new baby to delighted oohs and aahs, I caught a glimpse of a golden haired puppy being ushered through a door into another room. My heart leapt and I had to restrain myself from dashing down the hall and following its gangly-legged body as it disappeared around the corner.

To be fair, I had already oohed and aahed over my new niece and now dutifully faded into the background so everyone else could get a look at her and cuddle her brand new tiny pink body, but I thought I should at least wait a few minutes before piping up “can I see your dog?” How do I do this without insulting anyone? Would it be weird, I wondered, if I slipped quietly around the corner without a word amidst all the hoopla? And then I honed in on my two-year-old nephew who was wandering around looking for something to do. “Would you like to go see the puppy?” I asked him.

A baby gate, like the one we use for Murdoch, split the hall and contained the big, liquid-limbed puppy behind it. She lay pressed against the wall, her pouty face turned in our direction and as we neared she stood up with the awkward confidence of a growing five-month-old just getting used to her body. She then placed her paws on top of the gate and pushed herself up to meet my hand as it smoothed over the downy hair covering her little round head.

I was struck by how gentle she was. Murdoch was six-months old when I found him and if he was the one on the other side of this particular gate, I’m not sure the gate would still be standing. More likely there would be a Murdoch-shaped hole in the middle of it and I would have been left flattened on the floor with a vague impression of a black whirlwind that just blew through.

This puppy kept her paws to herself and when she sat down again and I cupped her buttery, soft face in my hand, she didn’t once try to bite me. My heart melted right there as I looked into her dark, soft eyes in that caramel face. Her eyebrows seemed to push in slightly at the sides, giving her a concerned look, but with her black smiling mouth, it was the type of concern that made you believe she was thinking only of your own well being.

I reached around to scratch behind one soft, floppy ear covered in krimped, frazzled hair the colour of creamy butterscotch and she poured herself into a puddle on the floor. She lay back against the wall again moving as though every bone in her body had about a million joints.

I looked around with what I’m sure was a dopey smile on my face and found my nephew had already lost interest in the puppy and was on to something else. I tried to entice him back, not ready to tear myself away. Would it be weird, I wondered, if I climbed over the gate and gave her a big squishy hug?

1 comment:

  1. I liked the spin on the title, I liked the honest introspection, I liked the splashes of poetry emerging from your prose like small fields of poppies - ah, hell, I liked all of it. You don't take yourself too seriously here and we enjoy watching you slowly being teased by your dog addiction and then finally giving into it, by unselfishly bringing your nephew into contact with a puppy. We smile at your predicament as you leave us with that rhetorical question. By the way, the reader quickly knows that you did indeed slide over that puppy gate. It was fun to read and yet, at the same time, you show some courage here by putting yourself under the sharp point of your pen: "Over there, there's the cooing baby and over there, there's the golden puppy." A choice of some privacy not often admitted - some poet said, "The most important thing about us is what people don't know."
    As always,though, you catch me with your elegance, your solid images creating strong visuals, images so right. A tennis ball that strikes the racket so right. Hard to do. Appropriately, your prose starts to bark when dogs enter your sight lines: sky is merely blue, grass is just green, clouds are cliche white - but - the lab "glistens", the fur is "midnight", the puppy's hair is "krimped, frazzled" and she "pours herself into a puddle on the floor". Magic, huh!
    Heather, may you get back to some dog fur as quickly as possible.