Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Face of change
Dark amber liquid poured from the spout of the teapot into my mug, sending swirls of steam up into a beam of morning sunlight. Individual pinpricks of water shimmied in place for a moment and then disappeared as though swallowed up by cooler air outside the pocket of warmth. I cupped the mug with both hands and held it up to my face to let the steam play across my nose, inhaling the comforting, rich scent. I took another deep breath to prepare myself before reaching for the phone.
I had played over in my mind countless times the story I was sure I was about to hear. It could have very well been one of unbelievable destruction, embarrassment and shame; in other words a story that was plastered from stem to stern with Murdoch’s messy paw prints and claw marks, with great chunks missing that remained clenched in his teeth.
It had been just about three weeks since I last saw my dogs, leaving them in Morgan’s capable but less than hands-on hands. I admit, I was worried about not being around for a month to buffer Morgan and Murdoch’s rocky relationship, but with me gone, Morgan was forced to step into my role as chief dog-walker, stick-thrower and cheek-pincher and found that, surprisingly, he enjoyed it. Morgan and Murds were actually doing stuff together, hanging out and, dare I say, bonding. It was kind of nice.
But when Morgan told me he was taking Murds to visit friends who were camping with their dog on a lake with other campers nearby, I was a little nervous to find out how it went. I already had a number of possible scenarios running through my mind, none of them ending particularly well. I cringed to think about the myriad things that could have gone horribly wrong.
I was ready to hear how Murdoch had terrorized the other campers, started a brawl, bit another dog. Would we be spending a small fortune on surgery to sew an ear back on? Anything was possible.
I braced myself and dialled.
“He was great!” said Morgan, his voice leaping into my ear with enthusiasm. “Fantastic! He was such a good dog!”
“Really?” I asked with a little more disbelief than was maybe necessary. “Murdoch?”
I settled back in the oversized chair in my parents’ living room with my mug of tea and listened as Morgan regaled me with stories of just how much Murdoch acted like a normal dog. He didn’t jump on anyone, or bare his teeth. He didn’t eat anything valuable or rip through any tents. I had to stop Morgan mid-sentence and make him repeat what he said about Murds looking the other way when a rottweiler growled in his face. He behaved as near to a perfect gentleman as we could even begin to hope of such a delinquent dog.
When Morgan told me Murds even came when he was called, breaking off a carefree gallivant with the aforementioned rottweiler along a sandy beach, a great swell of pride took me, followed by a small pang of jealousy to be the one to have missed this border-line historic moment.
I often think about Murdoch somewhat wistfully. He’s the personification of: “We’ll laugh about this later.” He is a much better dog in retrospect than he appears to be in any given moment and while he probably will never be an actual perfect gentlemen, Murdoch has developed his own special brand of charm over the last two years, becoming more fun than scary.
Two years ago I fantasized about the days when Murdoch wasn’t in my life and constantly questioned our decision to keep him, which was really more of a default than a decision since nobody else wanted this particular hellhound. Now I can’t imagine my life without him.
Murdoch does everything with great enthusiasm. His main purpose in this world seems to be to have fun at all costs, which sometimes leaves me stripped of my sanity. But I can’t wait to see him again. I can’t wait to stand next to his quivering body as pure excitement for life rolls off him in waves. I miss his big square pushy head, his forever licking tongue, the way his eyes pop out of his shaggy face when he knows he’s doing something wrong but just can’t help himself. I even miss our stand-offs when we’re both trying to figure out which one of us is actually thinking two steps ahead and which one is really good at faking it.
It's weird to think of the way he was two years ago, an angry whirlwind of teeth and claws who listened to nobody and seemed bent on complete annihilation of all things good, because now I wouldn't change him for the world - except maybe the psycho car-chasing thing.