Monday, October 4, 2010

If you really loved me…

I had been home for two days and it had barely stopped raining long enough to drizzle. Dull gray light seeped through dark, slate clouds hovering just out of reach above. A heavy gloom threatened to swallow our house, but the deep yellow glow of the woods created a warm bubble around us, pushing back the gray.

I poured myself another cup of tea and looked out into the trees. The forest was lit from within, a golden autumn yellow brought alive by the rain, an ember glowing amidst ash.

I cupped my hands around my mug and was happy to be home, happy to be back in the woods, happy for the rain - an excuse to drink more tea and just ease into the day.

In the entryway the woodstove glowed with a slow fire to keep the dampness away. Bear lay curled up on her bed in front of it, Murds was splayed out in his kennel.

“Good girl Bear,” I said as I looked over the railing. “You’ve got the best seat in the house.” She afforded me a sideways glance that said she knew I was just saying that so I didn’t feel so bad about making her live in the entryway with “the beast”. On cue, Murdoch sprang to his feet with a clatter and quick-marched out of his kennel to stand below me and look up, tail wagging expectantly.

“No Murds, we’re not doing anything right now,” I said. “Later.”

He continued to stand and stare, but his tail was no longer wagging. Bear looked at me over her shoulder. If she wore glasses, they’d be at the end of her nose and she’d be peering at me over the rims.

“You’re good puppies,” I said, turning away from the railing. “We’ll go out later.”

Murdoch clomped to the door. I looked back in time to see his long, lanky body sink down in front of it with a sigh. He then put his chin on the floor and stared off into space. Bear had already turned away and laid her head on her paws, managing to look somehow flatter than normal.

I forgot about the guilt.

In true absence-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder form, I missed my dogs completely during the five weeks I was out of town. Bear was restored to the perfect angel in my mind and even Murds became somewhat of a noble gentleman. I forgot how they toy with my emotions. I can barely make a move without thinking I’ve made Bear sad or somehow crushed Murdoch’s spirit.

“Look at the sad puppies,” I say to Morgan on a semi-regular basis.

“How do you know they’re sad?” he always asks with a hint of exasperation.

“Just look at them!”

I forgot how deep, brown eyes, coaxed into just the right kind of big and round, can bore so deeply, and sometimes painfully, into my very soul. I forgot the way in which down-turned mouths shaped into forlorn pouts pull at my heartstrings. I forgot how the deep-chested, end of the world sighs, dripping with self-pity can wash over me like a deceptively calm sea hiding beneath its gently lapping waves a strong and deadly undertow.

I forgot what a tough crowd these guys can be. It doesn’t help that they know where my pushover button is; all it takes sometimes is a look. It goes something like this:

I scrape a knife across a piece of toast spreading peanut butter for my breakfast when out of the corner of my eye, I become aware of two black shapes, intensely focused on me. I glance towards the entryway and there, like a couple of bookends, are Bear and Murds both with their best “oh please” look on their faces. Murdoch, who is more vocal than Bear, throws in a thin whine.

“No,” I say, returning my attention to my toast. “No one’s getting any this morning but me.” I look at them again to make my point.

“There isn’t much left,” I add and finish spreading the peanut butter. They continue to stare, guilt creeps in, I look at the knife, I look in the jar of peanut butter, I sigh, “Okay, where’s your bone?”

It was kind of nice while I was away to make decisions about my day without thinking about hurting my dogs’ feelings. I never once worried I was being a delinquent pet owner because I didn’t get them out during the best part of the day or didn’t spend enough time with one because I was busy with the other, or denied them peanut butter when clearly they deserved it because they’re cute.

With tea in hand, I settled back down with my book as the rain clattered on the roof and made leaves shimmy on the trees. I was happy for the rain, an excuse even Bear and Murds can understand to sit a little longer in the quiet and let guilt wait in the wings.

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