Monday, April 25, 2011

You’re not the boss of me

And I wait. I stare at the trees; a jumble of slanting light and haphazard trunks, spindly and fat, crammed together, a puzzle beyond my comprehension.

I can’t believe I fell for it again. You’d think I would know better by now, but every day I think, “This time will be different.” I give Murdoch far too much credit, but that’s because I choose to remember the good stuff, like the times he comes when he’s called, or when he walks sedately by my side and we actually share moments instead of tackling them as they flit by, or when I can hug him without fear of losing an appendage.

“Murdoch!” I call again and dig my toe into the remaining snow, heavy and wet, and blue in the shade. To my left the trail slopes gently uphill and curves out of sight, to my right it descends slightly toward the road. I can just make out the dark brown strip through the trees.

I suppose the real reason I am once again left standing on the trail after watching Murdoch get swallowed up by the forest is that I’m lazy. It is far easier to just let Murdoch run free than it is to actually work on leash etiquette, plus, these walks are mine too and I want to spend the entire time tied to Murdoch about as much as he wants to spend it tied to me.

There aren’t many days that go by without the sun’s bright yellow face making an appearance in a field of blue. Now that spring is here, its warmth pours across the landscape almost daily, snow recedes and streams gurgle and bubble everywhere. Warm breezes carry layers of scents: pine mixed with dried, bleached grasses and burnt leaves left over from the fall, hints of fresh green new growth still hidden, pungent, earthy mud tinged with the clear crisp bite of lingering snow which melts quickly to ice water.

The footing is difficult now between slushy patches of snow, slick mud bogs and great puddles that span entire sections of the trail, like tiny lakes. Trying to navigate it all attached to Murdoch is less than relaxing. But I guess that’s just another excuse. It’s even less relaxing to wander along the trail calling his name and not knowing where he is.

I can only imagine what festival of smells reaches Murdoch’s eager nose and leads him astray, but I should know better than to get sucked in to Murdoch’s good behaviour. Even still, I’ve been content to blame Jack for this delinquency.

Jack, who has been the greatest gift to us: a dog that can actually tolerate “playing” with Murdoch and who comes back every day for more even though their games usually end with Murdoch sitting on him. I really haven’t a bad word to say about Jack, except that more and more he has led Murdoch off into the forest, usually at a run, usually on some scent.

I blamed Jack because for the longest time Murdoch continued to walk on the trail with me when Jack careened off into the bush, mostly I think because Murdoch’s nose doesn’t seem to work all that well, at least a whole lot less accurately than Jack’s. But something changed in the last few weeks. At first I thought it was Jack encouraging Murds to follow, then I figured he was setting an example that Murds could no longer resist, but now I know it’s that they egg each other on. Together, the two of them get bolder, a couple of boys looking for adventure and they lead each other deeper and deeper into the woods, farther and farther away from me and my hoarsening voice.

Against my better judgment, I let Murdoch off leash today because Jack isn’t with us and I tell myself it’s an experiment. And it’s good for a while. We’ve covered our usual path through trees, past new growth forests and around marshes brimming with melt water and we’re heading home. We are so close, I am relaxed as we ramble back down the trail, then he catches a scent or a shift in the light and he’s slipping between tree trunks, head down, already lost in his next adventure. I call, but he ignores me, then turns and goes further into the bush, becomes his surroundings, he’s a shadow and then he’s gone. And I wait.

1 comment:

  1. Well, you're probably describing exactly what my experience would be if I lived in an area with wide open countryside. I would be unwilling to keep them leashed to me. And Lady, for all her faults, would stay by my side (which she does perfectly if no other dogs or people are nearby), and come eagerly when called. Lucky, for all his perfect obedience, would just leave. He follows his nose, and that's the end of that. I could call and call until I'm blue in the face, but it's as if I cease to exist. He won't even glance up. "Festival of smells" - what a delightful phrase!