Monday, July 11, 2011

The sky is falling

It is a relief to step into the shade of our forest when we return from our walk. In a cloudless sky the colour of forget-me-nots, the sun is a smear of white fire and floods the dirt road below. It illuminates different shades of green in leaves and grasses, creating a sort of stained-glass mosaic and it defines in shadow and light the distant hills.

Murdoch and I usually meander home after our walks, treading the bleached road slowly, bearing the heat from the sun as if it is a solid thing. He slinks beside me, fluffy and tired out after a run up the trail followed by an energetic plunge in the swimming hole at the end of our road. Beads of water still glisten amongst his shaggy fur and his tongue hangs almost to his knees.

As we step across the threshold of our forest, that solid line where shade meets sun, it becomes almost easier to breathe and I am amazed each time how much cooler it is. Our feet crunch over gravel as we follow the overgrown path to the house. As we approach the screen door, I can see Bear is sprawled on her bed, dozing through the heat of the afternoon.

In these first moments after our walks Murdoch sinks to the floor, panting and relaxed and Bear flumps back onto her bed after lifting her head in greeting, and light shimmers through the trees into the house as the cats snooze in golden squares of sun. These are moments of perfection. And then inevitably Murdoch will make some guttural sound and Bear’s world crumbles around her.

I am in the kitchen getting a drink of water when I hear Murdoch’s panting change pitch and then stop with a wet hacking sound as though he’s gagging on excess saliva or a super-dry throat or some stick detritus.

“Bear, you’re fine,” I say before I even turn towards the entryway and look down over the railing. But it’s too late. She has already scrambled to her feet and is charging up the stairs, her nails clacking on wood. She bumps her nose aggressively against the baby gate again and again, making it shake and rattle on its hinges. Get me out of here!!

“Bear. No,” I say, trying to be firm yet understanding, though I really don’t get the problem. Bear has been known to make the same gagging sound herself. In fact it is a very common thing that dogs do, and her complete over reaction to Murdoch’s dogness is a little baffling. She acts as though he is about to explode and I wonder sometimes if her panic stems from concern for his well-being, but no, most likely it is from disgust at the thought of being covered in bits of Murdoch when he finally blows.

“Bear!” I shout as she tries to fit her face through the hole we cut in the gate for the cats. She looks at me with eyes bugging out of her head. “You’re fine,” I say again and then push my way past her down the stairs and call her to her bed. She quick-marches behind me trying to hide under my legs and when I kneel on her blanket, smoothing it with my hands, she hunkers down and squeezes herself under my arms, just about lying on top of me.

“Relax,” I say as I try to pet her belly, but she pushes herself forward, puts her face close to mine and pants in my ear. I glance sideways and I’m staring into a big brown eye.

“Bear, you’re being a bit ridiculous,” I tell her as I stroke her ears. She looks at me as though she is on the verge of agreeing; perhaps she is being ridiculous. Then Murdoch hacks again and Bear actually starts trembling and I’m sure she would climb into my pocket if she could.


  1. I love that Bear of yours! First, because she looks like my Lab "Muzz" in her old age and second, because she's such a softie being worried by Murdoch's spluttering!

  2. Bear IS a softie! And Morgan always asks me "what did you do to my dog?" (because they were a pair before I came along) and I just roll my eyes and shake my head because Morgan is a softie too and Bear was his 'baby' before she was mine.