Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Where oh where?

I walk up the trail for the third time today. I yell Murdoch’s name over and over but the wind that whips through the trees grabs the words as they leave my mouth, shatters them into a million pieces and drops them at my feet.

Murdoch has been gone almost three hours. He and Jack disappeared within minutes of starting out on the trail. He tensed, leapt forward around a tree, and was gone, crashing after something through the bush. Jack returned later, showing up at his house, but Murdoch wasn’t with him.

I am not worried for some reason. It is not like the day Quincy disappeared when I was overcome with an empty feeling of loss as I watched his retreating form. Today I felt sure I would see Murdoch again even as my mind tried to play out scenarios of me walking the hills for weeks to come looking for any sign of him.

I thought perhaps I should feel worried. At least I should feel something more than hot and tired and sticky after traipsing the trail again and again beneath a sun that arrived late to the day.

In thinking that I should feel worried my brain started imagining reasons why he wasn’t returning. He was lost and would wander aimlessly until the wolves got him, or until he stumbled on to a road somewhere. I imagined someone picking him up, helping the poor lost dog, and him eating his rescuer the minute he got in their car.

He was injured, he’d broken a leg or a tree fell on him. I could hear trees crashing over in the woods beneath the gusting winds and imagined him pinned, wondering when help would arrive. Where would I even start looking? The woods suddenly seemed endless and so vast; he really could be anywhere. I pictured him dragging his poor broken body through the forest trying to get home like those dogs who follow their owners from one side of a country to another after getting lost and finding their way home.

I finally turned again and headed back down the trail. Jack had shown up at his house, I figured Murdoch must be close to home somewhere, I would go back and wait for a while and then head out for another search. I imagined a candle light vigil.

“Murds!!” I called again and again, more sporadically now as I had already covered this ground. I looked into the dark shadows of the woods on either side of the trail and wished I was a tracker, how many signs was I missing?

I returned to the road, stopped, called his name thinly into the wind, watched the trees shake their leaves crazily overhead as though the forest was thumbing its nose at me.

I glanced over my shoulder at the empty trail and started walking again towards home. I considered cutting through my neigbours’ woods, maybe he was poking around in there not so far behind Jack after all.

I turned back to look again and there he was, running up behind me as though he had been gone all but five minutes. I had no idea which direction he’d come from but the relief I felt was not the way I had imagined it. I had pictured this reunion after my other scenarios of despair.

Murdoch would drag himself towards me, exhausted after hours of running lost in the woods, I would fall to my knees and he would collapse against me, I wouldn’t care how much he smelled like whatever he’d rolled in because I would be just so happy to see him again, so relieved he was alive and he would be grateful that I was out there searching for him, I hadn’t given up on him and he would realize how good he had it. I would hug him and he would limp along home beside me.

What really happened was a watered-down relief on my part, more to the point that I wouldn’t have to walk the trail yet again that day and he stood beside me distracted by the sunshine in the trees, restless to be running again. Seeing me was more like a pleasant visit with someone he thought he might bump in to on his walk but wouldn’t have been too bothered if he hadn’t.

I clipped on his leash, asked him where he’d been – he was conspicuously clean and fresh smelling – and turned towards home, desperate for a drink of water. Murdoch started walking in the opposite direction. I tugged the leash and he took two steps in my direction and then veered to the left to check out a smell in the grass. All mushy feelings I’d had about the dog were gone. I was tired of being jerked around on the end of the leash and was so disappointed he wasn’t even remotely tired.

I tugged again and he reluctantly walked behind me but kept throwing glances back over his shoulder. I think he wanted to go swimming and then chase sticks, which had become our routine lately, but I was tired of being in the sun and I just wanted to go home. He dragged his feet behind me, already plotting his next big excursion, realizing that returning to me means going home, which just isn’t any fun at all.


  1. I wonder, do you find yourself calling "Murdoch!! Murrrrrrrdoch!!!!" "Here Murds!" in your sleep? :) That dog sure loves to roam, doesn't he? Good thing you live in a place where that's possible - even if it does mean a bit of stress and searching from time to time!

  2. Yes, Murdoch is a piece of work. He's really not THAT bad, but those are the pros and cons of living where we do: he gets to run off leash when we walk the trail, but sometimes he finds something really great to chase and then I become invisible. Usually he is only gone for ten minutes, not three hours, thank goodness.

  3. I love your blogs! You describe all the feelings we silly humans have when our dogs disappear. Usually they just return, as Murdoch did.

    Once my Pharoah Hound shot off after deer on our local heathland and I spent hours roaming round in the hope of finding him. Then suddenly there he was, half a mile away and looking exhausted. With Pharoahs, that's not a problem. I just whistled and his head immediately turned in my direction. They have fabulous hearing and excellent eyesight. When he staggered up to me, I picked him up and carried him to our car - I couldn't do that now.

    I commented on Pharoahs' ears and eyes; what I didn't mention is their complete lack of commonsense!

  4. Thank you Dunkered. Yes, we humans do seem to experience a turmoil of emotions over our dogs. I know I do daily.

    I wonder if these dogs of ours have any inkling of the stress they cause us when they take off like that. I doubt it, but it would be nice if they felt some sort of remorse. :)

    At least your dog was exhausted when he returned. I have a feeling Murdoch just hung out in the woods for a few hours that day sniffing things and not off galavanting through the trees like I imagined.

  5. Dogs thinking about the effects on us of their actions! What novel ideas you do have!!

  6. Let me see, does Lady concern herself with my feelings.... Survey says... NO! lol!

    You know, I recently looked at a real estate listing for a mini-farm on top of a mountain. I'm not in the market for a new home, but this one was brought to my attention, and it spoke to that part of me that would love to live out in the wilderness again. Then I stopped. I pictured it... "Laaaaddddddyyyy!!!" "Oh Laaaddddddy! Come!" Oh how they would all love to roam. If I lived out where they could run off leash, the ones I'd lose for 10 minutes or 3 hours would probably be Lucky and Katie. They're the ones that follow their noses. And that would drive Lady crazy, since her mission in life is to keep us all together and protected. Funny to think about. But yes, Murdoch came to mind as I imagined my peaceful mountaintop life with lots of land.