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.