Monday, October 24, 2011

Defiant? Me? Never

We stood in an alcove of trees, Murdoch and I, just off the trail and listened to the low rumble of idling engines, the rabble of voices raised slightly to be heard over the din. I held Murdoch’s leash tightly in one hand, his collar in the other as he cocked his head towards the noise.

“Murdoch, sit,” I said, trying to sound casual, even though he knew what was coming and the time for being casual was already past. He sat stiffly.

I waited and looked across the sodden path to the trees that straggled at the edge of the forest and gave way to the view of low mountains in the distance. The sky, gunmetal gray and heavy, hung low overhead, absorbing light from the landscape so the mountains and trees looked like cardboard cutouts painted black.

The voices quit and the engines revved and I braced myself as the first ATV trundled into view around the corner. I smiled and nodded as I jerked the leash and tightened my hold on the collar to keep Murdoch from leaping forward. “No, it’s fine,” I said in response to apologies from the people riding past, as though they were the ones with the crazy dog.

There were four of them and for each one that drove by Murdoch lunged and bucked and reared up, his wiry frame becoming one corded muscle, completely overtaking his brain. And yet, I managed to hold my ground, instill some sense of control in the chaos. It was going to be okay, I thought, and then the other dog appeared around the corner and time stopped.

It was an almost imperceptible pause, a hiccup in which the very air ceased to be when Murdoch’s energy changed shape and the two dogs locked eyes. In the silence of that moment there was just one leaden thought in my head: “Oh crap.”

I swear I saw the same thought flit across the other dogs face and as time resumed, his spirited skip faltered and, with head slightly bowed he changed direction to run on the other side of the trailing ATV.

Murdoch bolted forward yanking me with him, his power somehow doubled, shrugging me off as though I were a bothersome fly, as if his bucking and leaping of moments before was just a silly game for my amusement.

I dug in my heels and leaned back against this surge. “Hey!” I yelled just before my feet slipped out beneath me and I was on the ground. I wrapped my hands around his collar and he hauled me sideways through the grass as he inched closer to the trail with each lunging stride.

The dog had already slipped away, disappearing around the far side of the group and as the last ATV putted out of view, the raw engine sounds becoming one low rumble in the distance, Murdoch stopped pulling.

Just as quickly as his energy exploded, it dissipated and as I picked myself up from the ground, gritting my teeth in frustration, embarrassment and anger clashing furiously in my chest, Murdoch casually cast his eyes about the woods as if to say, “Well that was fun, now what are we going to do?”


  1. riley has never encountered an ATV but he has encountered bicycles, horses, golf carts and roller blades, and lunged at them all. at 10 years old, he is less interested, finally. and while it's nice to have him under more control, it also makes me a little sad. i have so loved his spirit.

  2. I have read all your accounts of Murdoch's madness and I am beginning to think they must be true!

    I do enjoy the way you write.

  3. What a great way to look at it Laurie, spirit. Yes Murdoch has great spirit in all that he does.. but madness is also an apt description Dunkered.. The spirited madness of Murdoch!

    Nice to know that Riley has finally settled down.. Murdoch will be four soon, guess we have a way to go.

  4. It is a testament to the fact that I have Murdoch's twin a thousand or so miles away that I actually physically reacted to the dog appearing at the end of the line of ATVs. It could have been me in your shoes, I could feel every second of the story - first the ATVs, the "it's fine" offered up to the apologizing passerbys who are not actually at fault, and then.... the dog. Oh crap indeed.

    I loved Laurie's comment above. It really got me thinking. First it made me wonder - when Lady is old, will she no longer react to every passing stimuli with an uproarious explosion of barking and lunging? I've never considered that. Wow, what a thought! And then, for the first time ever, I considered what it would be like for her to be old and not filled to the brim with ridiculous amounts of unnecessary energy. It's crazy, but yes... I think there will be some sadness. Wow. What a thought.

  5. I absolutely love that you just get it Brenda. There is something very reassuring about that. I too appreciated Laurie's perspective, because I do love Murdoch's spirit. His enthusiasm in the right circumstances is infectious, and I can't imagine Murdoch being Murdoch without it... however I can't say I would miss being dragged to the ground, which has happened far too frequently for my liking.