Tuesday, December 6, 2011
When Murdoch is good
When Murdoch is a good boy, we can walk in silence. He runs ahead on the trail, becomes a smaller and smaller black dot, then turns where the path disappears around a bend, looks back to see if I am still coming.
If I am stopped, listening to the distant call of a raven or watching a chickadee pick at berries in a tree, he launches himself down the trail, slides to a sloppy stop by my side, and waits. His big round eyes flick from tree to tree, What are we watching?
If I change direction as he blunders on ahead I call “This way Murds,” and turn my back knowing I will hear the calamitous charge of his feet, the whoosh of his breath as he comes up behind and then overtakes me.
When Murdoch is a good boy we play stick in the woods accompanied only by the thunderous rhythm of galloping paws and the hard roar of air tumbling in and out of his lungs. The stick clatters against tree trunks, shakes loose chunks of snow from the canopy that float soundlessly to the ground. Murdoch leaps effortlessly after the stick, brings it back in a big loop. If he loses it I say, “Find it,” and point, then watch his frenzied search as he steps on it again and again before focusing long enough to sniff it out.
When Murdoch is a good boy he sits and waits while I unhook his leash, not daring to move a muscle until I say, “Okay.” Then he explodes to life, his feet flailing about in every direction at once, ears flapping up and down on either side of his head as though he could take flight, his whole body bucking with each galumphing stride into the great unknown.
When Murdoch is a good boy he can rest his head on my leg and I can smooth my hand over his silky ears, watch his eyes un-focus beneath shaggy eyebrows and then plant a quick kiss on his head and inhale his smell. When he flips on his back I scratch that spot on his belly that makes his back leg thump wildly at the air and for a moment he forgets to be invulnerable.
But then he remembers.
When Murdoch is a good boy, it doesn’t last.