Monday, March 12, 2012

Making a comeback

The sun’s heat is so strong in these late days of winter that if I close my eyes and stand in the middle of the road beside the open meadow near our walking trail or on the trail itself where the new growth trees are just starting to crowd in, it feels like early summer. And then the smell of winter drifts up on cold drafts of air skimming across the snow, fresh and clean.

In the woods silence is filled with the sighs of trees, chittering squirrels, the sweep of raven wings and of dogs sniffing every hint of new smell and the melting snow crunching and compacting beneath their paws. I watch them for a moment, lost in their own worlds, smelling the bases of trees, burying their faces in the snow up to their ears, tromping over the well-trod path.

Murdoch runs ahead and I follow Bear, watch her happy gait, her brace-clad knees pumping smoothly through the spring in her step. It is so great to have Bear back.

Since late October Bear has resumed her daily walks following almost a year of bed rest after injuring both cruciate ligaments. It was a year of faraway stares, deep, heartbreaking sighs, forlorn grumbles and insolent eye-rolls as she slid into a lethargy that I felt very deeply.

I missed walking with her, my constant companion. Bear and I have been inseparable for the last nine years. We have done everything together: camping, canoeing and swimming, traveling, walking and walking and walking.

It just didn’t feel right to leave her behind. But everyday I had to turn my back on those sad eyes as Murdoch leapt out the door on the end of his leash. I’d call back over my shoulder, “Good girl Bear! I won’t be long.” We both knew that wasn’t true.

Eventually she stopped asking to go. She shrunk into herself and curled in a ball on her bed. I felt terribly guilty and it seemed the bed rest wasn’t doing anything; she still limped when she walked and stood with her hips askew to keep weight off one leg or the other. But then we found those knee braces and, slowly, things started to change.

In the woods she fills the spaces with her presence as if she never left. Giddiness rolls off her as she skips along the path, ears flapping happily, back legs hopping along in her red braces that make her look like a castaway on a desert island, or in this case a winter forest.

I walk behind her, watch the sun shimmer off her black fur, wait for her to find a stick and spit it at my feet. When she turns to look at me, a great big grin is spread across her face as she whips her tail from side to side, and in her brown eyes there’s a spark of puppy mischief.

This is more like it.

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