Monday, May 21, 2012

Hero for a day

Murdoch’s bark is different. It is not angry or confrontational or excited. There is no accompanying zip and clatter of his line against the house as he dives across the deck to voice his displeasure at a passing car. There is no sound of a car passing. It is conspicuously quiet except for that bark.

Thinking back on it now I might describe it as sounding alarmed, but maybe it is just matter-of-fact. Whatever its intonation, it is different enough to make me react and so it does its job. It is a warning, I soon realize, Murdoch is telling me to hurry.

I get up from the table, leave my toast and the steaming pot of tea, and head for the door. On the stairs down to the entryway I pause for a millisecond as I glance out the large bay window that overlooks a tiny garden, neglected ever since we moved in, as it quickly became a thoroughfare for the dogs.

It is bathed in that early morning light of the sun just peeking over the low mountains and filtering, soft and golden, through the trees.

Everything touched by that light is full of colour, the rich spring greens of newly sprouted chives, shoots of unidentified flowers, the patches of grass growing over the stones that once defined the garden, and the deep black of Bear’s flailing legs flecked with copper.

For that split second I think Bear is rolling in the garden greenery and I almost stop. I haven’t seen her do that in a long time and never right there, the spot where Max used to lie, but then I realize she’s not rolling, it is not playful, she’s twitching and convulsing, she’s having another seizure.

I dash out the door and crouch down beside her on the cold wet earth. Her seizure is almost past and I slip my arm under her head as her body continues to twitch, her tongue lolling out the side of her mouth, speckled with dirt. Murdoch is no longer barking. He stands just behind my shoulder.

When it is over, Bear pants heavily and stares into space until I say her name and then she is there with me again and pushing herself up from the ground and then pacing and pacing, anxious and confused.

My focus is completely on Bear. I usher her inside, yell for Morgan and then we both work to calm her down. It isn’t until she has finally returned to her blanket on the floor of the kitchen that I think of Murdoch.

He is lying at the base of a great spruce tree facing the three big kitchen windows through which the dogs can see us moving about when they’re outside, his line is pulled taut, neck stretched tall. Watching.

“His line got caught and he finally gave up,” says Morgan.

I look more closely, “I don’t think so,” I say slowly and then head downstairs to the front door. I step out onto the deck and call Murdoch over. He jumps up and trots to my side.

“He wasn’t caught,” I say as I bring him in. “I think he was worried and trying to see what was happening.”

I feel an immense amount of pride for Murdoch then. “He told me Bear was in trouble,” I say. “I think he was really worried about her.”

Murdoch’s heroics are overshadowed when Bear has another seizure just six hours later. I catch her on the stairs and ease her to the floor where one of us upsets a water dish and we're both soaked.

At the vet Bear is given phenobarbital to stop the seizures. It makes her stumble around like a drunken sailor for a week as her body adjusts. Her legs seem weak, her balance non-existent, her energy low and confused and as we worry over Bear and watch her like hawks, I can’t help but think Murdoch is watching her too and I look at him a little differently.

That warning bark, his cry for help for someone else, is the first real indication in the four years that I've known him that Murdoch is capable of thinking about anything other than himself. He's always been a bit of a megalomaniac. Perhaps he's actually starting to grow up, just a little.


  1. It's amazing to me how connected and attuned animals who live together are to one another. They truly do look out for one another, even, sometimes when they seem not to get along most of the time. Such a scary time with Bear and seizures - Finn had one ONCE and it scared me half to death. Hope she's doing better now!

    1. Bear's first seizure a couple of months ago was super scary. The two she had just a short time ago were more deflating than anything. We hoped it would be a one-time event but now she is on medication which has been a difficult transition for her. I think she has experienced every side-effect going.

      Murdoch has been a bit of a shining star in this. I feel somewhat better thinking he is looking out for Bear because up until this incident the two of them have been distant room-mates at best and I wondered if they even realized they are both dogs and should have things in common. :)