Monday, May 28, 2012

A new kind of crazy

The first week Murdoch lived with us, when he was somewhere between five and seven months old, I was sure he hated water. He seemed baffled by the great expanding puddles and streams of melt water that cut across our path as we hiked up the old logging road where we used to live. He refused to splash through them with Bear and Max and it made me laugh to see anything stump the tiny terror that had invaded our lives. I didn’t think this dog was afraid of anything, I only knew him as a vicious whirlwind, all teeth and flashing eyes and attitude.

That personal roadblock for him didn’t last however. I’m not sure when it changed, but suddenly he was leaping off grassy banks into rivers and ponds and high-stepping through the deepest puddles all the while trying to drink every last drop of water in sight. I haven’t really seen him balk at anything since, except this year after the snow melted abruptly in spring and he refused to step off the deck onto the ground for about a week. I thought perhaps the rounded, shifting stones that spilled out from beneath the deck hurt his feet, but now I’m starting to think it was because he didn’t like the way it felt when the cold sopping wet earth skooshed up between his toes.

What a baby.

He was fine this spring after the water dried up, stepping off the deck as usual, but it has been raining almost non-stop for a week now. We’ve had the odd sunny afternoon to burn off the heavy mists draping the mountains and hanging heavily amongst the trees, but not long enough to dry up the ground between bucketing rainfalls - the kind that can wash out roads.

So in the last week, before I figured out what was going on, Murdoch peed on the deck twice and once in the kitchen, lifting his leg on the corner of the fridge.

“What are you doing?!” I yell when I hear the unmistakable sound of pee tinkling against hardwood flooring and leap up from the table. Murdoch slinks away from the puddle on the floor as Bear stares in horror. She pushes herself hastily up from her bed and backs away as though the pee could at any moment flood in her direction. I storm down the stairs behind Murdoch. “Bad boy,” I say. “Bad. You pee outside.” And I open the door and clip him to his line.

I watch him as he trots over the sodden boards of the deck, darkened a deep mahogany after days of rain, and stops short right at the edge. I open the door a crack. “Go pee!” I say. He glances at me over his shoulder and I point assertively in the general direction of the woods.

He steps off the deck, walks about four feet and then stops, his body arching and stiffening up as if he has met with an invisible wall and then he backs up a few steps, turns awkwardly and leaps back onto the deck, tail swishing as he returns to the door as if he has finished and is ready to come in.

“You have got to be kidding me,” I mumble to myself as I grab my wellies, I am wearing my over-sized super-thick house socks and I have to stuff my feet into the boots. I stamp the rubber soles on the floor to cram my heels down snugly, making the toes of my socks bunch uncomfortably, and then grab Morgan’s work coat from the hook closest to the door and throw it loosely over my shoulders, holding it just above my head. I push past Murdoch as he crowds the door and step outside.

“Come on,” I say as the rain sprinkles lightly down through the trees and I walk to the edge of the deck and step onto the apron of smooth and rounded stones that rattle together beneath my feet. For a moment he just stands in front of the door and stares at me.

“Murds, come,” I say, tapping my leg as I take a couple of squelching steps. He follows reluctantly at first, stepping carefully from the deck and then hesitates and looks like he is about to turn and bolt.

“Murds. What’s the problem? Come here.” I say to his wide-eyed, droopy-lipped face. He comes, slowly, carefully picking his way over the wet ground. He stretches his line as far as it will go so he can hop onto the strips of cedar bark lying beside the pile of cedar logs against our shed and tight-ropes his way to the closest tree. When he’s finished, he retraces his steps to the deck exactly.

I shake my head and roll my eyes as he swishes his way happily inside. “When did you become such a diva?” I ask him as I shake the water from Morgan’s coat and hang it back on the hook.

The wet earth skooshing between his toes is the only explanation I’ve got, except that when I take him for a walk later he doesn’t hesitate at all but pulls me eagerly behind him off the deck. We stomp down the soft mud of the road and run through puddles on the trail, he even squelches off into the woods where the soft ground is laden with soggy leaves and other rain-soaked detritus.

So I find my explanation a little weak really. Is there something about that particular square of land? Is he developing some sort of neurosis? Is Cleo finally getting to him? Is he just finding new and interesting ways to be a brat? Whatever it is, he must be up to something.

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