Tuesday, September 11, 2012
The red ball in the woods
Yellow light from the naked bulb above the stairs filtered through the black metal slats of our kitchen chairs and cast long shadows across Bear’s bed where Morgan and I sat with her between us. We talked quietly over Bear’s panting, much more methodical about the whole thing than the first time she had a seizure, practical even.
Less than an hour earlier Bear lay with her head in my lap convulsing on the floor, drool soaking through the leg of my pajama pants. It was three o’clock in the morning and I sat in the silence of the house watching almost calmly as Bear thrashed through her first seizure since starting her medication in May, thinking that somewhere in the wanting to believe things were okay I knew this had been inevitable.
And so, another middle of the night discussion on Bear’s bed. But we are more sure of what to do now, less shocked at it happening, more saddened than anything else.
“I guess it means things are progressing,” we say to each other.
And I think of the day last week when Murdoch and I walked past Bear’s red ball in the woods. It is more gray now than red, faded a bit too after spending more than twelve seasons outdoors buried beneath snow and released in the melt three times. It was a gift from a friend, along with a blue ball and a green one. One for each dog.
The red ball disappeared not too long after the dog’s got them. Lost in the woods somewhere. The green one, for a while, had a blue piece of rope tied to it, looped through the meshy holes, and it acted almost like a sling shot so we could throw it further for Murdoch and he could play tug-of-war with his friend Jack. That ball got stuck at the top of a pine tree for about a year and a half before somehow falling back to the ground and migrating into the house.
I haven’t seen the blue one in a long time. But I think now I remember we buried it with Max.
Over the last three years the red ball has made occasional appearances, randomly carried out of the woods by Bear who walked with the air of someone who knew where that ball had been the whole time, even though I asked again and again if anyone had seen it.
She would disappear for a wander and come back carrying the ball when I had almost forgotten it even existed. “Oh, the red ball!” I would say and Bear and I would play with it for a while.
She carried it around quite a bit this summer, taking it with us on walks, dropping it by a tree to be picked up on the way back.
But that day when Murdoch and I walked past Bear’s red ball on the thin path through the woods that the three of us created this year, I was struck by Bear’s absence and my heart lurched and I missed her achingly. I wanted to turn around and go back down through the trees to our house where Bear waited and I just wanted to be with her.
I think she must be sick of the gushing by now. I tell her umpteen times a day how beautiful she is, how much I love her and I shower her with kisses on the top of her head, the tips of her ears, on the flat part above her nose and that little dimple between her eyes. I kiss her paws and her back and even her pink belly when she sprawls on the couch and tries to maneouver her hips the way she used to, throwing her back legs up and over when she didn’t have the stiffness of an older dog.
I remember the day she left the red ball on our barely there trail, I watched her drop it as the three of us traipsed single file between the trees and I thought to myself, we’ll come back this way so she can pick it up. But we didn’t and the ball was left there.
In the yellow light and slatted shadows of our kitchen at four in the morning Morgan and I sat on Bear’s bed with her between us as sleepiness washed in and the world sort of righted itself again for a little while. We told Bear what a good girl she is and we listened to her pant and we worried a bit and we talked about what happens next.