Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Our amazing disappearing dog
I have lost count of the number of days it has rained in a row. We wake up every morning in the dark now that the days have shortened and night lingers a little longer, a little lazier and heavier so it is like crawling out from underneath a weighted blanket, warm and cozy and difficult to shift in the morning. We let the dogs out on a wet deck plastered with brown leaves glued soundly in place as though painted over with a brush-full of shellac and watch as the sky lightens grudgingly from black to indigo and then gray, a solid gray like a great sheet billowing above the woods.
The dogs come back inside, two black shapes emerging from the blackness with silvery droplets of water clinging to every piece of fur. I towel them off and follow the wet footprints up the stairs to the kitchen and breakfast.
After breakfast and her morning peanut butter stuffed in her kong, Bear is restless. She lies on her bed beneath the black windows and stares at me where I sit at the table a few feet away crunching my toast and watching the steam roll up and out through the spout of my teapot. I try to concentrate on the book I am reading, avoid eye contact. But then she stomps her foot where it stretches out in front of her and there’s a thin breathy whine. I can’t ignore her for long.
“Do you really have to go out?” I finally break down and ask her, turning my head only slightly in her direction, trying to be as non-committal as possible. She may grumble then and if I ignore her some more she will stomp both front feet on the floor at the same time and push herself forcefully into a sitting position, and in a no-nonsense sort of way, stare at me meaningfully with eyes that reach down to the very pit of her soul.
And then I give in, I usually do. She knows I will. Well, she’s Bear afterall, and she’s a good dog and doesn’t she deserve a little scandal, a little excitement, these days? So I say okay and she follows me eagerly to the door after stretching the stiffness from her legs.
I should follow her. But it’s raining and dark and I’m still in my pajamas, so I’ll stand at the screen door and watch and then call her back. She sways out around the door and moseys across the deck, stepping off the edge and outside the reach of our porch light. The blackness there is like a solid thing and it swallows her up.
I can usually hear her rustling through the leaves and the dried up weeds we didn’t cut back this year but the patter of raindrops through the trees, on the deck and the leaves sound very much the same as Bear’s feet shuffling along the edge of the forest and her sounds are lost.
“Beary,” I say, trying to give the impression I can still see her. “Don’t take off. You come right back.” I cup my hand up to my eye and against the screen of the door to block the reflecting light from the kitchen and I squint out past the pale yellow glow of the light outside the door, trying to define shapes in the darkness.
I imagine her picking her way around the pile of wood that lines one side of our path to the driveway, tiptoeing across the rounded rocks and over protruding roots, around Morgan’s tools, the makeshift workbench beneath the trees, past the old woodshed and then stepping into the thick of the forest, melting like a shadow into the darkness that still fills up the spaces between the trees. She will follow her usual path, up and around, poking through the woods, surveying her land, what has been through here in the night?
And then I imagine her winding her way up the trail to the house on the hill behind our woods where that other dog lives with his full bowl of food. She’ll eat it all while the other dog watches, polite and dejected, and then she’ll wander back to her own house, her second breakfast already sitting heavily in her stomach. Later we will watch as she breathes a little more shallowly, a little faster, and her belly expands, her new delicate system bloating with the onslaught of food that is not her “special food”. I should have followed her.
But maybe that won’t happen. It doesn’t always. Maybe today will just be a harmless wander in the woods. Maybe she will appear from the darkness any moment now, her white chin defining her face, her eyes flashing in the dim light. She will stroll casually across the deck, step back over the threshold as though I just called her and she came. She’ll be soaking wet and covered in pine needles.
I stand at the door listening to the pattering rain, the heat of the wood stove at my back while the fresh morning air, cool and damp, pushes in through the screen and I wait for Bear, the amazing disappearing dog.