That evening in late November when Molly came home with us for the first time, we parked our car in the neighbours’ driveway across the road and I walked to our house to get Murdoch.
In the purply light, with the sun just gone and the snow iridescent, Murdoch and I headed back to the neighbours’ where Morgan and Molly waited. On the end of his leash Murdoch bounced and tugged as we crossed the road and I slowed my pace to make him walk properly. The excitement of an evening stroll was too much.
At the top of the driveway we stopped, Murdoch stiffening as he saw Molly’s dark shape prancing about on the walkway to the house in a yellow pool of light spilling from a bulb by the door. Our neighbour knelt to meet her, and Morgan’s dark shape stood nearby.
“I’m going to let him go,” I called in warning, knowing it would be almost impossible to control Murdoch as we got closer, I would be pulled off my feet and the energy levels would be too high, there would be confusion that could turn into a fight. Murdoch and Molly had met before, so I wasn’t worried about them meeting again without me in the middle.
I unlooped the leash from around his neck and let him run ahead. He bolted right past everyone and in through the little flap cut in the screened-in porch that had been Jack’s door to get in and out from under cover. Murdoch frequently used that door to gain access to our neighbours’ recycling bin, nosing around for any food remnants, and to stand at the glass doors and stare into the kitchen with his most pathetic expression.
“I guess that went well,” I said as I walked up to the little group.
“We thought we would let the dogs meet here and then walk home together,” Morgan was explaining to our neighbour, who was quite taken with Molly. We hoped it would send a message that we were now a unit, the four of us, and we were all starting fresh.
Of course at home everything was in an uproar. Murdoch’s kennel was in the kitchen then, sitting like a barge docked in the middle of things. In the five years we have lived here Murdoch has come to understand that the entryway is his domain, but we wanted Molly to have it for the first little while, a space of her own without having to fight for anything. And there’s a gate so we could keep her separated from the cats, give everyone a chance to adjust slowly.
The dogs don’t really take much notice of each other as they trot ahead towards home. Molly seems quite relaxed, loping along and glancing back at Morgan and I, adjusting her pace so she falls in beside us. Murdoch zigzags a trail on the road, ears flipping out cockily with each confident stride. I imagine him calculating the small window he has to find some mischief before we are at our door.
When we arrive home that evening we usher Murdoch upstairs and spread Molly’s blankets on the floor of the entryway where Murdoch’s blankets were. We explain to Molly this is her bed and she looks at us with her earnest brown eyes in her long face and seems to take it all very seriously. I dig out her Kong from the bag of things that came with her and put it on her bed. The cats make their brief appearance and then scatter and sit anxiously on the stairs wide-eyed and incredulous.
Later, I stand at the kitchen table and look through Molly’s papers, the vaccination records, microchip information, baby pictures. On top of her official vet record is her name.
“Hey, her full name is Molly Malone,” I call to Morgan, who is adding wood to the stove in the entryway. “Like the song,” I continue. “You know?”
“No, I don’t,” is his reply.
“We used to sing that in Brownies,” I say, remembering meetings in the gym in the school behind my house, and campfires in the spring and singing in rounds. I hadn’t thought about that song in ages.
I flick on the computer so I can find it online for Morgan. I learn that the song ‘Molly Malone’, about the beautiful fishmonger who pushed her wheelbarrow through the streets of Dublin, is the unofficial anthem of that city, and a rather buxom bronze statue of Molly and her cart can be found on Grafton Street.
There is some debate about whether Molly Malone is purely a fictional character or whether the song is based on a real person, but according to Wikipedia, she has her own day, June 13, and she may have plied another trade as a part-time prostitute.
“I don’t remember that ever coming up in Brownies,” I say to Morgan as we scroll through the information online.
For the first two weeks Molly lives with us I find myself singing the song almost continuously as I walk with the dogs in the woods. When I’m not singing, I hum it and then wonder if Molly has heard this her whole life and whether it is a comfort or an annoyance, but it has become a sort of theme song around here.
The song does not end on a happy note, with Molly Malone dying and her ghost wandering the streets ever after, but nevertheless it is now stuck in my mind and it plays there on an endless loop in the background every time I look at our new Molly. However, I usually leave out the last verse.