Monday, March 31, 2014

Molly's first adventure

On Molly’s first full day with us I plan an excursion up the trail. I sling my camera over my shoulder, clip the dogs to their leashes and clomp down the road, newly white with the first layer of snow for the season.

The camera’s heavy body bounces against my lower back. I keep it tucked behind me. It is of little importance, nothing to obsess about, I want to convey to Molly.

“She is scared of cameras,” her owner said that day we took Murdoch to visit Molly on her turf, the day Morgan met Molly for the first time. “I don’t know why, she didn’t used to be.”

Molly's baby picture.
They give us some puppy pictures with her papers, and sure enough baby Molly sits up tall and defiant,
looking directly into the camera with those intense eyes, her ears flopped forward, not yet standing upright and proud on top of her head.

Quincy, the dog we had years ago for a brief few months, before Max and before Murdoch, was afraid of cameras too. The few pictures I did get of him are either at a great distance, his small dark shape slinking off in the opposite direction, or capture an expression on his face that teeters on the edge of outrage, as though a terrible invasion of privacy has been committed.

Those pictures were taken on film though, when the moments had to be carefully chosen. I have a digital camera now that can click off a dozen frames in mere seconds, and zoom lenses, and I think, Molly won’t even know. But she does, just as she knew when Morgan, holding his phone for texting switched it to camera mode, barely changing his stance, and nonchalantly attempted to get her picture. Molly got up from where she was lying on the floor that first night with us, as we all mingled by the fire, and tried to hide in a corner.

We are not too far up the trail that day of our first big walk together, dogs unleashed and running ahead and Molly skipping back frequently to make sure we are all together and to verify it is okay to explore, when I decide to start taking pictures.

I point my camera into the trees along the trail and focus on dried out leaves still clinging to spindly branches and textured trunks showing off their stunning shapes in the late fall sun. I determinedly do not point the camera at Molly. Though she becomes extremely nervous to see me with it in my hand. She paces back and forth across the trail and then appears at my side, pushed up against me, head down as if to beg, “please do not take my picture.”

I am armed with treats though and hand her some so she knows the camera is not evil. The sounds of crinkling or the sight of my hand rummaging about in the pocket of my jacket bring Murdoch flying back down the trail from where he had been leading the way, sniffing the air and sniffing the ground and eyeing the shadowed expanse of woods marching away from the trail into an exciting unknown.

I take Murdoch’s picture to show Molly it is fine. And he gets a treat, and she gets a treat, but still she does not trust the black box with the long barrel in my hand that clicks loudly.

My first picture of Molly.
I get one picture of Molly that day. I push it. I probably should have waited longer to take the camera on a walk, but I wanted a picture to show everyone our new dog. It is the picture that ends up in everyone’s inbox.

The picture reminds me of the famous shot of the sasquatch striding through the trees, all blurry and undefined. Molly’s picture is only slightly out of focus, but she is caught mid-stride, a startled expression on her face, as though I have betrayed her, revealing her existence to the world when she wanted to remain undisturbed, trotting through the woods in a life defined by the things that fell within her gaze.

I immediately feel guilty and tuck the camera behind my back again, show her my empty hands so she can stop worrying.

We are gone for two hours. The trails are more walkable when temperatures dip below freezing and the mud hardens up and when the snow settles on top we can pass places that are impassable in the summer, marshy and soft and threatening to suck the boots off your feet.

The trail we follow loops through the marshy spots, then tracks up hill and cuts a rutted path amongst the spindly new growth trees. We pick our way around barely frozen expanses of deep puddles and stick to the highest ground possible as we traverse the beaver pond and the flooded trail.

When we return to the main stretch, now retracing our steps back towards the road, Molly seems to know where we are and trots farther ahead. And then she trots even farther ahead and I get the sense that she has made up her mind about something and seems to quicken her pace.

“Molly!” I call to her, thinking she is so well behaved she will come back. But she doesn’t. She trots straight down the trail, away from me. I call her and call her, wave the treat bag over my head. There is not so much as a twitch of an ear. I start running. Murdoch runs beside me, his nose almost in my pocket with the treats.

I clomp down the uneven trail in my winter boots, panic seizing my lungs and winding me faster than I would like as I yell Molly’s name again and again and she increases the distance between us. I think she is doing this because I took her picture and I wish I had left my camera at home.

I feel like I am in one of those dreams when you run but get no where, in the dream you are telling yourself to run faster but your body doesn’t respond, instead moving like a rusted mechanical thing needing oil, like there is a force field around you pushing you down, weighting you in place, it is almost painful to move your limbs.

I keep running, holding the camera at my side so it doesn’t bash against my back, but Molly is getting farther away, a little black shape with those big pointed ears that sit on top of her head like a crown.

When Molly hits the road she keeps going. When I reach it, I stop to catch my breath and I call her again. This time she actually stops and turns, standing sideways on the road looking back to where I wave my arms above my head and use a hand signal her owners taught me that is supposed to get her to heel. Murdoch stands beside me, waiting patiently for a treat. Molly takes a step towards me and I breathe a sigh of relief, but then she bounds in a circle and is trotting down the road again, away from us.

She has lived with us for less than 24 hours and she is running away, I think. I take a deep breath and start running again.

I try not to panic as she gains more distance with little effort. It is possible that she could hit the end of our road, turn right and run back to the house where she had been living, showing up at the door where her previous owners stayed, they would open the door to her standing there and think they had made a mistake sending her to live with us.

I keep my eyes glued to Molly. As she approaches our neighbours’ driveway I will her to turn in. When we left for our walk that morning, Molly seemed eager to visit my neighbours’ house, the house where we had first taken her the night before so Murdoch could join us and we could all walk home together. She had pulled on her leash as we passed their driveway, and I hope that is where she is planning to go now.

I am already slowing down when I see her turn to the left and disappear down their driveway. I almost let out a half-crazed yell of joy. I walk for a short distance to catch my breath with Murdoch still stuck to my side and then we jog the rest of the way over the white of the road and past the dried out grasses lining the ditches until we are following the curve of the driveway around a fat, spreading pine tree to the wooden path that leads to the neighbours’ front door. And when we get there, Molly is waiting.

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