I am trying to sit outdoors to enjoy the bright blue sky and sunshine; the breeze is just strong enough to keep an edge in the air. Still, I sit for a long time at the picnic table, the last page of my book read and flapping in the wind, a glass of ice water near my elbow, my eyes closed. I am dazed by this head cold that wants to become bronchitis, dazzled by the sun on the fluttering birch leaves as yellow as the sunshine itself. The leaves on the volunteer poplar behind me applaud each draft. Molly is lying on the lawn twenty feet to my right, Peep is lounging with me on the picnic table, occasionally stretching, rolling and twisting just because she can, gazing at me from flirty golden eye slits.
The grass of the lawn and the hay field beyond is so green, vigorously green, a sturdier green than it was in June. Everywhere, dots of brown and gold leaves. The sun on my face feels so good. Through my closed lids, the sun makes all those little blood vessels into the image of a holly bush.
When I was little, we had a book of bedtime stories. One of the stories was a tale of how holly leaves got to be prickly. I remember the simple line drawing of holly berries sliding down the snowy hill on the nice smooth leaf sleds. The leaves got battered and curled at the edges, and the holly was forever after cursed with rough, prickery leaves. I have a former friend who has a holly bush at her house.
She's a former friend because she disapproves of my dog's lifestyle. Molly is free to come and go as she pleases. Usually she prefers to stay near us, on the lawn or indoors. We have no neighbors, only empty hay fields, stone walls, woods. In the mornings while Husband and I get ready for work, my girl has her route to travel to check out the morning news. I'm not sure of its exact course, but I know it includes checking the old orchard for bunny trails, and winding in and out of the evergreens along the upper driveway to see who passed by overnight. She's usually back from her rounds in time for us to get her indoors before we have to leave. One morning last fall, she was still out and about, not in sight. I waited, and waited, and called and walked around the field and she didn't turn up. I wasn't happy about it, but I had to go to work, so I left.
And worried all day.
When I got home, she sprang out of the arborvitaes in front of the house and greeted me joyfully, none the worse for wear. She was tired that evening, but she was unharmed. I related the story to my friend by email and did not hear from her for a long time. After I had prodded her a few times, she sent me a Dear John letter, saying that the story of Molly having been outdoors all day had so upset her . . . and I must have known it would upset her . . . and we just don't understand each other and so that's that. Her dog has a nice cozy life in the suburbs with two twenty minute walks per day on paved streets, and a nine hundred square foot fenced back yard to explore.
I'm happy for my friend and her dog. They have their routines and they are just as wild about each other and their lives as we and Molly are about ours. I have a great deal of respect for Molly's knowledge of what's going on out there and I'm sure that, at any given time, she knows more than I about what wild things might be around . . . and who to tangle with and who not to. I'm not afraid of the wild things. I'm not afraid of the big empty spaces. My friend used to bring her dog out here to the fields for long country walks. She was always careful to carry a big walking stick in case she met up with a rabid raccoon. When she told me that, I just looked at her, all blank in the face. Yeah, well, I guess there could be a rabid raccoon around someplace here, but I've never seen one, and I've never worried about having to fight one. Hell, I'm the one who stood underneath a fisher and took pictures of it while it growled at me and switched its long furry tail. I wouldn't do it again, probably, but at the time I didn't know how vicious the things were. When I was little, my parents told me over and over that wild animals wanted to stay away from me more than I wanted to stay away from them, and I believed it and it's been borne out by experience. The exception to the rule is the odd coyote who'll sit in a field and stare and stare at us. It only happens every few years, and I don't get a feeling of menace. I think that when they do that, they're just curious, scoping out the competition for rodents. If we walk toward them, at about a hundred feet, they turn around and slowly trot away.
I have other coyote stories, and other wild animal stories, but this story is just about how people and their dogs live different lives. Just like every marriage is different, every dog/person partnership is different. I know Molly is absolutely in touch with all of her dogness, and she's living the best of a wild life and a pampered life. I don't think my friend's dog is unhappy, but I'm pretty sure Molly wouldn't trade places with her.
Even if she has to hunker down in the arborvitaes on the occasional day when she stays out playing too long.
It isn't an issue too much anymore. See Approaching the Autumnal Equinox, second paragraph.
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