The Old Dog, once again

Last night the old dog got in a fight.

There’s a dog in the neighborhood she’s had a grudge against for seven or eight years. All that time ago, walking in the forests that climb the flanks of the mountain toward Canmore Wall, she met this dog and the two of them instantly got into it. A frantic mess of tangling fur and gnashing teeth, spitting and growling. It was visceral.

So much time has passed since.

In the evening, soaking in the warmth of the sun as it popped over Miner’s Peak for the first time this spring, I scratched Maggie’s stomach as she laid in the snow. Raising her head to lick my hand, looking me in the eyes and resting her jowls again against the ground. There are buds on the young poplars dripping with resin, swelling with the growing sunlight of spring days. Dublin comes from exploring the meadow, sits and leans his great weight against me. I stand up to keep walking and call Maggie to get up.

When she stands she barks and looks to the forest behind us. Dublin runs to her side. He always feeds from her energy and the two of them together can be a horrible combination. Maggie, as well as she can in her half-ambulatory state, starts to run down the path toward the bark. I grab Dublin’s collar.

Maggie can no longer defend herself. Her hind legs are weak and buckle even when she plays with the cat. When I reach the two of them with Maggie reared awkwardly on her splayed hind quarters there is blood in her mouth. It’s over quickly and I step in between the dogs and kneel beside her with both animals snapping their jaws on either side of my face. The other dog is called off by his owner but Maggie keeps snarling and clicking her teeth, and I stroke her cheek and her head, scratch her chest and whisper into her ear. I just want her to be calm. I want to absorb her worry. And I want her to be able to walk when she tries, but she can’t. She’s hurt her knees or her hips. Slowly we make our way back home and my stomach is in knots. When she lets me I pick her up and carry her through the forest.

I have visions of life that are idyllic and beautiful, that play out inside my head with flawless execution. Sitting in the forest with my dogs at my side, peaceful and resting. Working a vegetable garden on our land. Fly fishing the riffles on a wide river in the setting sun. Moments of perfection.

My visions are prayers for the sublime, and for the wisdom to recognize it when it comes, and most of all for the strength to wait for it when it doesn’t.

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