Eric the dog was restless tonight. We spent the evening at Little Sis’s and he cavorted all over the place with the other dogs Ernie and Floyd – well Ernie anyway, Floyd isn’t much of a cavorter – but when I got him home, instead of settling down for a snooze, he paced, played and pranced. Finally I asked him if he wanted to go out. From his reaction I guessed that he did.
My back garden has no fence at the end. I can walk up some steps and out into a field where a barn owl glides low over the tussocky grass and pheasants keep a wary eye on the neighbour’s cats. As his homing instinct is unreliable, Eric must be tethered. I made him a nice long lead with my best sailor knots but my garden is small and full of obstacles so I have to hang around and untangle Eric at regular intervals. Tonight, I thought he’d pee and ask to come in again but, no, he went up the steps into the field and stood stock still. Hovering in the pool of light by the back door, I watched him. What could he smell? What could he hear out there in the undergrowth? I held my breath and listened. The air felt fresh after yesterday’s rain and it was warm enough for me to go outside barefoot in t-shirt and jeans. There was no breeze but I did pick up the rustling of small mammals scuttling through the grass. A couple of fields over a sheep bleated and another member of the flock replied.
Eric turned. He came back down into the garden and followed his nose sniffing in all the corners. He spent a while staring through the fence into next door’s garden (hoping for some entertainment from their cats, I imagine) then went back up to the field. I watched. For twenty minutes or so I sniffed the air – just like Eric. And I listened to the night – just like Eric. In the clean, country quiet, the white noise in my head subsided and for the first time in an age the fist of tension inside me eased. I felt calmed. I felt the writer in me take a breath. She’s still alive then. I don’t know if she’s out of her coma yet but those precious minutes in the garden watching my dog brought me into contact with her and I’m thrilled. I hope she wakes up soon and I hope she wakes up hungry.
We came inside shortly after that, Eric and I. Now he’s fast asleep, curled up like a puppy and snoring like a chainsaw but I forgive him. He led me into an oasis of peace out there in the dark so I owe him. Cheers, Eric.