Wednesday, November 14, 2007

So Well

I will admit, I rushed through our walk tonight, and who besides Duncan wouldn't have done it, too? Today was our first real cold day of the season. It didn't snow and it wasn't windy, but not even the sun on the sidewalk offered any sort of warmth. It was a back-tightening cold, sucking the breath out and not even allowing you to convince yourself that the fresh air felt nice. It was dark when I got home and my ears and neck were pink before we'd even crossed Bowles. I decided to skip walking up the hill toward the playground to search for the owl we saw last week, a trip we've made every night since.

As we crossed the small ditch into the park and I dropped the leash, Duncan trotted at my side, waiting for me to throw his ball, which I'd purposefully left behind. I thought of all the things we know about and have come to expect from each other, no different than best friends.

I know that Duncan always pees in the same place near the gates that open onto Bowles and that he waits to poop until we get near the trash barrel just inside the park. I can discern his restless sniffing from his more serious, deep in concentration attempt to pick the perfect spot to go sniffing. I can also differentiate between whining at the door for fun from whining at the door because things are about to get desperate. Even in my sleep I know when to tell him to lay back down and when to get up and let him out.

When I get home from work Duncan knows that we're not about to go for a walk until I've changed my shoes. If I skip that process, as I sometimes do, he gets confused and seems surprised when I reach for the leash. He also knows when I'm taking him for a walk and when I'm letting him out for a quick bathroom break.

I know he will not get out of bed for his morning walk until after he's heard me turn off the shower, dry off and get dressed. Once I set the water on the kettle for my morning tea he ambles down the hall and waits until he gets to my feet to stretch and "Mmmmhrrrr" and blink at me with droopy, morning eyes.

Duncan knows that when we return from a walk I always kiss him on the nose as I remove his collar and leash. He'll sit back, turn his head up to mine and wait for me to say, "Good walk. Yay, Duncan" and plant one on the pointed top of his head.

I know that Duncan is just as surprised as me when Winnie brushes her head up against him and cuddles down with her hips touching his side. She won't admit it to either of us, but she loves him, and when she offers her occasional brief display of love, Duncan will lay very still, the cocking of his brow in my direction his only movement. He will chase Pip and let him climb all over him, and even though Olive nuzzles his chest, it is Winnie's approval and affection he is most surprised and rewarded by.

Duncan knows that if he wants the best spot on the bed he needs to wait until I am asleep before he claims it. I prefer him laid out against my chest, but once my breathing becomes deep and regular, he can move down toward the middle and stretch out long and flat–sprawl is probably a more accurate word–forcing me to one side or the other. He knows I won't disturb him and that's when he begins to snore.

Duncan knows when I arrive home from work and somehow manages to greet me at the door every day. I'm not sure if he's memorized the way the light slants across the grass and sidewalk outside the window or if he can hear me, but I've tried parking in different spots and avoiding the bedroom window where he surveys the world with the cats from the comfort of our bed all day. I've snuck in around back and even come home at different times, and he is always waiting with his bird-like chirrup the minute I open the door. The only exception to this was the day I came home to ensure I'd turned off the kettle and he was snoring into my pillows.

When I come home I know if there's been a rare accident by the way his head hangs low and guilty and he looks at me from under his eyebrows down the long length of his nose.

Duncan knows when I'm sad and will whine to comfort me. I can cry at a movie and he's immediately at my side, paw on my lap, nuzzling his face against mine. Once a few months ago I awoke from a dream in tears. I was barely conscious of it before I felt him turn over in bed, plant a big paws on my shoulder and lick the tears from my cheeks, offering a warm and comforting sigh in my ear.

Duncan knows that if he can stick his Berry or one of his play bones or his slobbery tennis ball into my open palm my fingers will almost always close around it and he'll be able to play tug with me. Occasionally during our nighttime games of fetch, hide and go seek or tug of war I'll play dead. Duncan will spend the first minute or so trying to insert whichever toy we've been playing with into my hand, but when that doesn't work he'll begin nibbling on my fingers, which evolves into licking, which will move from my hand to my head. When those tactics fail to rouse me, he'll gently lay his head on my chest and whine until the guilt forces me to stop and I grab him, throw my arms around him and and roll around on the floor.

I know that every night before bed it's time for a bath which means Duncan gets to lay on top of me and groom me as if I were his pup. He will lick every inch of my head, from my neck up to my crown. I've learned to let him do it, and the only place off-limits is my nose. Most people who've seen it shake their heads and wonder how I can stand it–some have even called it gross–but he's my best friend and it's something I've grown to accept and love.

We look after each other, Duncan and I, and that's how we've come to know each other so well.


Ruth said...

What a coincidence! I always pee in the same place near the bowels gates, too!

Dunc and I have so much in common!

Traci Kunath said...

It always amazes me that my dogs know the difference in my purpose when I leave the apartment. Their reaction is quite different. When I leave for work, they know I won't be back for a while and settle down into a days hard work of napping, yawning and other such nonsense. When I go out to my car to retrieve something or downstairs to gossip with the neighbor, however, I hear all manner of barking, whining, scratching at the door and the famed "howl of despair", all letting me know, hey, bitch, we know you're still here and we don't like it that you've left us.