Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Slow Stalk

At the park this morning, when the dew was still thick, even in the sun, walking barefoot in the grass was like walking through bubbles, cold and crisp, the droplets collecting and then popping on the tops of my feet, bursting between my toes. The same bubbles collected on the end of Duncan's nose each time he dipped down into them and came up for air, the edges of his ears dragging and dampening against the ground, his eyes glimmering with the freshness and laziness of morning. He is a gentle walker when the hours are still early, content to step softly ahead of me as though still somehow navigating his way beyond his dreams and into the wakeful world. I love him always, of course, but Morning Duncan is the sweetest and most magical.

Coming back toward home, quite near the edge of the frontage road, he stopped and went stiff, suddenly alert and rigid. I followed the line of his sight and saw nothing but the sunny blue glimmer of dew on the grass. When I gave his leash a gentle tug to coax him along, he would have none of it and stayed quite still, his shadow turning solid beneath him. I studied the grass ahead of us more carefully, expecting to find the diffused sunlight shining threw the paper-thin ears of a baby bunny, the glow as soft as the dull shimmer of honeybees moving gracefully and with purpose. Still I saw nothing. I asked him what he saw but he was so focused he didn't turn in my direction; his tail, ever wagful did not even twitch at the sound of my voice.

His foot came slowly up, twitching softly as it does when he has spied something that utterly consumes his attention. It moved up and forward carefully, almost imperceptibly, a slow Ferris wheel arc before coming back down in the grass barely inches from where he'd lifted it. And then the other foot, just as carefully, perhaps with more consideration than the first. I shuffled slightly forward, watching ahead of us for something, a mouse maybe, or even the silver flash of a grass snake, but saw nothing. Slowly, slowly he advanced, and even though the minutes were slipping past and being on time for work was becoming an impossibility, I stood with him, moving just behind him, careful of my weight and the sound it made coming down on the grass.

And then there was the moment. We were almost upon it, whatever it was. His eyes were focused directly in front of him, at a point almost beneath his chest. He tensed, his ears and tail tucked down, his weight shifted back into his hind legs. His rear gave a jittery little twitch a moment before he leapt, springing straight up into the air and coming down with the burst of a masterful hunter onto a clear plastic sandwich bag.

The force of his breath, exploding with a deep harumph from his nose, lifted it up, shaking the water from its nearly invisible surface, and sent it sailing a foot ahead. He pounced again, his paws settling around it to hold it against him. He bit into it, felt its damp paperiness fold around his chin and against his cheeks, conforming around his tongue, and released it almost immediately. He patted it, knocking it through the grass and then turned to look at me in confusion, his ears back up, a quizzical angle to his eyebrows. His tail thumped once and then, almost as though embarrassed, snorted and rolled, face first, into the grass, his shoulders and hips following in perfect time, his belly turning toward the sun, his feet flailing in the air as though dancing across the blue of the sky.

I would be late every morning if only to witness such serious intention followed by such shameless celebration at the most minor of victories.


Lori said...

Good boy, Dunc! Keeping the Greater Denver Area safe from litter! (And being way too precious while doing so.)

Sam said...

Dogs take delight in everything, don't they?