This morning there was a great deal of activity in The Run. We were late for our walk and the squirrels and little brown and gray birds must have assumed we weren't coming. The place was thick with them. As Duncan darted ahead of me, sniffing the ground but being cautious around the first floor patio lair where the three snarling Harpies live, foaming and frothing and even attacking each other when they spot us. They weren't there, which was a nice thing for once, so Duncan had free reign of The Run and bounded far ahead to the low shrubs where the squirrels hide. I watched as they scattered before him, some darting up the trunks of the nearest trees while a few scampered under the fence toward the giant willow on the edge of the golf course. As I approached the little birds rose up in a great, frantic cloud around his head and vanished into the lower branches above. After they had passed and The Run grew silent around us, Duncan stopped and stood still. I paused to watch him. He cocked his head as something in the shrubs stirred. A small brown shape moved through the twisted branches. I leaned in close to see if perhaps it was a bunny or an injured squirrel, readying my leash just in case. Only Dunc's nose and ears moved and then very slowly he leaned forward, his head vanishing into the brambles. I watched, not breathing, and saw the small shaped take a short hop forward and then exploded straight up at me, it's wings a flurry of motion. Startled I stepped back as the bird flew with all the power it could muster directly toward me. I saw it's tiny black eyes widen just as it struck me square in the chest and sent me tumbling backward. It bounced once, corrected and then flew away while I was still laying in a daze in the cold, brittle grass. A moment later, though, a familiar face appeared above me as Duncan approached, the smile broad on his face, his tail wagging wide from side to side. He leaned down, poked his nose once into the place on my chest where the bird had struck then bent forward and gave me a great big sloppy wet kiss across my cheek, an honor for my valor in battle and courage under fire.