Morning came early, grey but blessedly cool, with grass tall and bending under the weight of an early sprinkle. I woke before Dunc, who whimpered and stretched as I knelt down beside him on my side of the bed where he started sleeping once the weather turned hot. I touched my lips to his cheek and whispered, "Good morning, Roo." His tail thumped twice and his eyes blinked open, his paws reached out and his whole body elongated, thinning and stretching out long across the floor. "Let's go play in the park."
Five minutes later we were crossing the field, me throwing his ball far across the wet grass, Duncan chasing after it with an energy and enthusiasm I was still working on. But watching him dart among the starlings, pecking in the earth for drowsy worms, brought a smile to my face and soon I was running after him, slipping him a treat each time he returned the ball to me. Eventually he lost interest and ambled up the hillside toward the playground. I whistled once but he only paused and looked over his shoulder at me before hurrying forward, ignoring my call. I followed him to where he was sniffing in the grass and looking up at me expectantly, his eyebrows raised, his tail a red flag flapping high above him.
And resting there, damp but perfectly shaped, sharp and as narrow as an arrow, was a single feather, silver and sleek near the quill, the inner vane striping into a soft grey as it fanned out. The outer vane, with its short barbs, were a vivid blue, electric and metallic, crisp and straight which made a buzzing sound when I ran my thumb along them, spraying misty drop of dew into the morning air.
I have never claimed to know what it is he was thinking, but I felt for sure that he was proud of his discovery, that he knew what it meant and how important it was to me, that I would cherish it always.
So I will keep it close to my heart tonight on the plane, in my pocket where I can touch it and find strength in the love and faith of my good, red dog, who knows me better than I know myself. How I ever became so fortunate to have him in my life I will never know.