I cannot count the reasons I love my dog; they are far too numerous. But on mornings like this morning, when the sky was still clear, the sun golden, and the air still warm, before it turned grey and cold and began to snow, Duncan reminded me that it his gentle spirit and enormous heart that I treasure most of all.
The bunny was waiting for him in the middle of The Run, a small grey shape that I mistook for a stone until he laid down almost on top of it, cupped it between his paws and began to lick it. The bunny, eyes wide and alert, its ears pushed back nearly flat against its back, didn't move, didn't even flinch, but stayed where it was and seemed to relax under Duncan's tender care. It closed its eyes briefly, even seemed to push back against him while he tended to it. It was only when I realized what it was, that it was not a rock kicked into our path by some kid but a baby rabbit, that Duncan rose to his feet and stood protectively over it, nudging it once or twice with his nose before resuming his ministrations.
I could only stand and watch. Several times he laid back down over it, spread his paws around it like a cup of warm tea, and licked it, oblivious to my presence. I stood there a long time, a mute witness to the scene, my heart bursting with pride and love. He tended to it carefully, his tail churning happily in the grass behind him, a soft whine occasionally rising up from his chest.
After a very long time we had to go. Duncan had business to tend to and I had to get to work. I was finally able to coax him away with soft words and the promise of treats. I planned on picking the bunny up and placing it in the shrubs off the path but Duncan stood protectively over it.
It took several minutes before he's let me reach down and pick it up. At the feel of my hands around it, it tensed and seemed ready to spring, but Dunc whined and danced in front of me, staying within the bunny's line of sight. I felt it relax and once I placed it deep into the shadows among the brambles, Duncan nosed in and checked to make sure I hadn't hurt it. It hopped further into the bushes and hunkered down near a flat stone. I stepped away while Duncan stayed behind, turning to look first at me and then back at his charge. He was torn, but after several whistles he hurried to catch up to me. He trotted along side me, dancing as we walked, his eyes wide, his ears high, his tail flapping like a flag above him. "Good boy," I said. "You did well." I patted his head and slipped him a treat, which he greedily gulped down. But almost as soon as he swallowed he glanced back over his shoulder and then darted back down The Run to the spot where we'd left the bunny. And there he stood for a long time, content to stay where he was, heedless of my schedule.
I had no choice but to follow, to kneel down in the grass and sit with him long after I should have fed him his breakfast, climbed into the car and driven away. Moments like these are far too few, and some of the most precious we have shared and I didn't mind being late one bit.
My dog is magical. I know it's true.