The Dog – Chapter Four

Here’s the latest chapter, still first draft.  Comments, critiques and questions welcome!

Links to the other three chapters, One being the beginning.

Chapter One    Chapter Two   Chapter Three

Chapter Four

We found ‘The Glen’ without having to use the Gypsy.  Checking in and getting a cabin took less than fifteen minutes.  The ten dollar per night pet fee seemed reasonable to me.  The only rules were no excessive pet noise, no leaving the animals alone in the cabin, and clean up after your pet.  The cabins were spread out in a loose ring around the central office area.  Trees stood tall throughout the area making ‘The Glen’ look like it had been built inside of a forest.

Number 5 lay directly behind the office.  I parked Topper in front of our cabin, grabbed my luggage, the dog’s food and dishes, and led her inside, not bothering with hooking up the leash.  She carried Miss Piggy herself.

The inside of the cabin smelled like the woods, in a good way I could appreciate.  The dog dropped Miss Piggy, after squeaking her once, and did her own investigation of this new area.  She padded over and sniffed the fireplace, examined the queen sized bed, looked at the small table and chairs, and went into the kitchenette to explore the smells there.  I dropped my backpack onto the bed and took her food and dishes over to the counter.

“You’re probably hungry and thirsty just like I am, aren’t you?”  I filled one of her dishes with water and put it down in front of her.  She lapped up about half of the water while I opened her food bag and poured what I thought was a good portion for her dinner.  She heard the food being poured and stopped in the middle of her drink to look up at me.  Water dripped from her muzzle like a small waterfall.  I laughed and put her food bowl down next to her water dish.  While she was eating I looked around the cabin.

The kitchenette was nice.  It had a small refrigerator, a two burner gas stove on top of an oven, two counters, one of which held a compact microwave, and some cooking utensils in a canister.  Inspections of the drawers and cabinets showed me dishes, silverware and some pots and pans.  At least I wouldn’t have to use my camp stove to cook dinner.

The fireplace had wood stacked next to it with kindling in a smaller pile.  It was a traditional wood burning fireplace with no gas jets inside, I liked that.  I emptied my pockets of keys, coins, phone and wallet, and set it all on the table.  I kicked off my hiking boots, tossed my jacket over the back of a chair and sprawled out on the bed.  Food could wait, I needed to chill out for a while.  The TV was opposite of the bed with the remote sitting on an end table, but I ignored it.

I watched the dog finish her dinner.  We really needed to figure out her name.  She delicately licked her bowl clean, no pieces going uneaten; a little drink of water to wash it all down and then she came over to the bed.

“Do you want to come up?”  I patted the bed next to me.

She looked at me with those beautiful eyes, then walked over to the door, nosed the handle and looked back over at me.

“Aw heck, what was I thinking?  Of course you need to go outside.”  I got back up from the bed, grabbed my jacket, keys, and slipped my feet into my boots.  My boots had a zipper on the side, in addition to the laces, that made for easy access.  I usually wore them unzipped unless I was hiking or walking more than a short distance.

With her leash hooked up, we headed out into the gathering gloom.  A sign on a post announced ‘Poop Bags’; a small container on the post held a box of plastic bags for use in cleaning up after your pet.  I grabbed a couple as we walked by on our way to the trees.

I needed to figure out her name so I started trying some.  “Matilda, Matty.”  No reaction from her, she kept sniffing the ground as we walked.  “Sheila?”  I’d read that was one of the synonyms that Australians used for girl.  We walked past a garden area containing flowers so I tried, “Rose?”  Nothing from her.  “Iris?”

She did her business and when I bent down to clean up, she reached over and gave me a kiss on the cheek.   “Oh, you’re welcome,” I told her, “you are a very polite young lady”.  I dropped the poop bag in the trash can and we headed back to our cabin.  I thought more about names and their meanings.   I knew I would find her perfect name.

“Sophie?  Sarah?  Sadie?”  No reaction to any of these names.  Then I remembered what the doctor had called her.  “Missy?”  Still nothing.  “I could call name you Sweetie since that’s what I’ve been calling you, but you don’t really answer to that either.”  She kept sniffing trees, bushes and grass, out as far as the leash reached, but she didn’t try to pull any farther.

Stopping at the truck, I raided my supplies and snagged a can of chili, some saltines, and a bottle of water for my own dinner.  Back inside I kicked my boots off again and left the food on the counter.  The doorknob seemed to be a good place for the dog’s leash.  While I looked for a can opener and started my dinner, she explored the cabin inch by inch, with the fireplace getting most of her attention.  After scraping the chili into a large bowl, and grabbing my crackers, water, and a paper towel for a napkin, I sat at the little table to eat my dinner.  The dog came over, sat and alternately looked from me to my food and back.

Hunger gnawed at me, even the canned chili smelled good, but I sat for a minute and reflected, like I usually did before eating.  I thought about my mom, I still missed her terribly, even though the accident had occurred over two years ago.  I wondered about my dad, whom I had never met.  I ached for the buddies from my unit, who had not made it back, who would never make it back.  I questioned why I was the one, the only one, who had.  I felt hollow.  Survivor’s guilt is a term I had heard a lot.

The dog had lain down and was looking at me, panting slowly, with her ears down and back.   I looked at her and pondered the events of the day.  Why was she in my life now?  What meaning did it have that we happened to run into each other?  How come it was so important to me that she stay with me?  And why couldn’t I name her?

I looked back at my chili, picked up my spoon and hesitated.  “You know,” I said, “my mom always had us say grace before we ate.”  I turned and looked at her, “But with everything that’s happened to me, I’ve pretty much lost my faith.”

She sat up so fast I thought she must have been shocked.  Her ears stood up, she stopped panting, and her eyes were bright and fixed on mine.

“What?  What happened girl?”

She sat frozen, seeming not to breathe, staring at me, quivering.  I reviewed what I had said, ‘pretty much lost my…’

“Faith?” I said aloud.

At that, she leaped up, planted her front feet in my side and began furiously licking my face.  I started laughing and tried to push her back but she was a lot stronger than she looked.  I finally got her four feet on the ground and escaped her kisses for now.

“Is that it?  Is that your name?  Faith?”

She barked once at me and started a crazy dance with her body bent almost into a U and her little tail wagging so hard her it shook her entire rear end.  She was grinning and giving little yips of excitement.  I untangled myself from the table and chair and got down on my knees with her.  She gave me more kisses and threw her body into mine like she was trying to check me into the boards.

I put my arms around her and buried my face in the fur around her neck.  She quieted right down.  I took a deep breath and whispered it into her ear, “Faith.”  Then I started crying like I hadn’t cried in years.


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