I’ve never had a dog.
Our family pets were either cats or the occasional wild mouse cheeky enough to find their way through the floorboards.
This lack of canine influence in our home wasn’t due to a lack of trying.
My sister, father, and I all pleaded with my mother to adopt a dog into our family.
We would go for family walks in the countryside surrounding our rural village, and delight whenever we passed a neighbour with their dog-friends. Protesting again the fact that we still didn’t have a dog to call our own.
Alas, she was concerned with wet fur and muddy paw prints, and a lack of time to properly train the new house guest.
All these problematic elements of pet-hood I now fully appreciate, as an adult who enjoys having a clean home and not having animal fur all over the furniture, I see where she was coming from.
However, my by-stander love for dogs and the joy they bring has continued.
I say hello to dogs before their owners as I pass them on the street or in the woodland walkways.
I chuckle each time I see one with a stick longer than the length of their bodies.
And, even though I am an educated, mostly sensible and together human woman, I like to think that dogs understand my compliments and words of adoration during fleeting meet-cutes.
In fact, one such delightful dogo and I shared a beautiful moment the other day...
I had come down the stone steps under the church, crossed the road to the bridge over the river and joined the path on the other side which winds its way through the trees and up over the hill to the next village, when I realise the wind was a lot stronger than I had anticipated.
I walked along the path for a few minutes, having to step over and climb under a number of fallen trees.
I decided that perhaps this wasn’t the wisest of walks to be headed on. No one wants to get caught under a tree in a storm.
So, I started back to town, seeing another walker headed towards me along the path.
As we got closer, she reached a fallen tree crossed the path before me. You had to squat down and crab-walk sideways to get through so I hung back to let her manoeuvre herself, and, her two dogs.
One, a small terrier seemed a little cautions, but with a little encouragement skipped through the branches and looked up at me, I expected for a scratch behind the ear. I obliged.
The second dog, a larger cross of some kind, wasn’t as happy to come forward.
The owner, try as she might to get him to follow her, but he’d started to moan and wine and gentle bark.
The owner and I exchanged a few words on the weather and her dogs being very sweet. I also mentioned that there were a lot of trees down and it had been getting windier, so I was heading back home instead of climbing into the hills.
She looked up around us, and said, ‘Ah, yes. Perhaps it’s not the best idea to walk under the trees today...’
At this point the second dog was standing his ground. Or rather, he’d decided to sit and not move at all. Staying on the other side of the fallen tree.
After waiting a little while and trying to persuade him to follow her, the owner turned to me and said I better ignore him and carry on.
I smiled, shrugged – dogs be dogs – and ducked under the tree truck, and came out next to the now worried looked animal.
I smile down at him, saying it was alright and he could go. He came towards me and lent into my leg.
The owner called out, asking him to come here boy, come here. But as she spoke, he stepped backwards, starting to howl softly.
He looked up the hill into the trees and didn’t seem that excited about heading into the woods while the wind was thrashing branches into each other.
I motioned to the owner that I didn’t want to disturb him, but each time me or she moved and said anything directed at walking into the woods, he would move back towards the town and jump or bark.
At this point, the owner decided to climb back under the fallen tree and get her dog on his lead.
But no, even that wasn’t helping. He dug his heals into the soft wet ground and started to pull back to the town.
At the same time there was a creek and a crack, and suddenly a tree half-way up the hill, about twenty feet away from us, moved through the air sideways and smashed into another truck, tangling both their branches in a woody mess.
The woman and I jumped backwards, more from the sound than anything else. We were plenty far away to not get hit, but the sound and impact shot through our feet.
The dogs weren’t so pleased, their yelps echoed around us in the wind.
The woman and I let out long breaths, as if we’d been holding them for hours, and after realising we and the dogs had clearly been away from all danger, headed back to the town, away from the now disjointed pathway and battered trees.
The woman, now not so much of a stranger, said her goodbyes and heading off over the bridge with her two fluffy shadows in tail.
The second dog looked back at me, and I swear, gave me a nod.
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