It is fall, it is the season my dog, Autumn, came to live with me, just over two years ago.
She has gone back to the chair she eschewed the summer long, my chair, that is, not one of the others in the living room I would gladly cover with an old sheet were she to favor it. She pretends not to see me standing in front of her and I think of another dog, my Mist. He slept with “one ear open,” and crept from the sofa when he heard me coming; sometimes I would see only the last wisp of his plumed tail brushing a cushion as he slipped away quite like... morning mist.
Autumn seems to have adopted another strategy, the if-I-don’t-look-at-her-she-won’t-notice-I’m-here maneuver.
She cannot resist a clicking tongue, although it does little more than make her lift her head with a why-are-you-bothering-me look. Later, when she is gone I reach for the dog-hair removal tool covered with a Velcro sort of material, then remember Autumn chewed the fabric from it last year.
Dogs cannot see that much, they say, but she lies on my bed, ensconced, as I putter about trying to find something black in a pile of black clothing, wondering at the folly of such apparel and a big golden dog who sheds the year-round despite a FURminator rake that extracts handfuls of pale hair in a very few strokes. Suddenly, she barks, then stands up and barks, and I follow her line of vision, through the curtains to the hill beyond the window. There are kites, great dark kites soaring in the sky, perhaps from the lot that runs from my neighbor’s house to the dunes and the sea but more likely from the more distant beach.
She is off, bounding down the stairs leaving tufts, feathers, of white hair in her wake. Out the door open to the fall she goes, to the front yard. The trees are such she can even see the kites but she has gone out determined to bark, and bark she will, at a memory, at the possibility of a deer, at the hope of a visitor.
Another morning, while I search for an earring she lies on the bed, her full attention on another window, smaller, west-facing, one beyond which the leaves of the big tree in the yard sway, commanding her attention until an unlucky fly happens into her path. She is off in pursuit.
That was written before she disappeared, before I thought I had lost her and in my usual over-reaction was convinced of every possible outcome, none but the worst would prove true, at best she had been taken off on a late Sunday boat.
She was not in the yard when I came home in the afternoon, but I thought nothing of it at first, she often runs in from the north lot, or once in a while, is inside the house. I called to her. Nothing.
She was not on the beach, my first guess since the day she followed my brother and his family down (“you walked and didn’t expect her to follow you?!” was quickly forgiven when the next phone call was of his dislocated shoulder). A neighbor to the south, walking her own elegant dog, had not seen her.
I called, again, at home and heard barking over to the northeast, the uncharted territory that is the back end of the swamp, long ago turned impassable by any other than deer and dogs that can follow the trails that are more tunnels in the overgrowth. There was a strong east wind but, I should have remembered there are no absolutes to the travel of sound down here. I learned that the year they built the house above the Mansion foundation and often heard hammers echoing off the hill of Clay Head.
It is easy to think the worst and I always do. While the rest of the island was watching the lunar eclipse I was trying to navigate Clay Head Trail in the dark; it was a fool’s errand and I came home. While social media was filling up with photographs of a red moon, reminiscent of the night the Red Sox won the World Series after an 86-year drought, I was posting that Autumn was missing.
Despite more than 50 Facebook shares spreaded across generations — and I thank each and every one who hit that little button — and a posting on the Block Island Bulletin Board, it was not until the next morning, copying posters to put around town, that I heard purely by chance where Autumn had been about the time I first feared she was trapped in the swamp. It was mid-morning and simultaneously someone contacted me electronically with the same information, surprised no one yet had. My dog had made her way to the beach and had followed renters, who soon left the island, back to their house deep in Minister’s Lot.
I have been so careful to not let her travel far beyond our boundaries, a bit up the road, to the beach and back the same way and, despite everyone’s assurances she would “find her way home,” I was not so sure. And there she was, still, just a bit deeper into the Minister’s Lot than I had gone the night before, barking at the sound of my car, so anxious when I stopped and called that she could not make her way around a stand of brush, finally bounding at me with “where have you been?!” Coming back down Mansion Road I met the friend who had offered to come over and help look, who offered her own story of overreaction and certainty her dog had been taken.
When I finally remembered to call the police station, the dispatcher blurted out “I’m so glad you found Autumn!” before I could share the news.
Grounded my girl is, for a very long time!