Return Autumn Tuesday
Autumn was eight in July; her arrival on Block Island was September 22, the first day of fall the year she arrived.
So, this summer she was not an adolescent, or a young thing finding her way, she was, or should have been, a settled middle-aged lady, going out to the pasture to visit the horses, from whose troughs she drinks, sloppily, as if the water is so much better than that in her own always-full bowl. I remind her it all comes from the same well, that kitchen supply lacks only horse saliva.
She has always gone on her little walkabouts, into the pastures, down back to track the deer and geese, out across the front field to track the deer and the geese, under the people gate set high enough to allow her easy passage, to the fenced pastures to track, surprisingly, the deer and the geese.
For the first few years she lived here she had a sort of natural enclosure in the overgrowth; she seemed to like to stay in view of the house, in that back lot, or down to the turn onto Mansion Road, where she often lingered, dipping in and out of sight.
Now, I am beginning to think she has the same secret life my first golden, my sweet Shad, had. I took him to the beach, early, then we came home and I went out for the day. He was in the yard when I left and there when I returned, what a fine dog I thought until the next summer when I began meeting the string of “We know your dog...” visitors.
So I left him and dogs following on a lead that gave them room to go under the shady bower of the crab apple tree or into the house entry if it rained.
Autumn came in the fall, she was sweet and not inclined to stray far, just as I’d always been told would be more likely with a “girl” dog. Once, she went off and was gone overnight, terrifying me because she is so sweet and it was a late Sunday in September when I realized she was gone. I found her, finally, on the deck of the one house in the Minister’s Lot to which I had taken her, by car so she wouldn’t know the track. The owner was back in the city
and Autumn just waited, I presume all night, for me.
That’s when I got the collar, with her name and my phone number stitched into it.
She grew into patterns, she’d look down the road, lying at the last line where the daffodils grow in spring, and bark sometimes at traffic headed for the beach, but she stayed close to home, going out onto Mansion Road only far enough that it was easy to imagine her like that child who runs away from home until home is out of sight.
And the horses, and the people who came to feed them, were an attraction, not to be missed. She drank from the troughs and rolled in the dust, but she has that silky hair from which dirt falls, filling my vacuum cleaner with dog hair and dust. She is a constant shedder, with an even thicker undercoat from her half-Bernese Mountain dog mother and the sheddiest places get the most attention but dirt does not cling. I was horrified, one day, to be out in the pasture, half brushing her while the horses were groomed, to find she was developing a hot spot, under that collar, so often wet and dirty.
It is convenient having these horses around; I removed the collar, Autumn got a quick rinse and single application of a cleansing medication in a spot she really couldn’t reach and which seemed not to bother her at all. I scrubbed the collar and set it to dry, intending to return it to her neck when the nearly bare skin had healed.
It may not have taken as long for new hair to grow as it did for the collar to dry, completely, and I figured I could loop a leash around her neck if I needed it, or find the hated but very effective gentle leader, and then it was fall and all was forgotten.
In season, Autumn is in the house when I am out, but generally speaking the door is open all other times, and my good homebody dog stays home.
Stayed home. I thought... The first time I must have gone out, still on spring time, thinking she’d stay put. I think someone sent me a photo someone had put on Facebook or the bulletin board, my goofy girl in the Mansion Beach parking lot, still without her collar, about to he taken to the police station. I called the station to assure them I was on my way but they had no big golden.
She’d managed to elude her rescuers and had come home, I thought, until I noticed a thin green leash looped around her neck – I still have it. I couldn’t find her collar and ordered a new one.
The other days, Tuesdays all they would have been, I was home when people arrived at my door “Does Autumn live here?” One day a surprise shower had opened the skies and kind strangers had scooped her up on the road, beyond her usual turn-back point, their car probably, hopefully, already full
of vacation sand and wet towels.
That may have been the day I found the old collar, under her rub-rub towel by the door, in the basket of Autumn accessories. She was home, it went back in the basket. With the unworn new one.
There was another day I am forgetting, then last week my usual last-minute “treat” lure bore no response. She shows up, often, when I start the car. Nothing. Off I drove, slowly, watching, then heard voices as I took the sharp right to the Mansion Beach instead of going home.
“We think we have your dog!” They did, the kids up the road, here on their last week of summer, who had left the beach because this big dog was showing no signs of leaving them. I still live on a road where there are enough people who can say “That’s Autumn, she lives over there” and children who will make the effort to get her home and melt my heart with “you knew our Grandma Alice?”
Today it was a young husband and wife on bicycles.
Summer, when Bridge Gate to Rebecca can be a gauntlet, then someone calls “Does Autumn live here?” and the world is righted.