That crimson and gold leaf-blanket is like a slide. It wants to slurp me down the steep, wet, mud path and eject me onto the road below. I dig my heels into the ooze and lean forward, traveling uphill, as if my weight will provide traction.
Copernicus, my dog, dances at my side. His eyes sparkle with wonder and joy, and his long black and white fur sticks out as though he’s been to a beauty parlor. My hair looks like a ten-ton truck rolled it flat.
“It’s so terrific here!” He grins and prances. “Come on. Let’s run!”
His mood is infectious. A small smile reaches the corners of my mouth, which, a moment prior, sank into the dank mire. My pace quickens. Not into a run, but with the surge experienced when your heart grows light.
Blackthorn branches arch above us to form a tunnel, the end of which is sunlit.
“It’s like being born,” I tell Copernicus as we step out into the brightness. But he is off into elephant grasses. Tall and lean, they bend with the wind. Their fluffy tails tickle the air, and from deep inside their cover rabbits spring.
“Leave, Copernicus!” I shout and send warm breath to billow. I know he won’t touch them, though. He will round them up and bring them to me.
When he was a six-month-old, he chased four deer and delivered them to my side. “Thank you,” I’d said. But only because it delighted me to view them close up rather than far afield. And in a flash, they left.
“These rabbits,” I say, “were happy before you shoved them into the daylight.”
Copernicus flings back his head with glee and lets the wind ruffle his fur coat. The confused cottontails hide in the thicket.
One male pheasant, with glorious auburn feathers, leads three drab damsels, his concubines, across the meadow. Those ladies waddle from side to side along the uneven ground. He, the monarch, strides and surveys the landscape, his kingdom. Until Copernicus scoops those birds into the thicket with the rabbits.
“They’ll be no room for anymore if you carry on like that.” I tell him, but he doesn’t care for my wisdom. Five pheasants later, we trail home down the slide.
Copernicus glances at my expression as I turn sideways. “Small steps,” I mouth. I swear he laughs at my incompetence.
“Just trot, as I do,” he says, beaming like the midday sun.
When our feet meet the concrete road, relief fills my bones. But the smirk leaves my furry pal’s face: He prefers soft mud and leaf mold under his paws.
“Cheer up!” I say. “We’re almost home. We’ll light the fire and make a pot of tea.” Although a non-tea-drinker, he knows this means warmth and attention as I sip from a china cup and stroke his head while the flames crackle.
Now, his pace quickens and keen paws head for the front door.
Copyright © 2020 Bridget Webber. All rights reserved