Walks with Red Dog
Red Dog on the Porch
Red Dog was special.
He was not one of those dogs who ran howling into the wind with other dogs. He just loved walking with me. Sometimes, on the gravel road, he walked so close that his bright red fur brushed against my leg.
Red Dog, I'd say, "each morning when we meet for the first time, why do you always look so glad?"
Of course, Red Dog never did reply with words. If he wanted to say something, he spoke with his eyes, or the bend in his tail. However, since we were friends, that was enough.
At night, Red Dog slept on the front porch. Lying there, dreaming dreams of long summer days and endless walks, his night-world filled up with the moon and stars, hoot owl hoots, and ghostly white fogs that crept silently into the fields.
Between dreams, I think that Red Dog must have awakened, raised his head, and looked around. Maybe then he became a little lonely. And probably he wondered why I got to sleep inside, but he had to sleep on the porch....
But, you see, Red Dog lived in a time when country dogs such as he were not allowed inside their masters' homes. In those days, most people didn't even believe that dogs had feelings, though I did.
Yes, during those days when we walked in the fields and woods, Red Dog and I helped one another see things in special ways. Weedy roadsides were like museums and the fields of corn and beans around us were like circuses with many rings .
In Red Dog's life, no mystery was greater than that of the house.
Though Red Dog could romp in any field or woods, or take a nap beside any road or ditch , never could he enter the house. The only place I ever went without him was into the house. If I came outside wearing clothes different from those I had worn when I entered the house, Red Dog would look at me in amazement.
Red Dog, I'd say, "do you think that when I go inside the house I become someone else? Do you think that inside the house I travel to other worlds, or do magical things? When you stand beside the screen door hearing voices and music on the radio, do you think that inside I'm having a party with elves and gnomes?
Sometimes I laughed when I thought about what Red Dog must have imagined as he sat outside the screen door. Yes, what went on inside Red Dog's mind was my favorite mystery.
Once I thought about letting Red Dog come inside - just for a few moments - so I could watch his face as he looked around.
But, I never did.
Red Dog! I yelled, "what are you doing?"
Fluttering their wings and screaming in terror, four baby robins cowered helplessly in the grass before Red Dog. Their mother flitted above them screaming and snapping her wings in the air, but she was too afraid of Red Dog to do anything else.
Red Dog's eyes laughed at what he thought was a funny game. His wet,pink tongue dangled from a broad dog-smile. Then, as if to say that he really liked to meet young birds, he planted a generous tongue-lick upon one of the nestlings. The lick sent the baby bird tumbling backwards in the grass.
Aooouuuuuuuuu ... Red Dog howled.
Thinking that Red Dog was trying to eat her baby, the mother robin had overcome her fear, dropped from the sky, and dug her sharp claws into Red Dog's scalp!
Yelping more from surprise than from being hurt, Red Dog escaped around the corner of the house, his tail crooked between his legs.
Red Dog, I called, laughing, "today you have discovered that certain things are not to be played with!"
And then the brave mother robin dropped toward my own scalp and I, too, yelping more from surprise than from being hurt, escaped around the corner of the house.
As if he had every right to be there, the old hound dog rushed into our backyard and sniffed at everything he found. When he saw how empty Red Dog's food dish was he frowned at us in a way that said we should have had food waiting for him.
Red Dog and I could not believe that any dog could be so rude!
His ears and jowls hang so loosely that every step he took his face shook and made sloppy sounds. He stank and drooled . His huge feet were caked with mud from wandering all night in the fields.
And in his eyes there was the look of being lost.
I was so used to Red Dog's good manners, dignified appearance and self confidence that as I watched the old hound I felt queasy . Even Red Dog seemed half afraid and half ashamed. Quivering, he sneaked around to stand behind me.
Red Dog, I said, "he's run away from that 'coon hunter' we heard last night in Bryant's Woods. I'll see if the owner's name is on his collar ..."
Holding out my hand,I walked toward the old hound.
Aoouuuuuuuuu...!On legs that could not carry him fast enough, the sad-looking dog shot into the cornfield, his eyes ablaze with fear, his pitiful howls sounding as if they came from something dying. Only when he was deep inside the cornfield did he quieten down.
I'm glad that this happened, Red Dog, I said. "Every day we should remember that the lives you and I share are very special, and that at any moment things could change. Today we must live every second as if tomorrow our own lives will become like the life of that poor old hound.