My little dog runs ahead of me as always. She stops and looks back to see where I am, waits a while until I catch up with her and then off she trots again. Her nose is to the ground as she scents for anything interesting and there is so many wonderful smells in a wood, in the autumn.
Again she stops and looks at me with her little Black and Tan face, Her white body finished off with a cropped brown tail. Her tail was cropped as a puppy, before she ever came to me and as was the original fashion for a Jack Russell. It was the perfect indicator for how she was feeling.
As with all dogs, she would drop it down if she was unhappy but it would not reach between her legs as it was too short. When I first met my husband, he had a boat on the Norfolk broads and we always took her with us. At first, she was unsure and her tail was as down as she could get it. Then she discovered she could walk right around the boat using the gunnels and her tail raised a little until it was stuck out in line with her back. Finally she realised that when we were cruising along, she could run round and round, bark at the ducks and swans, and become the mascot of the boat, as people looked, pointed, giggled at her and gave her lots of fuss when we moored up. She loved the boat and her tail raised straight up in the air as soon as we got on it.
For all that she loves the boat, she hates water and will do anything to avoid it. Our favourite time is our walks on land. So here we are, on a cold, sunny autumn day. I kick my way through coloured fallen leaves and she sniffs out the squirrels and rabbits that are prolific here. Most of the trees are bare now and looking at the ground, I see many forms of fungus. There are toadstools as well as huge field mushrooms growing in and on the tree humus. It’s a perfect place for them. I am also genuinely delighted to see a fairy ring.
Ok, I know I am a little old to believe in such things, but it really looks like one. There, just over there, is a group of toadstools with the red caps and white spots, just like in all the fairy tale illustrations I have seen. I don’t need a great imagination to conjor up fairies and pixies sitting atop each stool and talking about whatever it is that they talk about.
I stop for a while and have a closer look until Penny runs back and gives me a nudge. I can almost hear her thoughts. “Will you hurry up. There is too much to sniff out and we can’t hang around here.” So I follow and she runs off again, always stopping and looking back to see where I am. Never going out of sight, no matter what wonder lay ahead. She never leaves me. We can walk for miles and she never tires, unlike me. She doesn’t care if it’s hot or cold, along as it’s not raining. She doesn’t run away to chase rabbits, to sniff them is enough. Her need is to stay close to me. She is my loyal little friend, my protector and companion. Her love is honest, unconditional and delightful.
When it’s time to leave, I call her. She stops and looks at me. She turns back wanting to pursue her trail but I turn and walk the other way. There is no need to worry as within seconds she bounds past me, ready to lead the way again. The pattern continues. Run ahead a while, stop, look back, wait for me, then run on, until we reach the car.
It’s nothing spectacular, just friendship, Autumn and a walk, but it’s a lovely memory of a lovely time.