Saturday, May 17, 2008
je me rappelle un chien
If ever there was a dog who belonged to himself it was Garth. Grown up in a time before leash laws and scooping he was happy enough to accompany us on our walks around town but if he sniffed something interesting in the air he'd say his farewells and be off like a shot.
In the early 70's we lived in a fourth floor loft in Montreal. The first person out the door in the morning would find Garth heading downstairs with them. As often as not he'd walk along as they shopped for brioches and fruit to go with breakfast coffee, buying something for him to eat as well. Back at the street door, in typical canine fashion, he'd say 'thanks and goodbye' and would stroll away for his morning constitutional. When he returned he'd stand at the door looking expectant until someone passing opened it for him. He got to be quite well known.
Walking to the top of Mt. Royal Park was something we did just about every day. The paths were wide and tree lined on one side with widening views of the city, the St Lawrence River and old neighborhoods on the other. At one side of the summit is Sacre Coeur Church and a huge metal cross above it whose nighttime lights dominate the city. In the church are canes, crutches and wheelchairs presumably left by people who'd been cured of crippling diseases by crawling up the long stairs. I never saw anyone do that.
Closer to our place the park had gardens, tennis courts and playground equipment so it was a favorite place to rest on the way home. Sometimes Garth came home with us and sometimes he'd notice (or nose) something that he just couldn't ignore. It was those times I had to pretend I didn't know him. Who me? My dog? Nope, never saw him in my life before. Other times he would have love affairs, only come home for meals (if that) and I'd have to go looking for him. He never realized his tail gave him away no matter how well he'd hidden himself.
One afternoon when we were walking along one of the nearby narrow streets a door to an old house built close to the sidewalk opened and an elderly gentleman with a sweet smile beckoned. The man spoke little English and my French was barely acceptable but Garth walked right inside. It was obvious he knew the place and I was quite curious about what was going on so I followed him through the door with the smiling man motioning me to go further along.
We went down a long hallway to a broad sunny room at the end where a beautiful female dog was lying in splendor with a litter of black and white, and white and black puppies. The two big dogs nuzzled each other and Garth examined each of the pups. The old man, very proud and happy, told me that when she came into heat Garth was the only male dog he had allowed into his backyard.
Nowadays, I never see a black and white dog without wondering if he or she is one of Garth's descendants. As all of us do he slowed down as he aged but we covered a lot of miles together in a number of cities and parks on both sides of the border and in my mind's eye I can still see the optimistic wag of that magnificent white tail.