C.W. Gusewell


As dog days end, a dog has his day

Our world seems devoted, in this moment, to the task of healing.

It’s not the greater world I speak of – the one so convulsed by conflict, so crippled by tyranny and sectarian hatred and so disadvantaged by geography and accidents of history that hope of recovery seems a fatuous dream.

No, I mean only this small fraction of it that we occupy – a region that endured what seemed an endless spell of rainless weeks and brutal heat.

It’s here that an impulse of recovery can be sensed. The evidence of it abounds, in small ways as well as large.

Just in our city yard, for instance, an azalea bush whose leaves in the furnace of summer were butcher-paper brown has rushed back to life, newly foliaged, with even one out-of-season pink spring blossom visible at October’s turning.

What in April had been a presentable lawn was transformed by early July into a weedy wreck, resembling a battlefield across which careless armies had trod.

Now hopeful blades of green are pushing up through the ruin. Soon there may even be something besides my wife’s flowers for the resident rabbits to eat.

Last weekend a friend and I, and the friend’s son, made a trip to our cabin and farm two hours south of the city.

As we drove, asters in bloom made a cheering wash of purple at roadside. But the failed fields of corn and soybeans were disheartening. I have dear friends in that reach of country. I know how hard they work and how much they depend on a harvest.

At least from the numbers of large round bales, the hay crop looked to have been acceptable. And while the rains came too late to save the grain plantings, the regrowth of grass seemed to promise a second cutting.

We fished a bit in two of the farm’s five ponds. Though low, they still had water enough to keep fish alive. The greater concern was for my lake.

When last I’d seen it, the two shallow arms, favored by bass and bluegill for their spawning, were almost dry. But now, with the drought broken, the entire lake was only a foot or so below full pool.

I mentioned healing at the start. So these have been some of the heartening signs of it. But in our city household, there also has been a recovery of a literal but altogether unaccountable sort.

I’ve written previously in this space about Cyrus, grandson of Rufus and son of Holly’s Bear, last of the five Brittany bird dogs with whom we and the cats have shared our space.

Cyrus was born in the summer of 1999, while we were traveling in Alaska.

At age 13, his days in the quail meadows are behind him, and so are mine. So the timing is perfect. Both retired, we can savor the memory of our times afield together.

In this last year, though, his strength has noticeably lessened.

Until then, Cyrus and Buddy, the rescue beagle that joined us to keep him company, had always slept in our upstairs bedroom, as had their predecessors. But in the stifle of summer, the stairs became too much for him.

At evening’s end, Buddy would go up to his bedroom mat. Unable to make the climb, Cyrus was left to whine in loneliness.

Plainly that was unacceptable.

So we took both their sleeping mats below and put a folding baby gate across the bottom of the stairs. At least the two of them would have misery in common. In these cooler mornings, they seemed happy to exercise in the back yard together.

The problem appeared to be resolved.

Then one evening, while my wife was out, I was watching TV in the bedroom, having forgotten to put the gate across the stairs.

Suddenly, with no trumpet fanfare or other announcement, Cyrus appeared in the doorway, strode across the room and settled at my side, as if it were nothing out of the ordinary.

Since then, he has climbed and descended the stairs at will. His confidence is restored. He and Buddy pass their nights in the bedroom. The baby gate is an artifact of another time.

And that may be the most surprising recovery of all.