Like Ginny, Clark worked fulltime. At night, he opened his front door, put Flicka outside, shut the door and went to bed. Whatever nocturnal adventures she had, Flicka was always back in the morning, waiting to be let in. Clark, running late for work again, dashed out the door as the Giantess, taking her time, slipped around him to disappear inside.
Flicka and Nathan provided the comic relief when the three of us started hanging out together. She was the seasoned veteran, he was the impatient rookie, and, I was the linchpin. Neither one of them was ever going to be left behind, once they figured out what “let’s go for a walk,” meant.
We kept to the canal path at first, all of us getting used to each other, building trust for the next big adventure: the day-long treks down to Letchworth Park where Flicka would disappear into the underbrush, hunting small game while Nathan stayed close beside me. I like to think that his desire for human companionship overrode his instinctive urges to hunt.
Looking back, these were good times when living in the present moment was all that I wanted. Nathan and Flicka were perfect companions for that, asking only that they be included in whatever I was doing.
By the end of the summer, I was falling in love with a dog that wasn’t mine and thinking about what the repercussions might be if I spirited Nathan away from Ginny. She was a lot like Clark when it came to dogs – neither one of them did anything more than supply the obligatory provisions of food, water and a dry place to stay. Some people wouldn’t find this to be a bad thing.
Ginny had lost Nathan once. Somehow, he’d gotten outside and disappeared. He was gone for five days. Ginny put her marketing talent to work making my-dog-is-lost-and-I’m-heart-broken flyers that she blanketed all over the neighborhood. While Nathan was gone, I mentally kicked myself for not making arrangements to take him myself.
Turned out that a family with two young children found Nathan shortly after he’d wandered off. They lived two streets away and had become quite attached to him in the short time they had him. But, when they saw one of Ginny’s flyers, they called her. None the worse for his adventure, he was back.
Nathan and I had two more months together before he took off for the second and last time. He was almost a year old and coming into his adolescence. You could tell that he was going to grow up to be a fine companion dog. That easy-going temperament never wavered. His puppy energy was tapering off and he was beginning to come into his own.
I still don’t know how it happened. I came home one day and he was gone. Ginny plastered the neighborhood with flyers again and waited. Two weeks passed without any news. I kept telling myself that he was a pretty smart little dog. Once before, he’d gotten loose and found a family. Surely, he could do that again. But, I’d never really know. I would never see him again.
More than 25 years later, I still don’t know.
Almost a year after Nathan disappeared, Ginny packed up and moved to California. I found an apartment in another city neighborhood, got a serious boyfriend, and managed to live without dogs for another two years.
When my husband and I bought our first house, we waited until we had settled in before we went looking for a dog. We brought home a 12 week old, black, Great Dane puppy that we named Diamond.
Because although I had fallen in love with a Brittany Spaniel named Nathan, my husband had fallen in love with a giantess Great Dane named Flicka.
Three years later, we bought my grandparent’s house in the village that’s less than a ten minute walk from the canal path that I ran so many years ago with Nathan and Flicka. We have lived with nine other dogs in the 28 years that we’ve been married. Oddly enough, not one of them was a Brittany Spaniel.
We’ve walked all nine dogs on that same canal path. Some days, when the sun is low on the horizon and the heat of a July day cools into twilight, I swear I can see the blur of a white dog with orange patches streaking through the high grasses.
If I just raise my voice to call his name, I know that he will tumble head over butt end, crash to a complete stop and fly, on a wing and a prayer, straight back to me. [gplus count="true" size="Medium" ]