The next time I see Molly she is trotting down our road. I am doing dishes in the dull light that seeps over the windowsill before me at the end of a grey overcast day. I am lost in thought about one thing or another when I glance up from the sudsy water at movement on our always-quiet road.
My thoughts catch in my brain when I recognize her, a dog I thought I would never see again. A few steps behind marches her owner, a bunched up leash flashing back and forth in one hand as Molly skips ahead. I would know those ears anywhere, I think as I shake water from my hands and dry them hastily on a tea towel.
I grab my coat and stuff my feet in to my boots and slip out the door before Murdoch can become aware there is another dog in his woods and he is whipped into a frenzy.
“Hello,” I call cheerily, thinking perhaps they have come for a walk. I meet Molly beneath the low branches of a pine tree where the path to our door joins the driveway.
“If you want her, she’s yours,” says the man as he strides up to me, the words rushing out on top of each other as if they are suddenly released after being caught in his throat.
“What?” I say, taken aback by the urgency in his voice. “What happened?”
The words continue to tumble out, his accent is thicker today and it is laced with the faint scent of whisky. He looks like he has been trying not to cry.
He speaks quickly and colourfully. Every other sentence is an apology, “excuse my language, but I’m Irish and I’m p***ed off.” I assure him I am not offended, my blood is Scottish and Irish, I tell him. I get it. But I don’t fully understand what went wrong. It is something to do with the company that was going to ship Molly, “I don’t trust them,” he says. There is something more about a lengthy, circuitous route and uncertainty about when she actually might arrive in Ireland.
“But there must be another way,” I say.
“No,” he is adamant, “We are not taking her. We’ve made our decision. So she’s yours if you want.” And he starts to tell me how wonderful she is.
“I’ve had German Shepherds all my life. My dad got me my first one when I was a boy. And Molly is the best I’ve ever had.”
He shows me how she is trained with hand signals and I watch as he stands tall before her and barks out commands, raising his hand this way and twisting it that, and Molly stares him in the eye, as though reading his thoughts, and performs perfectly.
I am heartbroken watching this man and his dog. And I try to put myself in his shoes and I think, I couldn’t do it. I could not leave my dog behind. If Bear had been unable to travel with me somewhere, I wouldn’t go. And even now with Murdoch, as difficult as he has been and can still be, I couldn’t leave him behind. It would be excruciating to have to give him away.
“You have to be firm with her,” he says, interrupting my thoughts. “She will push you.”
I nod, I know all about pushy dogs.
We do have a dog now, I tell him. He didn’t know. We agree Murdoch should come outside and meet Molly.
“He has a strong personality,” I say over my shoulder with my hand on the doorknob, and I quietly pray that he will not be a complete jerk, that he will not go crazy and refuse to listen and make this man have second thoughts about the beautifully trained Molly staying here with someone who obviously can not control her dog.
Okay, here goes, I think as I turn the doorknob. Murdoch comes bounding over the threshold and crowds into Molly’s face, where she stands with her owner, looking a little startled.
There are a lot of stiff stances and posturing and paws placed firmly on backs and at first there is Molly slinking away trying to figure out this strange creature. It is me who is apologizing now for my overbearing dog. But it is okay, says the man. He knows dogs, he knows dogs with strong personalities and he is not worried. There are a lot of ‘Heys’ and ‘Nos’ from myself and the man. And then Molly turns and barks at Murdoch, stands her ground, and I think, this could work.
Murdoch needs a dog who won’t be pushed around, he needs someone to keep him in check sometimes. He needs someone to play with now that he is the only dog on our road and his best friend is gone.
Molly is a King Shepherd, he tells me, a breed I later learn is made up of German Shepherd, Great Pyrenees and Alaskan Malamute. She is from a breeder in Montreal and was classified as stubborn and difficult to train but he has worked with her diligently and, he reiterates, she is the best Shepherd he has ever had.
It is almost dark now and the dampness has settled in for the night, it has started to permeate our coats. He and Molly still have to walk home. It is not far, but they are both dark shapes and there will soon be no light. We agree that in a few days we will bring Murdoch to Molly’s turf and Morgan can meet her and we can decide what is to be done. Of course we know this is all just a formality.
We wave goodbye and I go inside with a heavy heart and mixed emotions. I call Morgan to tell him the news and then I go to the computer and start researching how to take your dog to Ireland. There must be a way, I think.