Damn near stepped on a wild chicken. It didn’t move until I was above it. I stopped and waited for Willow to catch up, lagging behind, busied with the smells of mice. The grouse and Willow locked eyes at the same time. Willow gave a bark, the grouse took off in a great flutter of wings and then glided, never more than ten feet off the ground, into the timber, seemingly looking for a place to land. It was long gone or hidden. I knew better from the many times I followed these birds into the trees while packing a twenty-two, only to come up empty, my father laughing at my optimism of an easy shot. The easy shot, he said, was when it was standing right in front of you. It makes me laugh I still don’t see them sometimes. The twenty-two is hidden, but I still crave my father’s mulligan sometimes.
Willow loves laying on our laps, soaking up our warmth and attention. I have a heating pad I will sometimes use on my back when I’m sitting on the couch, if I get up she is sure to be laying on it when I return.
Still, when we walk the creek she barks my attention, wades the water, encouraging me to throw a stick. She will fetch water logged branches and floating ice if I don’t comply.
Back home she approves of the fireplace being lit, sleeps deep, twitching now and again, perhaps dreaming of that water logged stick that got away.