She disappeared into the thickets near the stream running brown-gray and deep with mud. Wolfie, head up, tearing through the brambles, seemed to be following her trail. I wanted to believe that. My car’s temperature gauge had shown 7 degrees just before we started west on the old railroad track path for at most a 15 minute walk. We were protected from the wind here, and happy to be out, both dogs ran after each other, energy burning off them like flames off an oil well.
Just as we turned to come back to the car, Luna ran down the hill and along the flats into deeper brush. I called and she stopped, looked back and then as dogs sometimes do, ruled herself, ignored me and slipped from sight.
I searched for an hour and a half, ducking branches, climbing over deadfalls, breaking through ice when Wolfie led me to the stream’s edge where I looked along that cold, thick water for her small head. Like a Golem I crashed through thorn bushes that would not yield any other way. All this time I kept calling her name, and for every additional moment she was out of my sight, my mind’s eye kept returning to that wanton stream, all that movement so seductive to a dog, and my worry increased.
Eventually, I returned Wolfie to the car where he could recover his warmth, and I went out again, crisscrossing the flood plain, calling and calling her name until I was hoarse, cajoling, changing my voice, beseeching, never stopping. Completing yet another circle, climbing the steepest part of bank toward the path, my head down, suddenly she appeared right under my eyes, ears back, back-end waving as fast as a metronome.
Only a dog I thought as we walked back to the car, only a dog, and yet my heart had waited in my throat as I had methodically searched for her, and my imagination had raised up phantoms, but now she paraded ahead of me, bright eyed, her head filled with scent and light, alert to the slightest movement, happy I supposed for all was right and normal in her life, and watching her now, I felt relieved and thankful, but still mindful of the phantoms lingering in the woods and beside that obsidian stream.