The weather report said rain all day, so at 8:30 am, when the sky was still clear blue, I put the dogs on their leashes and headed out for a long walk. When we got to the fields on the top of the ridge, I took the leashes off and let them run. Rusty, who never much liked running, stayed nearby and snuffled in the hedges and grass. Auguste took off in huge, delighted circles, staying always in sight, but as far away as he could without actually disappearing. We walked through the stone fields, crossed a stream in the bottom of a narrow ravine, and then headed across the big fields towards the back road to the village. We were alone. Auguste runs like a dachshund -with ears flying and butt bouncing because of his ridiculously short legs. He bounced up the path, then startled a meadow lark. Auguste loves to chase birds. It’s absurd and futile, but he works himself into a frenzy over birds. The lark darted off to the side and Auguste launched himself off the slightly raised path and into a ploughed field. He landed in the mud and was stuck for a few moments, then managed to thrash over to a field of winter wheat and he was off – away, running with his ears flying and his tail whirling and his barks getting fainter as he headed over the rise.
“Auguste!” I cried, and of course started running across the field after him. “Auguste you silly dog, come back here! Leave the birds alone! You’re supposed to hunt badgers! Come back here, you mustached wiener!” As I ran across the field, now sloping down so I was going quite fast, my yellow boots flashing in the morning sun, I vaguely noted we were approaching the dairy farm. I caught up with Auguste, still yelling things about birds, badgers, and wieners, (in French, of course – I would pick today to scream at my dog in French.) and put his leash on. And looked up.
The farmer, his son, and his two grandsons were standing in the doorway staring at me.
I straightened up, tried for a dignified expression, and waved. “Bonjour,” I said.
A throat cleared. The two boys huddled to their grand dad, their eyes round. The father’s mouth twitched, and he gave a half a nod.
I tromped out of their field, onto the road, and noted that I was covered in mud, Auguste was covered in mud, and Rusty was still about a hundred yards behind us, trotting in her loopy, floppy style, her tail wagging, her mouth open like she was laughing at me.
I waited up for her, put her leash on, and went back home where I hosed myself and the dogs off before going inside. (Why do dogs always wait until they are inside the house before shaking off?)
My husband says not to worry – the villagers already think I’m eccentric. I can just imagine what the dairy farmer and his family think now, after watching me fly down their hill after Auguste, calling him a mustached wiener.