lundi 23 février 2009

Dog lost

The hotel entrance

"Baccarat?"

"Baccarat! Viens!"

Silence. Rapide looked up at me, expecting me to be able to produce Baccarat with my next call. "Où est ta fille, Rapide? Dis-moi. Va la chercher." She looked at me. This is not the dog to help out in an emergency. I have to do everything, including sniff out her daughter. "Bon. Suis moi alors. Baccarat? Allez, Baccarat, viens là. Baccarat!"

Nothing. Just the towering trees at the base of l'Aiguille Verte that is home to les Grands Montets and the Argentière glacier. We stood a little below a branch in the hiking and cross country ski trails. Which did she take? Not the one we did, that much was for certain. Did she head, then, toward the sledding hill past the gondola? Did she head up toward the restaurant nestled in the forest, the one we finally found on our walk the previous evening? Did she slip into the stone and show filled creek that runs down from the glacier into the Arve? Or, did she try to head back along one of the other trails we have walked on our several evenings and mornings?

I have noticed that she knows the forest a little too well now, trotting along several meters ahead, ready to take the first trail that crosses the one we are on. "Baccarat," I must call, "par ici. Viens," before she turns to look at me and trots back to walk on with Rapide and I. She must have lost sight of me and chosen her own path. But which one?

Rapide and I stood there and looked at one another. The decision was only coming from one of us. "D'ac, Rapide. On va aller à la voiture." Baccarat knows that after our walks, it's time for her meals at the car. We headed up past the path to the restaurant, up the highest of the cross country trails, the one that has the steepest rises. Rapide looked worried; I continued to call to Baccarat in the silence of the forest, embarrassed about breaking its serenity for my over-eager dog.

We stopped and talked to everyone with a dog; they were all British. That's par for the course around here. "Have you seen a dog that looks like this one, only more lively? No? Well, if you do, she responds to 'Baccarat', or 'Bacs'. We are staying at the Couronne, if you could bring her back to us. They know her there and will know what to do. Thank you. Thank you so much."

We exited the forest, and I fed Rapide her solitary meal at the car. No sign of Baccarat. The peaks I could finally see all around us could see Baccarat, but they could not tell us where she was, by where she was passing, but this is Baccarat about whom we are talking. I wasn't that worried. Not panicked like the woman in the forest said she was when her dog got lost and showed up on the front stoop just as her husband was heading out to look for her. "That's probably what she will do," I had told her, as much for myself and Rapide. Still, it felt lonely at the car.

We walked over the bridge, past the police car (the village policeman is past retirement age; not much is expected to happen around here), the town hall, post office, tourist office, real estate agency, bank kiosk (our bank, of all things), and crossed the street to the hotel.

"Bonjour, Madame," I said, trying to find the right tone, bright enough to be polite, but not too bright given the circumstances, "J'ai perdu l'une de mes chiennes; vous ne l'aurez pas vu?"

"Mais, j'ai trouvé une chienne devant la porte. Elle attendait là," she indicated the sliding glass door and the stoop on the sidewalk beyond, "pour que quelqu'un ouvre la porte. Je me demandais qu'est-ce qui c'est passé qu'elles se séparent comme ça! Je l'ai fait rentrer, et elle est montée."

Sacrée Baccarat. My telephone rang just at that moment. Sam.

"Mom -- "

"Baccarat is with you."

"Yeah. How did you know?" He sounded puzzled.

"I'll explain."

"I heard a noise, and I opened the door and she was lying there in front of the door to the room."

Sacrée Baccarat.

The question that was left was what would happen the next walk? Would she stick to me like glue, or would she run back home the second she lost sight of me? We didn't have to wait long to find out. Both dogs ran toward the village on the very next walk, having lost sight of me around a bend. I had to tromp back the way I had come, calling to them like a moron in the middle of la Moraine, before they came bounding back up the path from the village, over the little bridge over the creek that runs along the train tracks up to the entrance to the forest by the chalet.

And the next walk? They stayed very close.

Only four more walks, and it will be time to drive back to Mousseaux. Our hearts break, all four of us, Sam, Baccarat, Rapide and I.

This has been the best snow we have ever had, if it hasn't been the sunniest weather. We come happily and gratefully to our home at the Couronne in the mountains, where we share no more than 20 square meters, happy as four clams, for a week and a half, and then the time comes when we have to leave it again, until the next year.

Leave the night walks through the dark forest, the stars just over our heads, when I have to fight the urge to lie down on the snow-covered path and let the earth hold me, watched over by the great pines and larches, the highest peaks and those impossibly bright and close stars, safe because what harm can come to me in this place where all has resisted far more since the begining of time than I have ever been confronted with in my life?

"Sh," they tell me, "you are safe and all is well. Be at peace."

Safe in the valley of Chamonix-Mont Blanc.
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