The temperature drops and the snow comes in. It’s light gentle snow, although the air is hard and frigid. The dogs find the whole thing enchanting; the horses are stoical and hunkered down for the duration.
This morning, a very sweet thing happened.
Each day, I go to my stepfather’s house and make him breakfast. We have excellent eggs. Today, it was a mushroom omelette. I take Darwin the Dog and Stan the Man and they have their breakfast there too.
This morning, as I arrived, I saw a father and daughter walking their dog near the house. I waited for a bit in the car, as Darwin is incurably friendly and cannot help rushing over to any new human he sees and I did not want him capering about the place. But the daughter was very, very tiny and walked very, very slowly and I realised it would be ages before they were out of sight.
So I decided to wrangle D the D in through the front door, not giving him a chance to escape. Stanley, sight-dog that he is, had spotted the party and instead of charging on ahead of me and opening the door, leapt out of the car and tore off after the little group, barking with excitement. He loves making friends too, but he can’t help being noisy about it. I know that he is racing off to play, but if I were a person out for a quiet walk and saw this barking hound roaring down the drive I would be a little daunted.
I got Darwin in and rushed back, shouting for Stanley, who was by now happily sniffing the nice little spaniel and seemed not to be causing too much trouble. He cantered back, looking very pleased with himself, and I put him in the house and went back to lock the car.
I looked down the drive at the tall figure and the tiny figure and the capering dog. I knew what they must be thinking. Stupid woman, can’t control her dogs, bellowing like a fishwife. I felt rather ashamed. I should have had both canines on leads and I didn’t. The child was very, very young, and I feared she might be scarred for life.
I was about to slink back into the house in shame when I changed my mind.
I ran down the drive and caught up with the little group. ‘I’m so sorry,’ I said. ‘I do hope your daughter was not frightened. I do apologise.’
The man nodded and smiled, entirely unfazed. His small girl, huddled up against the weather in a thick coat and bobble hat, looked up quizzically. ‘Oh,’ the father said. ‘Don’t worry. She’s used to dogs.’
I explained about Stanley and how he was still a bit insecure from being a rescue and that although he wanted to be friends he could not help the barking thing. I apologised again.
The father smiled and nodded and said more nice things.
Then, down the avenue, hurtling like a bullet, came Stan the Man. He can famously open any door and he was clearly tired of waiting for me and had come to see what I was doing. ‘Oh,’ I said, in embarrassment. ‘Here he is.’
There was no barking this time, just a lot of dancing and tail-wagging. I explained to the little girl about the escape artist. ‘He can open doors,’ I told her. ‘So he’s come to find us.’
She looked at me, her eyes round and curious. ‘Big dog,’ she said. ‘With his paws.’
‘Yes,’ I said, pleased she got it. ‘He opens doors with those naughty paws.’
Then we talked about the snow and about dogs in general and all was merry as a marriage bell.
I loved about twenty things about that moment. I loved the little girl and her staunch bravery and her questing mind. I loved the kind father with his sanguine view of the world. I loved their excellent snow outfits. I loved that Stanley came back and showed them his best and kindest side. I loved that I made the decision to catch them up and apologise instead of hiding in the house, muttering like Muttley, convinced they thought me risible and hopeless.
It was a tiny story, and a rather profound one at the same time. This will be the kind of story I shall be very, very glad that I wrote down. It’s the kind of story I like to remember.