Bella And The Dog

August 13, 2014

by Mark Dunning

There is a cabin in Maine.

There is a dog named Tater.

And there is Bella.

The cabin is on a lake. There is a long dirt road, tight with tall pines and oaks and maples, that leads to the cabin. The road ends amidst orange pine needles on a tiny peninsula of land. The cabin sits on the tip of peninsula. The lake surrounds it on three sides.

A picture of Bella and her dog.

Tater is a yellow Labrador retriever. He is not quite two years old. His head is broad but his shoulders are still the narrow of a young dog. Tater is gentle and wants to please. 

Bella thinks he would have made a good guide dog.

The lake is serene. It is black glass in the morning. There are loons and leaping trout. Bald eagles haunt the treetops. There is a small dock that floats on the lake. It rocks occasionally with the oily waves of passing boats.

Tater is a wimp. There is a thin walkway that ties the dock to the land. It bounces with each step. Tater scurries across it, paws wide, head down. He presses tight to you when the dock sways with the waves. 

Bella likes the cabin. She likes that we can bring the dogs on vacation. She likes that the dogs have to accompany us in town or to the beach or on a hike. Bella likes dogs, especially her dogs. Especially Tater. 

We often have lunch on the small dock. There are two chairs there and a small table. Bella usually sits on the boards of the dock with the dogs right next to her. She feeds them the crust from her sandwich. The dogs don’t beg. They don’t need to.

Tater likes the cabin in Maine. He likes the lake. He likes the freedom, the freedom to swim, to sniff, to wander. He likes that the family is there together, that there is always someone bored enough to play with him, to throw the ball, to take him for a walk.

Bella keeps a close eye on Tater. She knows when he wanders, knows when he has been gone too long or when he has swum to far from shore. She calls for him or does her screeching stand in for a whistle. Tater is always nearby. He is always close.

The cabin in Maine is an escape. There is no wi-fi, no cell coverage. The small TV is black and white. There is no cable. The cabin is books and puzzles, kayaks and paddleboards, swims and hikes. It is sunshine and warm water, pancakes for breakfast and a beer at sunset. It is a dog asleep at your feet. It is serenity. It is paradise.

Julia and I took the chairs. Jack fished in one corner of the dock. Bella sat on the boards in another. We passed out the sandwiches, the Cheese-its, the grapes. Tater lay next to Bella, head up, calm, quiet. Paradise.

“Where’s Tater?”

Bella is joking, right?

“Tater!” she calls. 

Julia and I exchange confused glances. Bella does the screeching whistle thing. Tater looks at her, eyebrows raised.

“Mum, where’s Tater?” Bella is annoyed at our bemusement. 

Exasperated, Julia says, “He’s right next to you.”

Bella looks down. A shadow of embarrassment crosses her face, chased quickly with a giggle.

“Sorry,” she chuckles, “He was in my blind spot.”

There is a cabin in Maine.

There is dog named Tater.

There is Bella.

And there are blind spots even in paradise. 

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