Scat!

IMG_1868

Alfie at the Central Experimental Farm – Ottawa, Canada

When Alfie arrived after eight years of pleading for a dog by our youngest daughter, he refused to join us when we occasionally watched t.v. in the basement. He would sit on the first landing – seven steps away – and watch us. His reluctance convinced our youngest daughter a ghost lived in the basement.

I started bolting up the stairs after I turned out the lights, like I was being chased, the dog a full seven stairs ahead of me, tail flying straight out as though racing me to safety.

*

My constant companion, Alfie trails me up and down the 28 steps of our townhome but he will not willingly budge to join me as I cruise through the lower room to the laundry room or the garage. He lies on the landing, head between his paws and waits.

Most summer mornings I start the day with a cup of cappuccino and a book in the backyard oasis which I get to through the basement room’s patio doors. Sans dog, I read for 30 precious minutes before galloping through the rest of the work day.

IMG_1857

*

Our house, an end unit, overlooks a broad field that leads to Sawmill Creek. The creek cuts through a busy urban landscape bordered by a narrow strip of hardwood trees, home to skunks, rabbits, ducks, woodpeckers, cardinals, blue jays, a great blue heron, and coyotes. Alfie makes a great disdainful show of sniffing their shit when we encounter it on our walks. “Animals,” he seems to say as he skirts the shriveled lumps and carries on nosing delicious blades of grass every few feet.

On Monday this week when I stepped into the oasis, coffee and book in hand, I spotted a clump of black fur on one of the paving stones. As I considered from a distance whether it was a dead squirrel or the remains of the feral cat that roams our neighbourhood, other oddities became apparent. On the pillow of the wicker couch were two lumpy biley blobs and a tootsie-roll turd. The blobs looked like kibble vomit but the black fur, which I eventually picked up with a rubber-gloved hand, was devoid of viscera or blood. Whatever got it had cleaned it with surgical precision.

I removed and cleaned the drama from the cushion, speculating what solstice sacrifice had been performed under Alfie’s and our noses a mere 28 steps from our bedroom.

After I scrubbed the cushion, I carried Alfie into the yard and encouraged him to pee in the grass hoping his scent would scare whatever critter had desecrated the oasis. I lifted him onto the cushion but after some preliminary sniffs he jumped down and scampered up the seven stairs to the landing where he eyeballed me with a crescent of white showing. “You lunatic,” he seemed to say. “It’s not safe out there.”

IMG_1851

*

Sawmill Creek Estates, our home, is built into a hollow through which Sawmill Creek flows slower than a slug. Kites don’t fly here. The air is erratic and kites seldom make it above the tree line. What breezes get stuck above the field that only a dog can discern? Maybe we’re the Bermuda Triangle of Ottawa.

Years ago, when digging a new flower bed, we found a rusty old horseshoe, hinting at a life lived long before our home was built. Visions of a family graveyard, scenes of cow slaughtering, chicken decapitations and other routine matters of farm life intrude on my oasis time. Could the routine work of a 19th century farm be disturbing my dog? What spirit is at work in my oasis? Is it a restless plough horse or a farmer looking for a lost horseshoe?

I don’t know what Alfie knows. I can’t smell the spirit or the coyote scat or the feral cat, and I’m glad of that. I like my spirits in a glass, not in my backyard. But MY spirit has been perturbed. I think the horseshoe needs to buried again and we need a cleansing ritual at dusk.

IMG_1888

 

Advertisements

28 thoughts on “Scat!

  1. I love the convergence of happenings here! On the one hand, there’s the knowledge that the human brain searches for patterns even where there are none, and on the other hand, there’s the knowledge that there are things beyond our human understanding – and those two notions play off one another beautifully here! Fabulous piece, as always, Susanne. Thanks for writing it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Goosebumps!! My active imagination makes ghosts all too real and having a cat doesn’t make it easier. They are notorious for suddenly staring off over your shoulder with eyes are big as saucers 😳

    Alfie knows something …

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oooh. Our domesticated friends retain their survival senses even in the most urban settings. My wild imagination thinks old countries long populated – such as England – must be bursting at the seems with spirits of all kinds.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Alfie is not a rescue but he is a mutt of questionable genetic composition. Who knows what senses got connected in the mix that might not have otherwise been linked? A wee mystic, our pup.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What does Alfie know that you don’t, eh? And how does the number 7 feature into this story? Or numbers? There are a lot of numbers…

    I would find it disturbing to find the carcass of a creature on my deck – feral or otherwise. Circle of life, or otherwise. Especially with Alfie sitting at a safe remove, watching…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I thought about all those multiples of 7, too. why did the builder make a house with 28 stairs? Some kind of feng shui?

      Alfie knows. I know he knows. I respect his knowing but I love my oasis, ghost or not. Or maybe because of?

      The strange thing about the hide or carcass was it was so clean and there were no other parts to be found. Really strange.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Lovely. Nice sense of how a familiar place can seem strange and foreboding. I like how you used the natural world to sketch an unnatural story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My backyard is the most benign place you can imagine but not if you’re my dog. It takes a lot of liver treats to entice him into the garden.

      Like

  5. I met a woman who said she lived in our house and said it was haunted… we have had no encounters with the spirits or ghosts she claimed lived here. I’m assuming they left with her imagination. I like my spirits in a glass too Susanne!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m having spirits in a glass as I type in the oasis. I have never sensed ghosts but my in-laws are rabid ghost believers as are the children. They have been infected by years of vivid storytelling by their aunts and uncles. Cheers, Jean!

      Like

  6. I’d listen to Alfie as animals have much better developed senses than us humans. My cat knows when an earthquake is coming and had several times been observed watching some unseen things passing up the stairs of my previous home where my daughter lay ill. Just saying 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • My husband agrees with you, Pauline. Alfie can stay on the landing, a safe distance away and I’ll do my best to be gentle to the spirit and acknowledge its presence and right to be there. Just don’t let it leave any more carcasses, please.

      Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.