“That dog’s stuck in the stream.”
The little boy is staring down towards Fern, his silver scooter forgotten. She is staring back at him from the bottom of the stream, wondering why he is staring at her. He notices the dog leads round my neck.
“Is it your dog?”
I tell him that Fern is my dog and explain to him that it is all right because she knows her way out and yes, the black one who has just come to stand next to me because she is wondering if she is missing something is my dog too and she is called Freya. He isn’t convinced.
“Can it get out?”
I practice patience.
“Yes she can.”
His parents have now almost caught the boy up. He points at Fern and shouts towards his dad, an earnest looking man with a towel round his neck who is pulling a rubber dinghy while his wife tries to get their little girl to hurry up.
“Dad! There’s a dog stuck in that stream!”
His dad drops the dinghy and stands next to him. Now there are two of them staring at Fern. Her eyes are wide and her tail shakes anxiously. There is no way she is coming out now. Anything might happen. The dad frowns at me.
“Can she get out?”
“Yes. It’s fine.”
He looks at the steep slope of the side of the ravine.
“Are you sure?”
I am sure. Very sure. Fern has been climbing the side of that ravine every day and scooting along the top to come back to me for over six years now. There are also a couple of places further back down the stream where she can get out if she wants to. She doesn’t just know her way out, she knows every smell, every foothold, every blade of grass.
“Yes. She’ll climb up the side.”
He turns to his wife.
“Have you seen the dog? It’s stuck.”
All four of them, even the little girl who has been more interested in the glittery pink streamers on the end of her bike handlebars up until now, peer down at Fern. Fern stands absolutely still and peers back at them. She wants them to go away. She is only comfortable with people who she knows. These people have been watching her for some time now and she doesn’t know why. She doesn’t know them and she doesn’t like it. I try to encourage them to go away.
“It’s fine. She’ll come out when she is ready.”
They look at me for a second, decide that I have no idea what I am talking about, and then discuss with each other how Fern might get out. From where they are standing there isn’t an obvious way. Finally Fern decides that it will be safe enough to look at them all from the top of the banking and there might be something interesting up there. They marvel as she trots back up the stream.
“Look! It’s found its way out!”
She sprints up the side of the banking to general amazement.
“It’s up there now, look!”
She is indeed, and if they would just get on their way and leave her alone there might be a chance of her coming down. They start to move off.
The father smiles at me.
“It managed to find its way out then.”
This scenario is repeated over and over again with minor variations right through the summer when the visitors are here.