Deep in the woods, there is a house the color of winter moss. It reveals itself only by the orange porch swing and the chimney smoke. In that house, is a dog with thick fur and a sweet, pointed face and an older woman, who is not quite so old. They have a garden behind the house that somehow finds enough light to grow cabbage and chives, squash, tomatoes and other greens. They have no chickens or other livestock, but there are a few ducks and geese who return to the pond each year and often nest at the edge of the woods. Most days, they take the trail behind the garden to check on the deer. Sometimes they walk long after lunch before they find any. Other times, the deer appear before the sun has even finished its rise. And it’s those days she gets almost angry at them, not for eating the buds, but for leaving her without reason for the search. Those days she has to find something to fill the time, quickly, before the longing floods in and she considers driving into town.
She calls the dog with a quick whistle. She never named her because she just wasn’t certain she would stay. There is no doubt that the dog loves the search for deer as much as the woman. It’s a quiet search. She knows not to bark or flee too far ahead. And she often spots them before the woman. She stops, twitches her tail, and looks up at the woman, relieved to see her smile, to see her expression change. The best days are the ones where they think they have finally spotted just one and then discover dozens standing behind and around that one, all frozen and hesitating between the urge to remain still or race away.