Every year, when Roo and I returned to Maine, the first thing she did after saying hello to everyone was to go into the woods next to where the camper was parked and find her collection of old bones. She started finding them the first time we came. The bones, all of which were the abandoned property of some now gone dog, were all bleached and had been emptied out ages ago, but she liked to scavenge them. Over time her collection grew. She never gnawed on them. She just liked to keep them near the camper as a sign of her success at scavenging, which she enjoyed almost as much as hunting.
By the time she died, there were half a dozen or so of them. When I found myself trying to reduce the constant occurrence of reminders of her to things I chose, I threw her bone collection in the garbage and forgot about it.
This morning, when I was getting the camper ready to leave Maine, and as I was going through the routine of hooking it up to the car and attaching the safety chains, of course I couldn’t help but think of the way Roo used to hide in the bushes or at least lie down at a safe distance every time I did that. She was suspicious of the clanking noises and the way the weight of the camper would make the car bounce when it came down onto the ball hitch. Even though she witnessed that hundreds of times in our four years dragging the camper around together, she never got used to it, and of course, while I worked, I missed seeing her there, in her usual spot in the bushes next it he house. She would have been watching me until I finished hooking it up. When I told her it was finished, she would come back to me.
After I got the camper was hooked up today I went in the house to take what could be the last shower for several days, and then I went back outside and into the camper for no more than two minutes. When I came back out, I was shocked by what I saw.
Virginia happened to pull into the driveway while I was looking at it.
She saw that I was looking odd.
“What are you looking at?” she said.
“Did you put this here?” I asked.
“What?” she said as she came over.
“This,” I said. It was one of Roo’s bones. Not one of her old collection of the bones of other dogs – those were all gone and this was one of hers. I recognized it. It was the kind I bought her, shorter than the long cut of bones that all the others were. I remembered this particular bone because of the way Roo had worked on it so hard to scoop out the marrow from a distinctively marked hard part.
Virginia and I looked at each other with those wide eyes one makes when something weird happens. We both knew right away.
“That’s one of Roo’s bones,” I said. “And I’ve been out here messing around with the camper for the last hour, and that wasn’t here. I just this minute came back out of the camper. I wasn’t in there for more than two minutes. This wasn’t there when I went in. It was put there now.”
And it was. I would not have missed it. I’m obsessive about keeping the area neat and there is no more chance that I would have missed the bone sitting there in the clean driveway right next to the camper when I had been out there doing all those chores than I would miss a full moon on a clear night in a dark stretch of lonely flatland without a hat on.
Virginia and I looked at each other and down at the bone about ten times.
Now, here’s the thing. Sure, maybe a fox (there are exactly zero other dogs running around there, not a one, ever) unearthed the bone and got spooked when I opened the camper door. Not that there are many foxes on the loose there, but I saw one a couple of months ago. That would be the reasonable explanation. Entirely unlikely, because Roo buried this bone, expecting to dig it up again, as she always did, and there was no one there next to the camper digging it up when I went back to the camper.
Make of it what you will. I am….