It was the first long weekend of summer and the city coughed its residents out like smoke. Moses and I sat in the backseat, the windows and air conditioning our lone defense against the thickening smog outside. We lurched through the tail light landscape, just two of tens of thousands choked in the urban exodus.
Half husky, half lab, Moses was an easy companion. I’d always known him as a city dog, an occasional guest at my neighbour’s place. I’d often meet him napping on the floor there, a lone tail-thump his way of acknowledging my arrival. Through eight hours of non-stop Ontario, Moses rarely stirred, opening his eyes only when we slowed to refuel or eat.
When we finally made it to Québec, the shrinking road meandered north for another forty-five minutes. Light pollution gave way to stars, towers to trees, parking lots to lakes. Pavement crumbled to gravel, too, which rumbled the car to life with the low-pitched grind and occasional tictictic of stones hitting the undercarriage.
A wild impatience rose beside me. The vibration triggered some combination of instinct and memory in Moses, and soon he was whimpering, spinning, yelping, even jumping as much as it was possible to do so in a backseat cramped with packs, a sleeping bag, and a confused human.
He wanted out.
After a few minutes of trying to talk him down, Moses’ owner took a hand off the wheel, reached back, and pulled the door handle. With just a sliver of an opening, the dog exploded out of the car, the door swinging and slamming shut from the force of his jump.
I was stunned. This dog that would barely lift his tail in greeting was suddenly bounding in front of us, outpacing our 40 kilometres per hour. His stride was powerful and confident, the white bottoms of his feet kicking wisps of dust in front of the headlights.
We followed as Moses charged on, guiding us through the thickening forest. He would disappear like a spirit into the woods on the right, somehow emerging moments later on the left. He would dart up hills where the road bent for the landscape, leaving us to take the circuitous engineered path. He led for as long as we could keep up, but soon was gone too far too fast for us to follow.
When we finally arrived at the house, Moses emerged from a ridge panting and soaking wet from what I imagined was one of the most satisfying lake jumps ever experienced by a living being. The look on his face was relief and joy.
He was home.