Monday, September 7, 2009
Stella finds a stick, shakes it, steps on it, breaks it. Rocky lies on the wooden porch, twitching in his dreamstate. Leaves are chattering. Birds are chirping. But even as everything else plays well their part in this idyllic picture, I am defending myself against the mosquitoes that would murder me.
Urban civilization has done a few good things and one of them is get rid of mosquitoes in my general vicinity. Sure there are a few in my backyard but they are the weak city dwellers, possibly full of West Nile virus but slow and slothful from drinking too much dim sum and butter chicken laced blood and thus generally harmless. Their country cousins, though, are like meth fueled minions from a Texas Chainsaw massacre. Even the baby ones, the ones that are almost cute - well, okay, they'd be cute in a Pixar cartoon anyway - are like teensy vampires flying around waiting for the opportunity to stab a main artery and bathe in the bright red flow.
The first time I brought Stella up to the cottage many years ago, I had the usual impression that a dog at a cottage was like a kid at Christmas but it turned out to be more like a kid at a new school where she doesn't fit in, has no friends and gets beat up. Stella, it turned out, was a fragile city beast and not built for the stripped down, paleolithic lifestyle of cottaging. Her main problem was her lack of a thick enough coat to protect her from the onslaught of biting insects that still inhabited the dwindling, untamed portions of our country. After a 10 minute walk, during which time she and I both were swatting and swearing non-stop, I came back with three or four bites on my forehead and the back of my neck but she came back with at least two dozen mosquito welts on her bare stomache. After that, she didn't much feel like stepping outside into that cloud of flying piranha nor did I encourage her to go out fearing for her blood loss.
Since then, I've only ever brought Stella up to the cottage during the non-mosquito seasons, late fall or early spring.
This year, I don't know what I was thinking. Here we are at the cottage in barely September and here are the mosquitoes to welcome us back. Funny thing is, Stella seems not to be bothered this time round (though I'm having no such luck). Is it because she's older and she's transmorgrified into hardier stock? Or is it because she hasn't had a bath in a while and sort of smells like raw hamburger, though that would imply that mosquitoes don't like raw hamburger and I'm not sure if that's true. Anyway, she seems fine. She's even enjoying herself in the outdoors, chomping away at the fresh tips of abundant grass, smelling the fresh country scents, galloping across the forest floor, crashing through the undergrowth. She makes a lot of noise, Stella does. Not good, stealthy hunter material.
As for Rocky, once he discovered the comforts of the cottage couch, which for some reason has way more appeal for him than the one at home, he's immobilized and doesn't even lift his head when Stella and I head out the door. He's snoring or maybe he's just pretending so that I don't call him to join us. Lazy dog, setting the perfect example of the Canadian cottage experience.
I often wonder what goes through that blunderbuss head of Rocky's. His black mask seems usually expressionless and only once you get to know him well, do you notice the subtle frown lines which sometimes gather above his brow or the slight perking up of the eyebrows. Compared to Stella, who is a drama queen of grand gestures, Rocky is darkly stoic, but more in a bag full of coal sort of way as opposed to a Daniel Craig as James Bond sort of way. In his next life, Rocky will be reborn as a rhinoceros, ideally on a planet where rhinoceroses rule.
Stella will not be reborn. She will march directly to heaven and demand an phalanx of angels to massage her head and feed her pizza crusts. Or maybe she will be reborn, maybe as a cow on a planet of green pastures where cows rule. As a bovine, she can eat grass to her heart's content without ever having to throw up. I just wouldn't want to have to still be picking up after her.
If I am reborn, if I am lucky enough, I will be reborn onto a planet where there are cottages with no mosquitoes. In the meanwhile, I'm hoping that the chill in the coming night air will do to the mosquito population what no amount of swatting will ever be able to accomplish.