He stands motionless, staring out into the yard full of deep snow. His eyes narrowed and nose twitching. The slight breeze ruffles his white coat and his ears blow ever so slightly backward. suddenly, he explodes forward pulling the earth under him as he runs. Round and round, faster and faster he races. He turns and switches back like a rabbit and jumps the corners of the paths in the yard with ease. Nobody but Eva can outrun him and he knows it. This is Peyton, the Bedlington.
When we first got him as a 12 week old puppy, his breeder told us he must always run. It is part of the Bedlington psyche, she said. She could not have been more right. At nearly three years old he sill loves the game. His favorite is getting another dog to chase him. Peyton runs in front of them just fast enough to keep them in the game and seems genuinely disapointed when they drop out. When our puppies were here he was like their big brother. He was gentle and playful and totally trustworth with his little sisters and brothers. He taught them to be brave and explore our yard with reckless abandon. He would watch them thoughfully and we wondered what he was thinking. We wonder that a lot.
Our other dogs are so transparent in their thoughts. It’s all right there on the surface of their faces. They hold no grudges. Peyton is harder to read. He is easily offended by the sharp word or a tug on his tail. He will stare at us and wander off, not returning any time soon. He loves to do the tricks he and I do together. My motivation in this is to get him to want to do things with me in hopes we can still rise to greatness in the show ring. Peyton’s motivation is different, I suspect. But even as he careens through the rooms of our house there is a quietness to him not found in the other ones.
Peyton is exotic, inscrutable, and so proud, not like our other dogs. He is more solitary and more inward. This breed in general, is loving with its people if a little standoffish with strangers. Being raised without the company of any other Bedlingtons he is suspicious of them when he sees them at a show. He believes himself to be a Kerry Blue and is joyful when he sees other Kerries in a ring or in the grooming area. He seems more quiet and thoughtful than our other dogs. They with the Irish temperament, and he so English. Slower to anger, but every bit the fighter they are. Peyton runs the back fence line when he hears the neighbor dogs come outside and bark. He jumps into the corner by our ash pit and his ears stand straight out from his head and his face looks more pointy. He jumps up and down with his front legs out to the side and barks a deep threatening bark. This is his Bedlington side. He grabs a toy in the yard and with the grip strength of a Pit Bull, he implors me to swing him around. He leaps at me and slaps me with his feet, demanding me to do the same. His eyes harden and he clamps down on his yard toy. Swing me, swing me! I cannot resist the little white one. I swing and swing him and throw him out into the snow. He rebounds, takes a lap around the yard and comes racing back to play some more. His face as he runs is calm with as much of a faint smile as any dog can effect. No lolling tongue, no heaving sides, just effortless galloping and a self-satisfaction I envy. Peyton is totally at peace with himself when he runs.
This is what Peyton was born for. We got him as a show dog and had hoped he would enjoy doing it with me. But somehow things went awry. I suspect I pressured him and didn’t truly embrace his Bedlingtonness. Maybe he wasn’t the only one who thought he was a Kerry Blue. Watching him move with his springy gait around the yard, head up, reaching and driving I assumed he would do that with me within the confines of a 20 x 30 ring with dogs he obviously thinks are strange. I know he tried at first, but his natural suspicion of things different, and my annoyance with his poor performance, eventually overcame him.
But the snow season is what seems to energize him. We get snow from Halloween to Memorial Day most years. Peyton wishes it were longer. He refuses to stay on the shoveled paths the other dogs seem to welcome and instead delights in leaping the drifts. His soft coat picks up the clingy snow and forms great balls on his legs and underside. He plunges his whole head into the snow and burrows into it. Peyton is oblivious to the cold and freezing winds, nothing matters to him except the running. He will not be called into the house to snuggle with us or see his friends. He remains outside raging at the sounds he hears.
When he finally grows weary, he will allow one of us to bring him inside where he has no choice but to endure a spray down in the bath tub and the wind from the blow dryer. He knows there is more snow waiting for him next time it is his turn to go outside. Later in the evening, we let him out for the last time before bed. We watch from the dining room window as he again runs his yard. This time the snow has frozen with a thin skin on top of the drifts. Peyton leaps from the path onto the snow, walking on the frozen water. His twenty-three pounds are just light enough to be supported by the frozen crust of snow. He stands staring around his world. The night breeze lifts his ears and ruffles his coat. He raises his head and sniffs into the night. He is alone and he runs on, happy in his game.
We bring him in for his last spray down. He knows it’s the time for quiet and loving. Peyton’s favorite person in our house is my mom. He comes to her and jumps into her lap. He folds his body into hers and presses his face into hers. Suddenly he is transformed into the dog we thought he should be. Loving, cuddly and wanting to be with us. But if you look into his eyes in about five minutes you can see he is his own dog. Longing to be running in his yard in the snow.