It is a poor substitute, to say the least. We go through the motions – I make him sit and hold while I go hide the dummy in the brush, make him wait till I return to his side, release him with a ‘fetch’ command. At this, he explodes, his hard-wired enthusiasm escaping in high-pitched barks as he charges toward the location.
He drops it at my feet and sits. He will do this with me all day, if I have the stamina – his, on the other hand, is not in question.
But there is no rich panoply of smells typical of an October day in pursuit of wild birds. We are not riding currents of air and ground scent, not feeling the same, simultaneous explosion in our hearts at a bird that launches skyward, not savoring the sharp tang of a spent shell carried on the breeze. There is only a feeble smell of rubber and plastic, the familiar heft of something bird-like in shape and weight. Something that, for reasons he probably can’t understand, is not a bird.
I feel cheap. I feel like I owe him a lot more. I feel like I’m trying to explain sex to my son, and I just copped out and bought him a blow-up doll instead.
But it is March and the snow continues to fall and another season is so goddam far away that I have no choice but to focus on more immediate distractions and put the thought of it out of my head. I imagine that his approach is not much different.
He drops the dummy at my feet.