The wooden house Bernie built in the Tisbury woods had pine walls and floors, and arching paneled doors he’d made, and wooden latches he’d carved for every door.
We heated with wood, stuffing the Vermont Castings stove each evening, tamping it down so it would burn all night. Double paned windows, latched, did their best to keep the cold out.
I sat up late, reading on the sofa after Bern had gone to bed, down comforter tucked around me. Cold rose through the floor.
I fell asleep.
Sharp paws banged my shoulder. Harpo hit me once, twice, ran crying to the kitchen door, out the dog door and back inside to bark again into my face.
I pulled on my parka, boots, hat and followed him outside. Down the hill he raced to the frozen pond. Sitting on my heels, nightgown dragging through crackling snow, I slid behind him.
Winter silence at pond’s edge. Stars, and the curve of the moon. A whimper so soft I thought it was the sound of my own breath. A dog.
I screamed “BERN!”, crashed a path onto the pond, broke through. Freezing water and chunks of ice poured into my boots. Flesh frozen hard, the dog stuck to the ice.
Harpo ran the shore while I pulled on the rigid dog, screaming for help to the house shut tight against cold and sound.
“Please, please please,” I prayed to the tiny stars.
Above, trees cracked in the freeze.
“What’s wrong?” Bern crashed through the brambles.
We wrestled the dog from the ice, carried him up the steep hill into the house, ran the tub to thaw him, lay him in it.
As he softened, leaves flowed from his fur. We wrapped him in towels, lay him before the opened doors of the wood stove.
Old dog, we saw. But alive.
Bern said, “Harpo came and got me.”
He had run from the pond to the house, jumped through the dog door, pushed open the latched bedroom door and banged onto Bern’s chest, barking until he woke.
Almost hidden in thick fur, we found the old dog’s old collar. It had a tag with his name, Stilgar, and phone number. We woke his owners who didn’t realize he had wandered off through the winter woods for miles, disoriented, until he staggered onto our pound and fell through the ice. Too old and weak to fight his way out of even the shallow water, he had stood in it, freezing to death, until Harpo heard him cry.
They wrote Harpo a thank you note and brought him a bouquet of vibrant daffodils.
Bernie made him a paper rosette. “For Harpo,” it said.
“Good Deed Do-er.”