Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 458
"As Birds Bring Forth the Sun" is a short story from a collection by Alistair Macleod. The setting is about a hundred years in the past, by the sea. A highland father rescues and raises a puppy. When the young dog gets run over by a horse-drawn cart, family members advise him to put the dog out of her misery. Instead, he nurses her back to health:
he fashioned a small box . . . He placed her within the box and placed the box behind the stove and . . . he held open her small and trembling jaws with his left hand while spooning in the sweetened milk with his right, ignoring the needle-like sharpness of her small teeth.
The details about her teeth, and the rough way she shows the owner affection, foreshadow her dangerous nature. The first paragraph describes how she interacts with him:
if she jumped up to lick his face, which she loved to do, her paws would jolt against his shoulders with such force that she would come close to knocking him down and he would be forced to take two or three backward steps before he could regain his balance.
She grows into a beast of a dog that he nicknames "cù mòr glas," which means “the big gray dog” in Gaelic. After she gets pregnant, she runs off. A year later, the owner and two of his sons take shelter from a storm and find the dog. Unfortunately, the mother dog knocks over their father during their reunion. This is interpreted as an attack by her offspring, and the owner is killed.
They had never seen him before, and seeing him stretched prone beneath their mother, they misunderstood, like so many armies, the intention of their leader.
The two sons suffer from the trauma and are haunted by an image of the dog. One commits suicide, and the other dies in a bar fight. The dog turns into a legend and is compared by the narrator to Sasquatch and the Loch Ness Monster. She is
seen on a hill in one region or silhouetted on a ridge in another or loping across the valleys or glens in the early morning or the shadowy evening. Always in the area of the half-perceived.
In the modern day, the descendants of the mauled owner gather at the deathbed of their father. Everyone thinks about the omen of death, but no one mentions it, afraid that the act could kill their father.
Bound here in our own peculiar mortality, we do not wish to see or see others see that which signifies life's demise. We do not want to hear the voice of our father, as did those other sons, calling down his own particular death upon him.