I’m awake from a dream of chasing a chattering red squirrel up an oak tree. It was dropping acorns on my nose. Now I have to wake you up from your dream about cars careening out of control. Here’s how I work: I jump down from the bed, pace back and forth, click my toenails loudly on the hardwood floor, stretch first once hind leg out behind me, and then the other. I’m stiff from being curled up on your feet. You pretend you’re still asleep, so I put one paw up on your arm. My sister and I are ready to go outside.
Our first walk begins at six a.m. Rachel Rabbit next door hides under the bush as soon as she knows I’m on patrol. I lift my leg on her bush to make sure. To smell who’s been around, I sniff around the baseline and up the bark of every tree anointed by other dogs. My sister Calliope squats on the boulevard and I cover her spot so no one else gets the bright idea she’s their girl.
My daddy is the best there is. He takes me everywhere I want to go. He lets my leash out loose, but you keep me close. Sometimes you walk in the morning, but usually my daddy goes out alone, especially when it’s cold.
I love going down to the beach. It smells of giant birds called Canada geese that scared me when I was little, but now that I’m as big as they are, I scare them. I have a hard time not eating their green poop which is truly bright and beautiful. You won’t let me, but every once in a while when you’re not looking, I sneak one. Delicious. Too bad you don’t think so.
After my sister and I do our business, we all go home. I am already thinking about breakfast so I pull harder at the leash. Crunch, crunch, that’s the sound I hear in my head before I get home. Kibble between teeth.
You fill my bowl and say All done! and I race to breakfast. I have a special bowl with alleys in it to slow me down. My special bowl takes me a few seconds longer. I gobble down my food and get the hiccups. I am Oliver of large appetites.
I bring in the morning newspaper. I bark once really loud in case you’ve forgotten. You open the front door wide enough for me to strut out on the deck, survey the landscape, sniff the air to see what kind of day it’s going to be, and pick up the paper in my mouth. When it’s wrapped in a plastic bag it’s easy to grip with my teeth. I am really good at this. I prance right into the kitchen. You say Sit. I sit. You say, Hand it to me. I raise my head and open my mouth. Sometimes the paper drops to the floor and you repeat what you said before. I pick it up and we try again. If it’s not wrapped right or it’s too heavy, you carry some of it yourself. That’s okay with me as long as I get a treat.
If you give me too much time before I reach the kitchen, I might drop it on purpose and tear it. I love that sound. Rip, rip. One rip and I need to rip it more and more until it is shredded. I might even growl. You don’t like this. This is bad dog behavior. You might not give me my reward. I am big on rewards. Very big on rewards. Treats. Big fat sweet potato/venison bones. Dog, do I love those! I chew one up and my morning is made.
Oliver’s advice: Follow close on my heels to make sure I bring the paper to the kitchen immediately. Once I have started to shred it, the sound and feel of shredding are too delicious and I can’t stop. I am greedy and impatient so you must help me when I spin out of control.
Dog, it’s a wonderful day. I am ready to go out on the deck and lie around, but, Hey! You’re sitting down already reading the paper.
Don’t you remember I like to go out on the deck after I’ve eaten my treat? That never changes. Except when it’s very, very windy. I like the wind for a very short time. It makes my fur feel really clean and good. If it’s wintertime and it’s sunny out, I sit on the deck and feel happy for at least ten minutes. Then, I have to click my nails on the sliding glass door, but you’re back at your desk with your head down. I see you from where I’m lying down.
I guess I can wait. For awhile. I click my nails on the door a few more times. You ignore me. I have to tell you out loud. Hey! It’s me! Bark, bark! Remember me? I want to come inside now where it’s warm. I want to jump on your daybed and curl up on your warm, cozy, green blanket. I snore.
You’re having someone over who’s more important than me? I heard you talking to her on your cell phone. You can read my mind and I can read yours. Don’t you remember we were going out today? We were going walking around the lake. Remember? No one is more important than me! I’m running and prancing in circles in the living room to show you Just how cute I am and you’re not even looking. I hear a car door slam. I know things before you do and it’s my job to tell you.
Bark, bark, bark, bark, bark. She’s coming up the sidewalk. She doesn’t walk with us. She’s too old. You’re going to the front door to let in someone who isn’t even close to being as adorable or young as I am. Look at me.
Now I’m shaking the white horse in my teeth. Browl, growl, I am ferocious. I can bite the ear off the horse and chew it and shake the horse and you aren’t paying attention. My skills are phenom. If I hurl the horse up in the air and leap around, you come over and take the horse away, so I have to do it quietly, surreptitiously. Yes, I know that word. I listen to you and use all the words you use, only I can’t say them aloud. I shake Whitey, the white horse, until one ear is completely gone. Some of it I have to swallow. Oh, Dog, this is fun, except when I choke. Why can’t you play with me? I’m much more entertaining than your people.
The doorbell rings. Oh, dog! She’s here to see us! I jump and twirl. Then I grab the biggest pillow I can find and shake it. I have to do this to get you to look at me. As soon as the person removes her shoe, I pick it up in my teeth and prance away. I am proud when you call me Lightning. The person starts shouting at me. Doesn’t she know how wonderful I am? I’ll show her. I’ll see if she can catch me. If she tricks me into a corner, I’ll drop her shoe. But, look! There’s your favorite, delicious white and red dishtowel. Each time I get it, I tear it a little more. The rrrrripping sound is so satisfying.
When your person leaves, I see her to the door. I am glad to have you alone. I lie down right by the door that leads out to the deck. I look at the door and you let me out. I see it all. I see humans on bicycles, rollerblades, skateboards. I see small humans in buggies and I see other dogs that look like fun. The noise of skateboard wheels lifts my ears. I would like to bite the feet of the humans who ride them, bite their feet hard until they stop making that noise. But I‘m stuck inside so I have to tell them to stop from far away. I bark, Stop! Stop that! RR-Rouf!! but they don’t listen. They keep going. They don’t listen to me at all.
Other people look very scary because they wear dark clothes and walk with their arms close to them, looking down, like they’re going to pull a fast one. I bark in my deepest voice, Keep your distance! Woof! Woof! Woof! Woof! Woof! Stay away from us! No, I mean far away! Go to the other side of the street! Better yet, go where I can’t see you at all!
I want to come inside, so I put one paw up on the glass door and drag it down. It makes a wonderful screeching sound. You hear it too. You open up the sliding door and say Come inside! I show you how much I appreciate it by hugging your leg. You don’t like that. You push on my head, instead of hugging me back. You say, That hurts! I get way too excited.
Today is a therapy team day. You show me all the signs. You get my special leash and harness, Dog! Do I love it! You put on your necklace with my picture on it and comb and brush me. You spray lavender all over me. I smell delicousl. You comb and brush me some more and you put a special elastic in my man bun and I am so handsome. I can hardly stand it. I tell you over and over again how much fun we’re going to have. I twirl and twirl, and finally sit still so you can put on my outfit. We go to the garage. You open the back gate of our car and say Hop up! I smell the treat bag and I smell my own blanket. You drive us where we’re going—the Shalom Home. Shalom means peace. We bring peace. Today we see people who are lying in bed. I jump up on the bed and just lie there. Sometimes I like the way people smell, especially when it’s lunchtime. Sometimes the special stinky stuff people in the hospital put on their hands called hand sanitizer makes me sneeze.
Some people are sitting up in wheelchairs so when they pet me, I don’t have to jump on their beds. They pet me and pet me and pet me but if they tousle me too much, I scoot backwards. I like it better when they just quietly stroke my head, from the top of my head down my back to my tail. I close my eyes and am mindful of why I am here—to comfort.