Dear Readers: This the second in my three part piece first published in Penmen Review, June 23rd. If you can’t wait to read the ending (I know how hard it is to wait sometimes… just go to here).
Paw Two: Behavior? I try to be very, very good to you and to everyone we love. My behavior is best when I am supposed to perform and make other people happy. Then I am happy too, like when we are on the job as a therapy dog team…you and me. We both like to make people happy. When I get too hot or restless, all I have to do is lie down, face the door, or stop walking next to you. You catch on immediately. You are very smart. I am proud of you.
When it’s time to do our work, you start to walk in and out of your bedroom faster, almost running, like you mean business. I follow you all around because I know we might be going to work together. Then you put on fresh pants and a clean shirt and strap your special little purse over your shoulder, the one full of treats and baggies and keys. That is the clincher. If you don’t put on that little purse, we probably aren’t going anywhere together. You might be leaving me and that makes me very sad, but I usually have several hours to sleep it off. If we are going together, you tie your shoes and march downstairs, grabbing my special blue leash and harness. That is your behavior. It is outstanding.
Oh, dog! I am excited. We both know what fun we’re about to have. You are already smiling at me. I make you happy. Up! you say, pointing to the grooming table. I pretend I don’t hear you until I get a treat first. When you hold it out for me, I jump up. You spray wonderful lavender all over me and comb me and brush me and pick the thistles out of my paws and kiss the top of my head. Then you strap on my harness under my belly and across my chest, my scarf around my neck, and my blue leash, and I know we’re going on the job.
So my behavior has to match yours. I mean business too. I hop into the car and lie down and wait patiently until our car comes to a complete stop. I meditate on how I am supposed to act. You drive to a place where we are going to show other people how cute we are. Especially me. We go to a special spot where sometimes there are other therapy teams. Dogs are not supposed to talk to each other when they’re on the job. People pet me and talk about me and ask you questions about me and I am very, very good! Sometimes all the attention makes me restless, but I concentrate on how good they are feeling and I wait until each person is finished. Every once in a while, I look around at the other therapy dogs to see if they’re having as much fun as I am. I notice that a lot of dog people talk constantly. I like that you don’t talk a lot. When we’re both tired, you reach into your little purse, and find me a big venison and sweet potato treat. Then I know it’s time to go home.
Oliver’s advice: When you act important, that makes me feel important too. Sometimes one of us isn’t having as much fun as the other team member. We are good about matching each other’s behavior. If one of us is ready to go home, the other one must cooperate. Always remember to reward my good behavior! You reward me with a treat because I’m a dog, and I reward you with all of me, the best treat of all.