My favorite place in all the world is behind a dog. There’s simply nowhere I’d rather be, unless, maybe, my balcony. That’s pretty swell, too, but only from April through October. Well, come to think of it, both spots — the balcony and the other end of a leash — are pretty bleak in winter. Inside, behind a mug of coffee is good or under the heat lamp in the bathroom is also quite lovely.
But I digress; back to the dog.
I recently took possession of a chihuahua / Jack Russell terrier mix named Sparky, née Melanie. This is a bashful dog, somewhat aloof and skittish around outsiders She doesn’t bolt, she isn’t headstrong or heedless or impulsive. In a word, she’s docile, so I keep her on a pretty loose leash. Or did. I’ve since learned to hang on tight.
One lovely spring evening we went for a stroll, as we often do. The sun had fallen low, a soft breeze was afoot, birds chattered in the trees, and Sparky sashayed along with an unhurried nonchalance. My mind wandered to other things, like penguins and circus clowns. Why are people (meaning me) afraid of them, I wondered. Neither can give chase — one because they have no knees, the other because their shoes are the size of swim fi–the leash flew from my hand.
The dog had legged it. She was a nine pound bullet barreling after a wily, nimble squirrel. I froze, astonished, and, for a split second, admiration bloomed as I watched Sparky’s furry little self hurtle toward dark, shadowy, tick-infested woods.
I snapped out of my daze and called her name. She kept going. I called her name louder. She kept going. So I hollered her name, and she stopped so suddenly, so abruptly her front feet locked and her rear end rose off the ground. She was forced into a clumsy, dancing handstand. Feet pedaled furiously in midair until she regained control and brought her back-end down for a bumpy four-point landing.
I didn’t know whether to applaud or scold. Applause seemed like encouragement for bad behavior and punishment too hurtful, so I settled for casual indifference and patted her on the head. Her head, by the way, is the size of a billiard ball. I’m fascinated by it. I try to imagine what’s in there and picture a brain the size of a Milk Dud. No genius, perhaps, but she’s good-natured and agreeable and loyal. Plus, she’s fastidious in her, shall we say, toilette?
May we all be so well-mannered.
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