Published in the Rains County Leader on June 5, 2018:
This past week, David and I were house, dog, and cow sitting. The house sitting is the easy part since all we’re expected to do is to make the house look lived in. We try not to make it look too lived in, but just enough to encourage any passing burglars to move on to a less lived-in house. The cow part is pretty simple, too. Since we are still basically city folks, our only job is to count noses on our way in or out. This time there were only four noses – the older ladies were visiting a friend in the hopes of expanding the herd.
The third part of the job is where I usually get my writing material. Spike, the Great
Pyrenees mix who rules the house, is friendly and frisky. He’s also big and strong, and he has a mind of his own. The last time we stayed with him, I took him for a walk on his leash. Even though he has more than sixty acres in which to run, the sight of his leash sends him into a frenzy. His favorite route is up the driveway to the road, to the end of the property, and back to the house. Even though David once clocked him at over twenty miles an hour, when he’s on the leash, he’s content to amble along at the walker’s speed – unless a car comes along.
I had walked him a couple of times without incident, but on that particular day, we were almost to the end of the pasture when I heard a car. I had been warned, so I stopped, took a firm hold on Spike’s collar, and braced myself. I think I would have been okay if he had lunged forward. Instead, he reared up on his back legs which made him almost as tall as I am. Then, he lunged forward, and I ended up in an unladylike pile on the ground, tangled in the leash. Thankfully, David was with us, and he grabbed Spike’s collar before he escaped. David handled the leash on the way back to the house.
As the time approached for us to spend some time with our canine friend, I was glad to learn that he was mellowing at almost four years old. In the past, he had to be tethered when left on his own to keep him from following the car onto the road and beyond. However, Stella recently discovered that if she told him to “Sit” and “Stay” several times, reinforcing her voice commands with hand signals, he obeyed and stayed on the patio. That sounded good, but I was skeptical that he would listen to me.
Kent and Stella left in the wee hours of the morning on Friday, too early to leave Spike out where he might tangle with the night critters. We arrived around 9:00 am to give him his breakfast and let him out for a run. He was back and lying on the patio well before time for us to leave for the Senior Center, so I followed Stella’s instructions and crossed my fingers. He sat and watched us as we drove away, but I kept checking the rearview mirror. No Spike.
Saturday morning when we went to feed Kitty, and we tried it again. Spike was lying in a corner behind a table when I called him to go through the sit/stay routine. He ambled out with a yawn, listened to my commands with a look that said Yeah, whatever, and wandered back over to his corner where he stayed. On Sunday when we left for church, he was lying down, so I left him alone and we drove away with no problems.
The rest of the week was equally uneventful with the only problem being when Spike and I disagreed on how much petting was enough while we watched TV in the evening. Friday morning, since I didn’t have to go to work, David suggested we go for a ride in the Mule and check out the blackberries and wild plums Stella had told us about. As soon as we opened the garage door and David fired up the engine, Spike went crazy, doing a doggy happy dance and barking joyfully. I offered to lower the tailgate and let him ride in back, but he made it clear he wanted to run alongside. He raced us around the perimeter of the property, disappearing into the woods and popping out unexpectedly somewhere ahead of us. Even though it was still early, it was hot, and he took a dip in the pond before catching up with us on the other side. By the time we got back to the house, his tongue was hanging out. It was too hot to leave him outside, but he was too much of a mess to go in the house.
“Hey, buddy,” I said before we left to go check on Kitty, “I think it’s time for you to go into the barn.”
Instead of having to drag him on the leash and fight to get the door closed before he escaped, I simply walked that direction, opened the door, and he walked in. I waited for him to find his spot on the cool floor – it’s air conditioned – and I placed a bowl of fresh water close to him.
I’ve seen lots of pictures on Facebook recently of kids of all ages in caps and gowns with lots of mothers bemoaning the fact that their babies are growing up. It’s sometimes sad to see little ones lose the baby cuteness and become more mature. In Spike’s case, though, I’m not all that sad.
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