On Sunday morning I heard the soft click of the front door opening and closing. It was just enough noise to wake me, and for a moment I noted the wan beams of morning’s first light filtering through my curtains. I recalled that my Airbnb guest would be checking out that morning. “It’s so early,” I thought as I rolled over, retracting my toes under the warmth of the down comforter. I had not expected him to leave so soon, but I decided I had no interest in venturing out to say goodbye. I closed my eyes and immediately fell asleep.
A few hours later I was jolted back into consciousness when a low rattle of a growl erupted from Buck’s throat. I heard the front door click once again – my guest had not checked out but rather gone out for breakfast and returned. Although his departure had not warranted a response from Buck, his return was cause for action. Buck launched himself out of the closet in one ferocious leap and bounded to the closed door where he let loose a barrage of angry barks.
Even without poking my head out into the hallway, I knew that this threatening display was completely unnecessary. I calmly said his name over and over again until he quieted down, turned three full circles, and sank back onto his bed with a grumble.
It was a jarring start to my day, but it was nice to know that a large, scary-sounding dog has got my back.
Lately I’ve been setting my alarm fifteen minutes early each morning so we can spend a few minutes of quality time together before I begin the workday.
Near the end of Monday’s walk, as we turned the corner onto our street, he began to strain at the leash. I jerked him back in line with a solid tug, but he was unfazed. Leaning against the leash with every single one of his fifty eight pounds, he pulled me towards a parked car, lowered his belly to the ground, and crawled halfway underneath. He emerged a moment later with a grungy tennis ball in his mouth. He grinned and pranced about in circles as I lavishly praised his cleverness.
Back at home, he headed straight towards his food dish to investigate, dropping the ball in the living room on the way. I picked it up – gingerly, for it was coated in dirt and God knows what else – and tossed it down the long hallway that runs through the center of my condo. Buck scampered wildly across the hardwood floor, his feet flailing out from underneath him as he swerved, slipped, and finally gained momentum. He caught up with the ball as it crossed the carpeted threshold to the bedroom, bounced it once, and then – to my shock and awe – trotted back and dropped it at my feet.
Despite the fact that he is approximately half Lab, this is the first time in nearly ten years that he has successfully fetched a tennis ball.
Suspecting that it had to have been an accident, I once again tossed the ball down the hallway (which, at 6:45 am, ranks me among the world’s most inconsiderate upstairs neighbors.) He repeatedly returned, tail swinging back and forth, and dropped the ball in front of me.
Growing old has introduced several indignities into Buck’s life, but apparently he has picked up a few new tricks along the way.
I awoke at 6:00 this morning. My alarm is designed to wake me in the kindest possible way. It senses my movement and goes off when I am already in a period of light sleep, playing soothing music and the sound of gentle ocean waves. Still, the word that first crossed my mind upon waking is not suitable for publication. The soft strains of acoustic guitar were an affront to my tired ears.
I reached for my iPhone to silence the alarm when I heard Buck sigh sleepily from the closet floor. It was a long, drawn-out breath, barely audible amid the rolling waves emanating from my phone.
It was the most endearing sigh I had ever heard. It was a sigh that said “Not yet, Mom. Please, just one snooze?”
This is why my dog is the best dog ever. I was happy to oblige.