A RAUCOUS AFTERNOON

You can set your watch to our dog. At 6:30 every morning it’s time for breakfast and he stands on top of me. Unfortunately, this past Sunday, Sully didn’t understand that we turned the clocks back one hour, so it was 5:30 when he perched on me, much like a goat stands atop a rock to check out the sights and be tall, or whatever goats do when they stand on rocks. If I don’t wake up instantly, and usually that’s not a problem because we’re not talking about a teeny Chihuahua here, I’ll feel kisses on my face. Then he circles while standing on me. Now I’m wincing. But I’m awake, and I know that in seconds, I’ll be hearing the roar of the first jet engine taking off from the local airport, precisely at 6:30. On occasion, I can get him to settle down and give me a few extra minutes sleep, but it’s really hard to sleep with a dog perched on top of you, knowing that soon, those paws again will start to dig. Generally, I hop out of bed as soon as I can slide the dog off his perch.

Delightfully repetitive, Sully performs another ritual. Whenever a family member comes home, he races to the door, greets the family member with a few jumps and perhaps a howl or two, and then races back to the kitchen to dig through his basket of well-chewed toys. While the loved one is removing keys from the door, Sully is choosing just the right toy. This can be a ball, or a cardboard toilet paper tube that he loves to chase, toss into the air, grab and chew and toss and chase again, or, it can be a cute squeaky plush toy that is now torn and shredded, with stuffing falling out as he carries it around the house. Racing back to the front door, the dog drops the toy at the newcomer’s feet and expects reciprocation.

After running a few errands yesterday, I came home to one very happy doggie. He even howled in excitement when I pet him, and I obliged, flinging his pick-of-the-moment, a disgusting, worn, two-sided doggie toy into the air. In-between tosses, I hung up my jacket, and even started a little dinner. The dog ran into the family room, adjacent to the kitchen. Really into this game now, he was wagging his tail hard and smiling (Yes, dogs smile!), and stretching his backside high in the air as he waited for me to pitch the toy again. I hurled it far into the kitchen and the dog skidded and grabbed the shabby cloth, expertly avoiding hitting the wall, and ran back into the family room with it hanging from his teeth. Next there was this little tug-o’-war which I won but not before hearing another rip in the fabric. Oh, well. My next toss was supposed to go straight up, because the dog likes to catch things on the fly, but it landed on the back of the sofa. In an instant, Sully leapt on top of the sofa and was back on the floor, shaking the toy out of his mouth back to me. He is fast! I gave the toy a full-arm toss. Sully ran into the kitchen after it, and I watched as the toy arced high in the air on an angled trajectory. It plopped without a splash directly into the pot of near-boiling water on the stove top. This pot was going to hold pasta in a few more minutes.

I ran over to the steaming pot to see a well-worn green and yellow plush turtle floating on the surface of my pasta water, the two little embroidered eyes and smile looking up at me. It was absorbing the droplets of oil and salted water, but continued to float, and even spun a bit in the water. The dog was barking and running in circles looking for his beloved half turtle, half alligator. I was laughing so hard I couldn’t stand upright. The pot was steaming, the dog was getting more animated by the second as he believed I was hiding the toy as part of the game. Next he was jumping on me, starting to howl again. The old Smothers Brothers routine, “Mom Always Liked You Best” popped into my head. Remember that bit? The bird flew into a pot of hot milk and one of the brothers exclaims, “I don’t like cream of asparakeet.” In the spirit of that routine, I found myself thinking, Hmmm — I’ve never tasted mock turtle soup! And, What’s the chance I can hit that shot again? We’ve been tossing doggie toys from the family room since we adopted Sully a year ago. Maybe I should keep the pot there and try again? And, If I boil the thing to sterilize it, will it disintegrate? The embroidered eyes and smile still looked at me. Then the final line in the Smothers Brothers routine popped into my head. “And mom made me eat it!”

Tears were falling I was laughing so hard. I carefully grabbed a not-yet immersed bit of turtle from the pasta water; the alligator portion underneath was completely submerged. I ran to the sink in the laundry room, trying to avoid dripping hot water on me or the dog, who now was practically jumping into my arms. However, I quickly abandoned my efforts to try and wring the thing dry; it was going to take too long and the dog was beside himself. He was howling one long howl. I just stashed the toy for later. Seeing Sully’s other well-worn, disgusting but beloved two-sided half cat, half dog plush toy, I yanked it from the basket and carried on with the game, throwing it far from the pot and back into the family room.

The pasta was delicious.

Kathy Galgano

October 7, 2013

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