Coffee-dog has a retirement party at the office tomorrow. Whereas he once paced by the door, creating a physical impediment to my egress, my daily query, “you want to go to work today, buddy?” is now met with a heartfelt tail thump, a look that seems to say, "you go on without me" and no more.
He is old, and with age he has become a more needy dog. Well, he has always been an emotionally needy dog, so the more accurate statement is: his physical needs have eclipsed his emotional needs with age. Reflecting back on the past year, I have spent more time attending to his physical needs and less time just sitting together with my hand on his head, or patting his back, or rubbing his chest. That boy loves to have his chest rubbed. I commit myself to lots of chest rubbing and petting henceforth.
December 31st was his birthday. Traditionally this would have been celebrated with the bestowing of a big, beefy bone, but since he has had most of his teeth extracted, he got an obscenely large snausage twist treat thing, a rare deviation from an otherwise pretty controlled diet.
To say that Coffee is a mellow dog would be such a vast understatement; it would be like remarking that the surface of the sun is temperate. Coffee has been known to allow children to use him as an organic jungle-gym, offering only a plaintive look by way of objection or self-preservation. To say Coffee is an unmotivated dog, however, would be just plain wrong. I was talking to a member of my staff yesterday about the old fellow, and she was extolling his praises, and reminding me of the myriad stories Coffee has been the protagonist in across our time together. It is in this spirit that I offer the following story, one heretofore untold in this blog, a grave oversight on my part:
We had gone to visit my father and his wife at their new home in a small town in Southeast Kansas, and to make a day side-trip to Southwest Missouri to meet a new nephew over the weekend. By this time in our relationship, Coffee had become my constant traveling companion, so his attendance was a non-issue, at least until we arrived at my dad’s house. My dad had two aging and unpleasant cats who simply would not tolerate the incursion of another animal into their domestic domain. Through the evening, the arrangement was fine as it was March, the weather was pleasant, and we were able to spend the remaining time outside, Coffee sitting companionably at our knees.
When it was time for bed, we set down a bed in the two-car garage, laid out some treats in his food dish, and an ample supply of water. I left a light on for Coffee, wished him sweet dreams, and retired to bed in the house.
At about 5:00 in the morning, my dad woke me, telling me he thought something was going on with my dog. I pulled on clothes and trotted to the back door where it was very clear the overhead garage door had been pushed open about 10 inches. I walked outside into the very cold morning air, Coffee’s leash in hand, and began looking for him. As I was finishing walking the perimeter of the back yard, Coffee came trotting around from the front of the house.
We went about our business for the day, loading Coffee-dog into the car for the short jaunt to Missouri, and returned to my father’s house later that afternoon to a compiled honey-do list. First on the list was the installation of a ceiling fan, requiring us to install a ceiling fan brace from the attic. We fastened Coffee’s lead to the clothesline in the backyard to give him some time in the fresh air while we got started on the list.
I clambered into the attic, leaving my partner downstairs under the proposed ceiling fan location. Presently, there was a knock at the back door, and my father answered it to meet his next-door neighbor for the first time. We could hear the conversation from our respective locations. It went roughly like this:
Histrionic neighborlady (hereinafter HN): Is that your dog? (At this I am assuming she is gesturing towards Coffee, tethered to the clothesline.)
Dad: Well, no. That’s my daughter’s dog. She is visiting this weekend. And you are?
HN: I live right there. (As this I am assuming she is gesturing to the house next door). That dog knows where I live. He broke into my house last night.
Dad: I’m sorry. That dog knows. . . ? Come again?
HN: That. Dog. Broke into my house last night. While I was sleeping. He broke in. He was standing beside my bed, looking at me with those yellow eyes. He broke into my house.
Dad: Well, I don’t know what to say about that.
HN: (continuing, thereby absolving Dad of any need to say anything about that) I was sound asleep and I could feel him looking at me. I was so scared, I covered my head with the blankets. I peeked out and he was standing there, looking at me. I had to call my daughter to come get him. She took him out of the house and HE BROKE IN AGAIN.
HN: He jumped on the door, and he pushed it in. I had to put a chair in front of the door to keep him out. He broke in again.
(I peek through the fixture hole in the ceiling to see my partner laughing silently and clutching her sides, tears streaming down her face.)
HN: That dog kept breaking into my house. I was terrified. He was standing beside my bed, just looking at me. And then he broke in again. Thank God my daughter was there. She is very good with dogs. I was terrified. I didn’t know what it was. Those big yellow eyes looking at me in the dark. And he was breathing on me. I was scared. To. Death.
(I hear the gasp of barely-contained laughter from my partner, and the tone of voice change from my dad that indicated he was not amused.)
Dad: Well, I am awfully sorry about that.
HN: You just keep control of that dog. I don’t want him breaking into my house again tonight. I was a nervous wreck. Didn’t sleep a wink. Scared. To. Death.
My dad apologized about 20,000 more times, promised to keep the wild beast under control so the lady could get some sleep tonight, and finally placated the woman off his back stoop.
Coffee, the hardened criminal: