The part of day that any Dog likes the best is the early afternoon. The sun is high, the breeze is warm and brings smelly tales of distant mysteries. (And if your humans are willing, a second breakfast just before a nice nap until dinner.)
It was a Saturday like this in June that I was letting the sunlight warm my belly in the backyard when the backdoor burst open. This always happens when there’s quiet, as no old Dog can ever be left alone. Through the door came Daphne, whose belly says she’s, “A well-rounded, lovely Lady of Georgia,” and a rescue Dachshund besides. Her belly shook as she greeted the outdoors, which looked even funnier on such a long Dog.
“Why, Ah do just love that Georgia sunshine!” She trotted down the few porch steps, her short, stubby legs carrying her quickly, a shiny brown blur moving into the grass. I rolled around, paws in the air, snuffling in the refreshing scents of grass and dirt and scratched my back delightfully on the ground under me. The good feelings caused me to snort and grunt which also feel good.
Daphne pretended to be disgusted, but she was honored by the sight. “Oh, Ms. Sophie Belle! What ever’s the matter with yew, honey?”
“Afternoon, Daphne,” I said, snout in the air. I rose to my feet and gave my fur a good shake. “You know, sunlight always makes the grass smell better.”
Daphne sneezed in appreciation, which is polite as I’m the older Dog. “That breeze is blowin’ in some rain, Ah dare say. Well, look…!” She pointed skyward with her nose, “Some clouds a-comin’ already, Ms. Sophie, dear.”
She shook herself briskly, too, fixing her collar, then turned her attention to the weathered wooden fence that kept us Dogs in the yard. She sniffed around for new messages.
Since Daphne made it outside, I knew Mr. Pete would be along shortly. You can’t help but like Mr. Pete, he’s so tiny and helpless. He’s a respectable German fellow, lets us call him “Pete.” Another Dachshund, too, the tweenie kind with sleek Rottweiler trappings. It’s good for our house that all us Dogs have the brown eyes of smart Dogs.
Mom, one of my humans, found Pete alone outside a hospital when he was just a little, fresh puppy. He was about the size of a quarter, sick and frail. Mom brought him home and raised him up. She cared for him so much, he got healthier and stronger, but his left hind leg was twisted slightly. Now he can only run sideways which makes him look like a fleeing tray of brownies.
He was already going to be short and stubby, so he grew longer and wider since he can’t grow upwards. Sometimes, I wonder if he even has knees! Unlike Daphne, Pete can’t get down stairs by himself and he always has to remind us.
“Achtung!” Pete barked, jumping up and down on his front paws so he would sound taller. “Please, every-vone, I vould like to be in zee yard, please.”
Really, every Dog loves a yard, especially if it’s big and open like our backyard is. The wooden fence that keeps Dogs inside is the perfect place to get messages (and leave some, too!) from all the other animals coming and going. There are a few trees for shade when the afternoon sun gets to be too hot. Mom sometimes has a small garden she tends to in the warmer months, but it’s early summer and she hasn’t started anything yet. The open patch of dirt is a great place to dig up and eat bugs*, though!
I barked, “Have some courage Pete, old boy!” knowing that if all the Dogs were outside, there had to be a human to watch us.
Sure enough, Justin, a chubby, ruddy human kid of ten (in human years) with freckles made his way outside the door and scooped up Pete.
“Hang on, I’ve got ya, Mister,” he said merrily as he reached down to grab Pete’s lengthy, squirmy body. He carried him down the porch steps and gently placed him in the grass where “Short ‘n’ Long” Pete all but disappeared.
“Zank you, Justin!” Pete called as he started to bound around looking for a place to do his business. Only his thin black tail was visible waving above the grass.
I find Pete funny, he refers to himself as “a Viener-Dog, par excellence,” despite his size, but he’s a real gentleman, too. It’s hard to notice that sometimes because he’s downright pathetic if Mom or Daphne aren’t around.
Justin, on the other hand, isn’t a gentleman. No, he’s still a pup. He has no fur, except a small brown patch on his head and since he has no fur, he has to wear clothes. He’s shy around other humans, but he loves to talk to us Dogs. He stood and saw Daphne talking to her boyfriend through the fence and then he came over to see me.
“Sophie!” he greeted as he scratched my neck. Once I’m scratched, I can pay attention to him. “You’re a good girl.”
And I am a good girl, a great Dog, really! After all, my ancestors are dragons! On my mother’s side… Well, not really; my mother was a clever little Chinese Chow Chow called Song. But! She told me that, “We are citizens of the Chinese Republic and they claim they are descended from the dragon, so we are, too! You have a lot to be proud of.” I remember those words most, but also all the lessons she taught me as a puppy before I found my own family of humans.
My father was a black Labrador, “a stiff upper lip type” named Albert. He spent most of his time hunting with his humans, but he also taught me as much as my mother did. He said, “A Dog is strong and loyal, two very important things. A Dog will do hard work if he has to. And above all, a Dog always leads and protects his family.”
So, as you can see, I’m a mutt. But, my father also told me to be proud of this. He said it makes me special. And he’s right. I’m taller than Chow Chows, feistier (and shorter) than Labradors. I have my mother’s bushy coat, but my father’s black color. My mother’s super-curly tail and her blue tongue. My father’s long nose and heavy, large eyebrows. My hind legs are also straight, so I can’t run like a Labrador, but I pretend not to notice. Since there’s only Dachshunds and a human pup, I’m still the biggest and oldest Dog in the house. And as the oldest Dog, I’m the boss of all the puppies! …Which really means I’m the babysitter and, more importantly, the teacher.
As Justin scratches my ears, I jump up with my front paws on his chest so he can enjoy the smell of my breath while he has an easier time of scratching. “You’re breath stinks, Sophie!” He made an odd face when he said this but it’s right to compliment a Dog on their bad breath.
Justin can understand us Dogs pretty well. I take full credit for that since the first lessonI taught him is “If you use your imagination, you can talk to anything.” (<?) I’ve been around him since he was born. I was in the house before he was born, brought in by the two big humans, Dad and Mom. My mother said, “If a Dog comes into the house, good luck will follow!” but she also said, “Nothing shows the true happiness of a house like a Dog,” and so I knew that I couldn’t just be the first Dog, I would also have to be the best Dog.
Pete whined as the wind picked up, blowing the grass and tickling his nose. He was outside and Mom wasn’t, so he was a little anxious. He made his way over to Daphne and bumped into her with a whine.
On the other side of the fence was Daphne’s “great love,” Henry, an American Pit Bull. He was great, that’s for sure. Great at being big, great at being stinky and slobbery, and just superb at being ugly. The best I’ve ever seen, really. I don’t know what he said, but Daphne huffed.
“Why, Henry, sugar, how forward of yew!” Pete crowded Daphne, shoving his long body into hers and and resting his head on her back. A tsk! of disapproval escaped Daphne as she eyed Pete next to her. Pete’s head sagged as he went to chew on some grass, but he was long enough that his tail was still touching Daphne.
Daphne giggled at Henry and sighed, “Oh, Henry. It’s always so nice to talk to yew, but Ah’m afraid there’s just too much fence between us.” Daphne looked away shyly. “But maybe some day, sugar-baby…”
Henry snorted loudly and sauntered back to his own yard.
“Ah do love that Dog,” Daphne said low climbing up the porch steps.
“I don’t know vat you see in zat hulking brute,” Pete told her with his mouth full of grass, little bits of it sticking out through his teeth. “He’s so hideous!” He glanced in Henry’s direction through the fence.
As a southern girl, Daphne loved a rocking chair and it so happened that there was a tall, wooden one in squeaky condition on the porch. With every effort in every leg, she was able to jump up and lie down in it. “Ah know, Mr. Pete. He’s so hideous he’s just mesmerizin’! His face has true character.”
“Vhatever,” Pete waddled over to the steps. Even though he knew Justin was outside he barked, “Achtung! Please! I vould like to go up zee stairs, please.”
Justin smiled and picked him up and placed him on the porch where he went and sat by Daphne’s rocking chair. He looked up at her and whined a little.
A shadow passed over the yard as the clouds covered the sun. Pete trembled, the big baby. It’s hard to imagine he’s graying a bit about his mouth and beard, suggesting that he’s turning into an old Dog.
“See that, Sophie?” Justin asked. I jumped up the steps to show Team Dachshund how spry I was and then laid down next to Justin so he could pet me while we talked. It got even darker for a second and then the sun returned, though the sky was now crowded with clouds. “Smells like rain,” he said.
I grunted with pride at my human student. I closed my eyes in joy as he roughed up the top of my head. I knew how to get him going, though. Every pup loves dragons, and it’s important they know where to find them. So I said, “My mother told me that the clouds are dragons’ breath. There must be some close by if the weather changed so quickly!”
“Really, Sophie!?” Justin was surprised. “Where are they? How close?!”
I took a moment and shifted my weight, my tail a-wag. “Well, they could be right here, you know. Sometimes, in order to hide themselves, they have to look just like grass and trees and rocks.” Justin stood up straight. “Yep, all shapes and sizes.”
“Oh, wow! I’m going to find one!” Justin leapt off the porch gracelessly. He didn’t fall down, but it might have looked better if he had. It didn’t slow him down, though. “I bet that old tree at the very end of the yard is a dragon!”
I chuckled as the backdoor opened. It was Mom, of course, the only other human in the house during the day. “Wait, Justin! You better come in, there’s a bad storm coming.”
“Aw, ok.” Justin turned around, but he kept his eyes open for dragons hiding in the grasses.
“Mr. Pete, sweetie, would yew kindly help me out of this chair?” Daphne called. She could get into the rocking chair, but she couldn’t get out. Pete went over to the front and jumped up and steadied it with his front paws so she could jump down. “Thank yew, Petey.”
I swear Pete blushed as they both went into the house. I whispered to Justin, “Don’t worry. Sometimes dragons hide in food dishes, but only full ones. They like to eat the food inside.”
“Haha, nice try Sophie. The Dachshunds have already gotten me in trouble for feeding you guys too early.” Justin and I went in the house. The backdoor led to the kitchen which is where the food dishes were, painfully empty, I noticed. The water bowl was full so I had a drink. I prefer to drink out of the toilet, but I can only do that when no one is looking, though.
We gathered in the living room as the storm arrived. It thundered and lightning and rained and the wind blew! The Dachshunds cowered under a blanket on the sofa next to Mom. Pete whined and whined just in case we couldn’t find him with all the other noise.
Justin and I played with a worn, stinky tennis ball while Mom watched the news on TV. Catch is my favorite game, but I also like the part where Justin has to wrestle the ball away from me to throw it again. Sometimes there’s a chase and barking, usually from Justin.
“Mom, when’s Dad going to be home?” Justin asked as he pet my head and tried to get the ball out of my mouth.
“Not until after your bedtime, just like always,” Mom sighed. “At least the weather will have passed through by then.” She changed the channel from one news station to the other. The new is boring for Dogs and a kid.
But it wasn’t boring for long. There was a dazzling flash of lightning and all the lights flickered and the TV turned off! For a second, Pete’s sad whining was the only sound. Then a crashing boom! of thunder which shook the whole house. My fur stood on end and Mom shouted, “Whoa!”
Justin grabbed my fur pretty tight, but he didn’t cry. He was breathless, though, as he panted, “That was something, huh, Sophie?”
“Well! My heavens!” Daphne cursed. “’Something?!‘ That there was a sign of bad news, that’s what that was!” She shook off the blanket and jumped down from the couch. “Ah feel sorry for the poor folk that was meant for.” She burrowed her way under the couch and hid as Pete whined even louder somehow.
Then, the doorbell rang. Storm or not, the doorbell means someone is at the front door! I ran to it and started barking to get everyone’s attention. Pete recovered from his fright, too, and barked from under the covers. Daphne voiced her concern but remained out of sight.
“Who would that be in weather like this?” Mom asked as she rose to go answer the door. She pushed me out of the way and looked out of the peep-hole. “I can never see out of this thing.”
She opened the door and on the front stoop was a soaked, fat, black kitten with bald patches over his eyes. He looked pitiful and his whiskers drooped with rain drops. He squeaked pathetically.
At the squeak, I came back to life and charged before anyone could stop me. I heard both Mom and Justin call my name as I ran to the front stoop, barking and growling, ready to run the cat off.
But there was no cat on the front stoop. It was just me in the pouring rain. I looked this way and that, searching for the cat, snuffling for his scent. Then, even though I was soaked, I heard something that made my fur bristle.
Mom said, “Oh, look at the poor dear. Justin, go get a towel to dry off the little kitty.”
I whirled around and saw that the cat was in the house! Now Daphne was interested in barking and she and Pete were both rowwring their Hound Dog’s bray. The cat didn’t care and Mom put the towel over him and roughed him up with it.
She released him and the silly cat’s fur was all poofed out and he looked ridiculous, like an inflated meatloaf. In a split second, he eyeballed everyone in the room, then leapt straight up by about ten feet. He landed on his belly with his claws sunk deep in the living room carpet. In the same second, he looked at everyone again in that crazy cat way, then sped away to the darkest corners of the house.
“Well!” Mom exhaled, a bit like Daphne. “I guess we’re keeping him.”
And there was lightning and thunder and all the Dogs whined (and Justin howled not to be left out).