Monday, March 14, 2011
Can I just show him how it's done?
“Murdoch, bring me your ball,” I say confidently, eying the bright orange orb pushed up against the back door of his kennel. If it weren’t suppertime he would snap up the ball in his jaws and clatter out of his kennel to place it in my hands before I could even blink. But, instead he sits quiet and patient on the threshold of his kennel. A Muppet with his floppy feet, lanky legs, wild eyebrows and a long body covered in hair that can’t decide whether or not it is truly shaggy. When he gathers his feet together in a perfect sit, back straight, eyes front, he is a parody of an obedient dog.
“Bring it Murds,” I say with the accompanying ‘come here’ hand gesture. The stare he returns is on the cusp of blankness. I won’t feed the dogs until I have Murdoch’s ball. It is hollow inside, covered in dimples and has a hole into which I always pour half of his kibble. In order to get the food out he has to roll the ball around the floor with his nose or paws in intricate patterns. It makes mealtimes last longer and gives his brain something to do besides plotting his next misadventure.
“Bring it here. Ball.” I try again. “Come on Murds, I know you know this!”
He continues to sit like a gentleman, the way he’s been taught to do before he’s allowed to eat. I haven’t even mentioned anything about food, but clearly supper is on his mind and every other piece of useful information he has ever learned has tumbled out his ear. He stares at me. This is ridiculous, I think to myself. What is wrong with him? Okay, don’t lose your cool, make it fun! It’s like dealing with a child.
Bear watches anxiously from her bed where I’ve told her to wait. Her eyes are glued to my face as I implore Murdoch to bring me his ball. Her expression is one of someone who knows the answer to a question and is biting her tongue to avoid an outburst but is waving an impatient arm in the air, “Ooh, ooh, pick me, pick me, I know this one!”
“Bear, no,” I say, looking her in the eye and holding up the palm of my hand. “You’re a good girl.” Then turning to Murdoch I say again, “Murdoch, bring me your ball.”
After the tenth attempt, Bear can no longer contain her enthusiasm. She jumps up and stomps in a quick march across the floor to where her tennis ball lies in front of the door then stamps her paw beside it and turns to look at me, “It’s right here!”
“No Bear. Murdoch, ball.”
Bear snatches up the ball decisively in her mouth, stomps over to me and spits it out violently at my feet with a triumphant expression on her face.
“Thank you Bear,” I say as Murdoch continues to stare at me with giant eyes that flick occasionally in the direction of the kitchen, “Um, isn’t it time to eat?” I am on the verge of tearing out my hair as he sits still as a statue looking at me like I am asking him to sprout wings and fly. Bear tap dances impatiently in front of me. I cringe as each of her paws falls heavily on the floor. She is not supposed to be jumping around with a double cruciate injury.
“Bear, on your bed,” I say sharply, pointing to her blanket. She looks at me with a wrinkled brow and stomps her foot again, just catching the ball with her toenail to send it skittering across the floor. “Bear!” She turns reluctantly and walks in slow motion back to her bed, throwing a glance over her shoulder.
“Murdoch,” I say, trying to keep the exasperation out of my voice. “Bring me your ball.” Bear spins around and is about to come charging back but freezes when I half yell, “Bear, no!”
I eventually manage to convince Murdoch to nose his ball halfway to the door of his kennel. “What? This?” he says with a glance. I reach past him and pick it up then hold it in front of his face. “Ball,” I say. “Good boy!”
Now I can say the word. “Okay. Who wants their supper?” as if they didn’t know what time it is. “Finally,” they seem to say with an eruption of clattering toenails. “We can eat. Why does she have to make it so difficult?”