Thursday, March 2, 2017

The bagel thief

I stood frozen beside the kitchen counter with my mouth hanging open, a gasp having just escaped. In one hand I held a bread knife, in the other, nothing, but my fingers still curled in the shape of the bagel that had been there seconds before.

Beside me Molly sat tall and regal, as she does in her casual way, and watched Murdoch with some curiosity. He sat in front of me, head down, jaws working in a frenzy as he gulped and chewed his way through the bagel, swallowing great chunks, not letting even a crumb fall to the floor.

It was cinnamon raisin. I could still smell its sweetness in the air as I tried to process exactly what happened. It wasn’t particularly early in the morning, but I had stumbled down the stairs just moments before in a blur after a not-very-restful night’s sleep and felt that my brain had not quite awoken yet so I was still frozen in disbelief after Murdoch had polished of the bagel and sat up straight again to stare at me expectantly as if I might have something else for him.

“What the…?… I just…” I stammered in some explanation to Morgan who sat at the table mere feet away and missed the whole thing, swinging around in his chair at the sound of my shocked, sharp intake of breath. I was caught somewhere between disbelief and a weird appreciation for how expertly Murdoch had stripped me of my un-toasted breakfast, which I expressed with a laugh as I said, “He just took my bagel right out of my hand. I don’t even know what happened there.” I can’t deny I was impressed. I let my guard down; he saw his moment and took it, in and out.

But obviously we couldn’t just let that go, so even if it was a little delayed, even though it came after a brief chuckle shared between us, Morgan and I put on our serious voices, “Bad boy Murdoch,” and sent the dogs downstairs.

I returned to the counter and pulled the last bagel out of the bag, noting to myself that it wasn’t quite as nice as the one Murdoch had just inhaled. “I’m glad that wasn’t the last bagel though,” I said as I sliced this one open. “Then I would have been really mad.” But as it stood at that moment, for some reason I found the whole thing more funny than maddening.

I should be annoyed with Murdoch’s pushiness that never seems to stop no matter how many times we tell him to back off, make him sit a mile away from the counter. And now Molly is the same, her tongue ‘accidentally’ brushing against fingers as you move from the counter to the fridge to the stove. “Why is your nose in my hand?” we often ask of her.

But now that the dogs were downstairs in the entryway and not flanking me as I slid my bagel into the toaster oven, I missed them. There was no drool on the floor, no head jammed between my legs and the cupboards beneath the counter, no paws to trip over. It was all just a little too civilized.

Their presence in the kitchen demands a certain amount of vigilance on the part of Morgan and I. An alertness I did not possess that morning when I allowed the bagel to cross that unspoken threshold, anything below countertop level is fair game. I could still feel the emptiness of my hand, the phantom weight of the vacated bagel. But in our unbalanced human/canine world, Murdoch was just reacting, really, to an opportunity that presented itself.

Good one Murds, I thought as the toaster oven dinged. I tip my hat to you sir.

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