The Gates of Heaven Open Wide
This summer has not been kind to my beloved black lab, Bella. Let’s face it, a black fur coat is not the kind of thing you want to wear to the beach on a hot, sunny day. And this has been one hot, muggy summer. Furthermore, in her old age, she has developed a real fear of fireworks. It wouldn’t be so bad if the kids (and grown up kids) in the neighborhood would restrict themselves to the 4th of July, but the noise begins in mid June and gradually fizzles out sometime in late July. Poor Bella can be enjoying her day until a single firecracker will send her slinking into the basement to cringe under some piece of furniture. But perhaps the cruelest blow of all for Bella this year has been the loss of one of her most beloved enjoyments. We never really turn on the air conditioner for ourselves, we do it for Bella and Charlie, our guinea pig. And it is our great joy to watch Bella realize that the air has been turned on and see her plop herself upon the air vent. But several weeks ago, I walked into the house to discover the grating for the air vent not where it should have been but under the dining room table. I put the grate back but since that time, Bella will not go near it. Me and the Misses have put 2+2 together and made the following assumption: one day while enjoying the cool air coming from the register, Bella must have got her dog collar caught in the grate and lifted it out. Who knows how long she had to carry the heavy, cumbersome object around, but it is clear that she doesn’t want to risk doing so again.
But all is not bad in Bella‘s life. In fact there was one event that was so spectacular, it just may have made up for the rest.
One block down from us is a bakery, the old-fashioned family-owned kind that is closed on Sunday and for a week in the summer when the owners go on vacation. The kind of bakery that sends its tantalizing aroma down the block to my front porch, an aroma enticing enough to challenge any good intentions when it comes to dieting. For 11 years now, my wife and I have walked Bella past this bakery most every day. When we walk together, one of us occasionally will stop in while the other waits outside with Bella. While we sometimes get donuts or sweets for ourselves, we never leave without getting a dog cookie, baked fresh, for Bella. Upon leaving the store, we will hand the bag with the cookie in it to Bella and she will carry it home. When she was younger, she would carry the bag gently by the end in the same way Jackie Kennedy might have carried a handbag. Now that she is older, though, she seems less willing to take chances and carries it as tightly wedged into her mouth as she can get it. Either way, I walk her home and feel the same misplaced and slightly disturbing pride that a mother of a toddler beauty pageant contestant must feel. I have few vanities in life, but I love to see people driving down the road turn and look at my dog.
My wife was not with me on my last walk, but my dog was giving me the same hints she always does as we approached the bakery. Feeling sorry for her, I suddenly thought of just poking my head through the door and asking if they could bring a dog cookie to the door. I did so, and to my amazement, they told me to just bring her inside. Never in my life could I have imagined that someone would allow a dog into a bakery, it just doesn’t seem like a very smart thing to do. Dogs are notoriously lacking in manners as Bella was quick to demonstrate. I think it must have been the thrill of her life to enter this building that housed such gastronomical delights. She predictably behaved in a manner unmannerly, but with such genuine enthusiasm as to make it forgivable. I’m sure there were nose smears on the display windows that needed cleaning after we left, as Bella demanded a close view of every croissant, scone, cookie and pie that was on display. As it was, she left quite satisfied with her typical dog cookie, carrying it in a bag wedged far back in her mouth. 11 years of curiosity were finally satisfied for her, in what was surely one of the most momentous events of her life.