It’s 6:00 am, pitch dark and raining out. Molly Moon, my 3-year old Springer Spaniel/Lab mix just had knee surgery and needs to be on a leash while she goes out for her morning ablutions to make sure she doesn’t wander too far, or too fast. Or fall over. My eyes are still bleary from sleep as I step into my muck boots and pull my fleece jacket on over my sweats, and I wonder if our new puppy, Pinky, can be trusted not to jump on Molly if I let him come on the short walk with us. Part of me wants to leave him in the house but, at only 12 weeks old, he still needs a little company when doing his morning business otherwise he gets distracted and forgets. Which in turn can lead to oopsies in the house. Yeah, he’d better come too.
I grab a leash for Molly, who is already struggling to her feet, and think – flashlight! Molly likes to lead me away from the motion sensor light on the back porch so she can do her business in private, and it’s too dark and too early for me to want to trip over a tree root on our property. I grab the flashlight, connect the leash to Molly’s collar and then go through a brief farce at the back door as Pinky decides he wants to bring the door mat with him and Molly’s tugging to go down the steps and she won’t stay and he won’t come and I’m beginning to feel the rain down the back of my neck so I lean back in to encourage Pinky to let go of the mat and come outside while Molly thinks she’s supposed to go back inside now and Pinky wants to show us how fun the mat is all balled up and why can’t we bring it with us? I finally get them both out and this is how it starts.
“Pinky, no! Don’t jump on Molly. Pink-Y!!”
My cockerel crows in the chicken coop, probably woken by my yelling at the puppy, and then a second crow, louder, stronger. I sigh. Two of the three chicks hatched this past fall must be roosters, not just the one I already gave away. Their crowing distracts Pinky who, as part Chesapeake, is a bit of a bird dog. Molly’s left in peace but she’s not inclined to pee yet. Even on three legs she’s doing the leading and makes a beeline for the shadows, between the wood shop and the pottery studio. Pinky barrels up behind us and starts nipping at the backs of my legs.
I love you. I love you. I love you, his little love bites say.
“Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!” I yelp. “Pinky, stop that!”
Can I play with the leash then?
I tug him away and he veers off, distracted by a twiggy length of salmonberry bush. Molly tries to crawl under the studio.
“Don’t go under there!” I snap.
“What are you…?
I smell skunk.
“You’ll get all tangled up – Pinky, NO! Leave her tail alone!”
I manage to get Molly back out into the open without getting the leash tied in knots but then she seems determined to lead me even further into the woods. I can see the grassy pathways between the brushy areas fairly well with the flashlight but the ground is uneven, and I’m worried she’ll stumble and hurt her bum leg. Plus I took my husband’s advice and put her on one of those leashes that unravels from a housing, so she could wander a little further and feel more private; but this particular leash was one of my husband’s “treasures” from the dump and the lock button sticks, so Molly keeps getting further and further away from me.
“Can’t you just go here?” I plead with her, pointing to a tree stump surrounded by soft mulch. “I’m hungry.”
Pinky leaps this way and that in the air. Me too. Me too. Me too.
Molly gives me a baleful look. I can’t. You’re watching.
“I’ll look away.”
Pinky jumps on her. Can I ride on your back?
“Pinky, no! Will you get OFF her!!!”
I pull the puppy away and Molly disappears around the back of the studio. I move faster.
“Where did you….. Oh, you’re peeing. Good girl.”
A glorious sense of relief washes over me. Then I remember the puppy. I look left and right. Behind me.
“Where did Pinky go?”
I shine the flashlight all around and catch sight of him under a fir tree, doing his business.
“Good boy,” I coo.
All is well. The rain is a steady drizzle, fresh against the skin on my face even if my head is getting wet because I forgot to put on a hat. I hear the rooster crow again, followed by his echo, but they’re both more muted this time since the studio is between us, absorbing some of the sound. I feel peaceful standing in the oxygen rich woodland; until the puppy nips at the back of my leg again.
“Ouch! Stop that!!”
I love you.
I love you.
“Find something else to chew on!”
I love you.
As I swat him away, Molly spins to the right, heading into an area of thick brush. The vines snap as she clambers over them, trying to get in where she won’t be seen. I’m worried that she’ll get her leg tangled in the leash so I push my thumb hard against the lock button, but it’s stuck. Pinky bounces against my leg and yelps when I accidentally step on his paw. Then he tries to grab the flashlight with his mouth. Molly moves further into the brambles as I try not to trip over the puppy. Then I hear the leash being sucked back into the housing as Molly hobbles back out to join us, not having gone poop.
“What was wrong with that spot?” I wail.
The thing on my neck was bothering me.
“Pinky, NO! Leave her ALONE!”
I just want to ride on her back.
“Get off her!”
Okay, let’s play bite-the-open-mouth game.
Molly’s tail wags. You’re too short. You’ll never get me.
I will if I jump.
They run forward together, making hawing sounds as they move their mouths this way and that, trying to get a purchase on each other, tails wagging. Pinky jumps and jumps, his little body jostling her neck as I worry about her leg, thinking – she’ll never poop at this rate. I step forward to separate them. The ground is soft and wet but my boot lands in something softer, wetter. Something that smells….
“Did you poop here?” I bark at the puppy.
He looks down, surprised. No. That’s yesterdays.
“Good Lord!” I complain. “Can’t you poop in the brush like Molly?!”
She gives me a scathing look. Oh, so now it’s a good thing that I poop in the brush?!
I’ve had enough.
“I’m an actress! And I haven’t had my morning tea. So do your business!”
Molly looks at Pinky. Now you made her mad.
No. You made her mad.
It was your poop. You should learn to be more discreet.
What’s disskreeet? I’m hungry. Can I ride on your back?
I separate them – again! – and walk a little further, around to the big Maple tree next to the garage where Molly often goes in the morning. The puppy dances away and I wait, hoping Molly will get busy. When she doesn’t, I decide this isn’t working.
“You probably don’t need to poop, do you?” I say to her in the quiet of the morning.
She looks at me. We can go with that.
“Come on. You can try again later.”
Can I at least get a drink?
“You want some water?”
I walk her over to the bucket that catches rainwater dripping out of the gutter on the garage but she prefers the puddle in the driveway. As she balances on three legs, lapping noisily, the puppy appears beside us, something white in his mouth. It’s a small plastic flag, a marker for the invisible fence that denotes the limit of where he should stray on the property.
Look what I found.
“Give me that!”
Okay, can I bite Molly’s ear then?
He’s touching me!
And we head for the house as the cockerels take up their duet in the background.
(Well, until tomorrow morning)