Similarly, Gracie knows just when to expect her second meal of the day. After our long walk, during which she has considerable freedom to run up and down the sidewalks on the end of her long rope, I put Gracie on a heel as we cross the street into our yard. We pass under the front trellis, and at the edge of the lawn, I have her sit and stay. Then I snap off the lead, and offer her release word.
Then, without fail, my wild red-headed missy sprints up the length of the lawn like Usain Bolt, wheels to a screeching halt at the front porch, and then turns to watch me saunter up her race track, imploring me to HURRY.
Because Gracie knows that I have already prepared her dinner, and the dish is waiting just inside the front door.
S L O W L Y, in a effort to draw out this ceremony to its greatest dramatic potential, I put her on a another stay, open the door, reach inside, and present the bowl to her at the usual spot on the step.
Oh, but she's not allowed to break her stay until I have seated myself with great flair on the nearby chair, and fully prepared myself for this grand ritual. My dog's eyes gaze deeply into mine, watching for the first hint of that magic word.
Once again released from her pose by the starter's pistol, Gracie springs to her feet, drops her nose into her bowl, and starts eating. She does not lift her head until every bite of kibble has been consumed, and then only shifts six inches to the water bowl. She takes a long drink, pausing once to look back in the now-empty food bowl, and then goes in again for more water.
After the second, even longer drink of water, Gracie turns her attention a third time to the food bowl, and licks out every square inch with gusto. She does not miss a single crumb.
And then, after one more long and luxurious drink, she is ready to go inside.
^ In the golden glow of late afternoon.
On the home stretch of our daily route, Gracie and I pass along a 10-15 foot perimeter of overgrown bushes and trees. Bounded on one side the the side walk and the other side by a six-foot tall cedar fence, this scruffy strip of loosely landscaped greenery is full of lovely undergrowth and mysterious shadows that make for ideal sniffing and foraging for a dog on the hunt.
As I stroll contentedly on, up ahead of me on her long leash, Gracie wades in and out of the brush, often up to her shoulders in brambles or even disappearing from sight as she investigates the territory.
Recently, on a still sunny afternoon, as we went through this familiar dance, I suddenly heard frantic rustling noises, a scratching of claws on cedar fencing, and then a series of crashing noises that could only mean my dog was running wildly through the brush.
I glanced up to see a cat running along the top of the fence. Ohhh, yes. That would explain everything.
But then I looked again at what was surely the biggest, ugliest cat I had ever seen.
And that's when I noticed it was actually a raccoon.
Now we have plenty of raccoons in our neighborhood and often see them prowling around in the dark and near-dark hours of the day. But to see one marching around in broad daylight is an unsettling development and I held my breath, expecting this critter to reach around and take a swipe at my crazy dog bounding along at its side.
But no. The raccoon continued its sprint toward the deeper cover of trees up ahead and Gracie came when I called to her, exhilarated and flushed by the thrill of the hunt.
I praised her for coming, settled her back on the sidewalk, and we shortly arrived home victorious.
^ "I am ready for my walk. Look how good I'm being!!!"
In our extra-deep kitchen sink, I keep a large, lidded plastic bin for food scraps. During the day, bits of garbage slowly accumulate, and then we empty the bin in the evening after dinner. The lid operates on a hinge, so we simply flip it open to make a deposit, then set the lid back in place without latching it shut.
Several times this week, we've come home to find the bin and its contents strewn across the floor.
Now granted, these incursions have happened in the mornings so there has not been much of a mess. And honestly, I could hardly believe my dog had actually figured how how to lift that even-heavy-when-empty container out of the sink using nothing but her sturdy little teeth.
Denial is a powerful force, and I was sure that if I simply pushed the container to the far side of the sink, my dog certainly would not repeat this fluke performance.
Well. On Wednesday, I was out for a few hours, and when I came back, my home-alone dog met me at the garage door with her usual enthusiastic greeting. But what's this? I wondered as I petted her. Little sticky bits of what appeared to be white rice ringed her head like a crown. How can that be?
Two steps into the family room and a quick flashback to my early morning refrigerator clean-out of old leftovers answered all my questions.
Gracie had indeed hefted the almost-full container from the sink, dragged it carefully into the family room, opened it up and feasted on the contents.
Two baked potatoes.
A bit of vanilla pudding.
The last of a beef stew
Some sliced apples.
Half a tuna sandwich.
Baby carrots and ranch dressing.
And yes, A cup of white rice.
In an apparent effort to demonstrate her self-control, Gracie had left behind two pairs of eggshells, a crumpled paper napkin, and a popsicle stick.
I was not impressed.
So now when I go out, the compost container goes into the fridge.
^ These four furry red legs make me smile every morning.
Today, Gracie has been a perfect angel.
While I dug in the gardens, she waited patiently, lying among the day lilies and watching passersby. We went for our walk much earlier than usual, and she was rewarded by a half-dozen high school girls who cooed over her sweet behavior and petted her silky coat. Just now, she woke up from a long nap on the nearby couch, and fetched her latest rawhide bone, which she has begun to chew.
Even the quiet days are an adventure with my girl, Gracie, and I can't wait to see what she will do next.