Notice the tennis ball and Fleegle’s expression near the end.
Notice the tennis ball and Fleegle’s expression near the end.
I’m sitting at my desk, staring at a blank page and pulling at my hair. Fleegle sides up next to me from under my desk and says, “Are you trying again to write?”
“No luck, huh?”
I shake my head.
“Maybe you should take a break, and not just five minutes to refill your coffee, but an extended break and let your head fill up with ideas again.”
“Eventually, even I run out of ink if don’t take time off to drink from my water bowl.” He nose bumps my hand. “Give me your pen.”
He takes it gently from my hand and heads toward the open patio door.
“Where are you taking it?” I ask.
“Don’t worry,” he says over his shoulder. “I’ll hide it good. I’ll bury it nice and deep where you’ll never find it so you can have a nice long break. And then when you’re head is full and I think you’re ready to start writing again, I’ll sniff it out, dig it up and bring it back to you. For now, though, you go enjoy doing something other than writing.” He wags his tail. “By the way, there are seven balls under the bed I can’t reach.”
I lay in bed staring at the dark ceiling and feeling like a real grouch. I blame stress and sleep deprivation. Why is it that when I’m exhausted and in need of sleep most, sleep eludes me like a Jack Russell terrier that has run out into the yard with a throw pillow from the couch? Fleegle is a heavy breather, always with the loud sighs, and I’ve learned to tune out most of his snoring, but tonight he’s really chugging away next to me.
I nudge him with my foot. “Fleegle, stop snoring.”
He wakes up. “What?”
“I wasn’t snoring.”
“Yes, you were.”
“How can I stop snoring when I’m asleep when I do it?”
“Stretch out or something. Maybe changing your sleeping position will help.”
He gets up and repositions himself. Now his back is pressed against my hip, and soon he’s snoring again and again I nudge him awake.
“Fleegle, stop hogging the bed. You’re taking up the whole thing and I’ve got like a foot over here against the edge. I’m about to slide onto the floor. Maybe you should sleep on your dog bed on the floor.”
He looks at me pleadingly. “But Raud, I love you.”
“I’m not very lovable if I don’t get enough sleep.”
“How does it sound when I say, stop snoring, Raud? Or, don’t hog the bed, Raud? Go sleep on the couch, Raud? Well, I’m always lovable, whether I get enough sleep or not. Maybe you should lay off the coffee after lunch, Raud, and stop being such a prat.”
Fleegle jumps up on the couch next to me. “What are you looking at, Raud?”
I’m paging through the course catalog for Rock Creek Community College. “I’m thinking of taking a class.”
Fleegle wags his tail. “I’ll take you through obedience class again if you want. I had fun teaching you when to give me cookies.” He tilts his head to the side. “Now that you’ve brought it up, you could use a refresher course on cookie giving. I’m all for higher education. See if they have an intermediate obedience class for you.”
“I was thinking more of an art class.”
“Like wood carving? I can give you some pointer on that.”
“Maybe a drawing or painting class.”
“But you can already draw meaty bones that make me drool, what more is there to learn?”
“I could learn to draw them more realistically.”
A strand of drool hangs from Fleegle’s mouth. “So real we could actually eat them?”
“Um… Yes, but I can’t draw flavor.”
“That’s the class you need. Is there a flavor class in your course catalog?”
I’m in the backyard digging a hole when Fleegle sees what I’m doing and runs over. “Are you looking for more buried treasure? More marinated rawhide?”
“No. I’m digging a hole for that plant.” I point at a small rhodie in its black rubber tub sitting on the grass a few feet away.
“I’ll help,” he says and jumps into the hole and starts digging.
I lean on my shovel and watch as he scoops pawfuls of dirt between his rear legs. He’s digging the hole deeper but not getting the dirt out of the hole, and without running the risk of hitting his paws with the shovel I can’t really dig.
“Fleegle, why don’t you supervise and I’ll dig?”
“Supervise? How do I do that?”
“All you need to do is sit on your backside and tell me what I’m doing wrong?”
“Oh, that’ll be easy.”
“Must be why it’s such a popular job.”
We trade places and I start digging.
After a moment, Fleegle clears his throat. “You’re doing it all wrong, Raud. You need to throw the dirt through your legs, not off to the side.”
When the hole is dug, I open a bag of compost and pour some into the hole.
“That smells wonderful,” Fleegle says and jumps in the hole. His eyes glaze over as he rolls onto his back and starts grinding his shoulders into the compost. “What is this stuff?”
“Compost with bat guano.”
“What’s guano mean?”
“That’s Spanish for bath time.”
I haven’t seen or heard Fleegle for a while so I go in search of him. After I establish he’s not in the house, I step out in the backyard and look around. Nothing, but I can hear pawfuls of dirt being thrown against the side of the shed behind the timber bamboo. Fleegle is digging, and lucky for the lawn he’s digging in his designated digging area, tucked behind the bamboo by the shed, where I secretly bury treats and rawhide chews for him to find.
I call out, “Have you found any buried treasure?”
“Only garbage, nothing tasty or chewy,” he says as he emerges from the bamboo dragging a muddy green garbage bag. “Would you take this away? It’s in the way of my digging.”
I take the bag. It’s heavy with something solid in it. I’m going to drop it straight in the wheelie bin but my curiosity gets the better of me. “Lets see what’s in it.”
“Ooo, you’re going through the trash. I thought we weren’t supposed to do that.”
“This is different.”
“Why? Because you’re doing it and not me? I sense a double standard here.”
“Alright, then you open it.”
Fleegle tears into the side of the bag, shoves his snout in and comes out with a mouthful of moldy cash. “Taste like mildew,” he says as he spits it out and turns disappointedly back to his diggings. “I’m going to keep at it. I’m sure I’ll find something good eventually.”
I look inside the bag. It’s full of old twenty dollar bills bundled with fat rubber bands. All I can think is the house’s previous tenant grew weed in the garage behind a fake rear wall and also up in the attic, back when it was still illegal, and maybe the use of his own product affected his memory.
“Ooo, ooo,” Fleegle barks. “I found something. It’s rawhide. I just love rawhide chews that have been marinating in mud juice overnight. They get all soft like edible rubber.”
Fleegle sniffs the base of a shrub, lifts his leg on it, then sniffs a nearby dog dropping and lifts, followed by pawing at the dirt, more sniffing and leg lifting. He claims he’s tracking a new girl dog in the neighborhood, but I’ve yet to see her and for me seeing is believing, not sniffing.
“You’re looking for love in all the wrong places, Fleegle,” I say as we continue our walk in the neighborhood.
“How would you know with that tiny nose of yours? She’s been through here recently, I can smell her. I bet she’s pretty.”
I point at the ground where he just sniffed. “You can tell she’s pretty from dirt?”
“I can tell she eats well, but she has a hanger on that follows her around and tries to cover up her scent with his own. Well, I’m taking care of that.” He lifts his leg on another spot, then he catches scent of something and starts pulling me by the leash down the block. “Hurry up, Raud, move those skinny legs of yours.”
We rush down the block ten yards, then he stops to sniff, then we rush down the block some more and he stops to sniff again. Our entire walk is like this, rush, stop and sniff, rush some more.
When we get back to the house, I ask, “Could that ‘hanger on’ be you from yesterday? Could you be going around peeing on her scent, then going around again today and peeing on your own scent from yesterday thinking it belongs to the ‘hanger on’?”
“No way, that’s crazy thinking,” he says, but I can tell the idea disturbs him when he pees on a nearby rock and says, “Now that’ll be tomorrow’s control scent. Remind me to give it a good sniff before we head out on our walk.”
I hide the spare house key under the rock he just peed on. “Sure thing, Fleegle.”
“Whoever that hanger on is, he sure eats a lot of pizza,” Fleegle says as we go inside.
“Are you absolutely sure it’s not you?” I ask one last time.
He looks at me like I’m up to something. “It could be you. You eat a lot of pizza, far more than me since you eat the center and I only get the skinny edge,” he says. “Have you gone all environmental and stopped peeing in your water bowl and started going outside like a normal animal?”
Today is the day during the garbage pick-up cycle where unwanted electronic hardware like printers and computers can be left out on the curb and Waste Management will cart them away.
While on our walk, Fleegle stops to sniff the tower of an old desktop computer, and before I know it, he’s lifted his leg on it.
“Hey, what are you doing?” I say.
“Updating your Facebook page.” He looks over his shoulder at me. “Do you want me to Tweet something for you too? Tell the world you just stubbed your toe?”
This is Fleegle on a grass eating date with Daisy.
“Ooo, Raud, are you drawing again?” Fleegle asks, breathing over my shoulder.
“What is that? It looks like my dog door.”
“It’s a square.” I add a few more lines and turn it into a cube. “Now it’s a block.”
“Oh, you have writer’s block again, huh?”
“You should use that big pink eraser you’ve got there and erase that block, then draw me another big meaty bone.”