#3 – The Strategic Shrub

While pulling the weeds and tufts of grass that have sprouted up on Fleegle’s grave, Franny ambles up behind me and says, “Let me help you with that.”

She chomps down on some grass and starts chewing. As she glances up at me, she smiles and says, “I like how helping you involves eating.”

I chuckle. “It’s funny how that is so often the case.”

“ I know, right?” She takes another mouthful of grass. “Do you still miss him?”

“Fleegle? I do, but a strange thing happened a while back that helped. I was out here on my own, sitting next to his grave and quietly crying and missing him, when a voice inside my head told me it was time to stop grieving and to spend that energy on you, Huck and Hamish.”

“Whose voice?” she asks.

“I don’t know, but it wasn’t mine.”

Hearing his name, Hamish emerges from the nearest clump of bamboo, lifts his leg on a struggling shrub that is a favorite of the boys for scent marking. Somehow in dog logic, scent marking this particular shrub leads to controlling this half of the yard. When he finishes, he sits down and tilts his head at me.

“What is it?” I ask him.

He jerks his chin at Huckleberry across the yard sniffing his way through a pile of leaves in search of his ball. “Was Fleegle chocolate like the ball junkie over there?”

“Did someone ask about my ball?” Huckleberry shouts, his head popping out from the leaf pile. “Yep, found it!” He trots over with it and tosses it onto the grave.

“Yes,” I answer Hamish. “They look a lot alike.”

“That explains it,” Hamish says. “Sometimes I see Huckleberry outside peeing on my shrubs, but when I get up to reclaim the shrubs, I realize he’s lying there right next to me.”

Franny looks at Hamish and Huckleberry, then through a mouthful of grass, she says, “That’s just Saint Fleegle doing the rounds. He was here before you two and was already here when I got here. A better friend you couldn’t have, but you two are getting there.“ She finishes her grass, then quickly darts toward Huckleberry, snatches up his ball and runs off.

Huck’s eyes go wide. “Hey, that’s mine,” he says and chases after her.

Hamish is right beside him, trying to grab his flank in his mouth. “Boy, I love it when he runs. No one runs like Ball Breath Huck.”

The three of them disappear into the bamboo, their play barks and growls filling the air. I return to pulling the weeds on the grave, when out of the corner of my eye, I see Saint Fleegle lift his leg on the struggling shrub that was Hamish’s most recent scent buoy. He gives an upward nod of his chin at me and vanishes until his next visit.

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