The Black sat back on his haunches when the man raised his hand palm up beside the side door. As he had become accustomed to doing, the large dog took his cue from the older dog, who sat a foot or so closer to the man. The Black’s every muscle flexed with anticipation as the man turned the knob on the door, shouldering past the older dog he had out grown since leaving his mother and siblings a little over a year ago.

Outside, the older dog abandoned the Black, trotting across the property toward the southwest corner of the electric fence to see if the neighbor’s dog, a female German Shepherd, might be around. The Black’s paws splayed open on the hard earth that was tinged with frost on this first weekend in December. He had yet to gathered the confidence to walk by the man’s side the way the older dog boldly did. Instead, he followed a step behind, as the man trudged across the dirt drive, walking beside a red pickup truck.

Each Monday morning, the Black would wait inside the house, tail wagging, his eyes watching from the window, as the man called to the older dog to jump into the vehicle’s cab, the truck sputtering to life, a wisp of smoke belching from its rear. Moments before, the man would gather three or four large plastic bags from the basement, swinging them one at a time into the pickup’s bed. The Black would race to the room in the back of the house to follow the man, who would hobble back into the basement returning with a plastic barrel full of recyclables.

A few weeks back, the man had beckoned to the Black to jump onto the seat of the truck. The Black had looked around, but his adopted brother was nowhere to be found. Still unsure, the young Labrador whined his uncertainty before advancing forward, and with a mighty leap found himself surrounded by windows on every side. Moments later, the young dog was squeezing his nose above the window that had opened magically. Now, looking up at the red machine, the Black remembered the exotic scents that had streamed past and the unexpected biscuit the gas station attendant had raised toward the window that remained partially opened.

This morning the man continued past the truck onto a narrow path between a high row of logs and a mountain of split wood. Even with the sudden drop in temperature, the sawdust and wood chips insulated the path, the Black’s paws leaving an impression as he followed the man.

The man opened the door of a shed that stood beside a lean-to, where the winter’s stove wood had been neatly stacked. The Black lowered his head, furrowing his wide brow when a chipmunk poked out from between two logs and then raced over the dog’s front paws and into the bottom of the woodpile. Before the Black could react, the man walked out of the shed, the dog following at his heels as he set out bird feeders on posts set around the house.

When he was done, the man called to the older dog, who appeared at his side.

“Good dog,” the man said as he lowered a hand to stroke the older dog’s broad shoulders. The older dog followed the man through the side door of the house while the Black hung back, his attention fixed on a chickadee that was scolding him from the branches of a rhododendron.

The Black had not yet learned the command for “Come,” which he repeatedly ignored to the great frustration of the man.

When the door closed, the Black trotted back toward the woodpile in the hope the chipmunk might come out and play, but when he would not, the dog smelled here and there before raising a leg as he’d seen the older dog do. Working his way back to the rhododendron, the Black discovered that the chickadee had flown to one of the feeders.

Bored, the young dog stared up at the bush, grabbing one of its branches between his teeth and snapping it off. By the time the man reappeared, the Black had repeated his new found surgical skill on a number of the lower branches, freezing when the man yelled, “Bad Dog!”

Backing away from the rhoda, the Black shook with fear, not at what the man would do, but at the thought that he may have displeased him. For in a young dog’s mind that is the worst sin of all.

“Sit,” called the man, his voice edged with anger.

This was a command the Black knew well and he quickly obeyed, cowering when the man approached. This time the man did not call “Come,” turning instead toward the door, the Black quickly following.

Inside the house, the Black looked up, his brown eyes pleading for recognition. Stomping into the kitchen, the man clung to his anger like a dog to his bone. The Black followed, sitting at the man’s feet, the dog’s whines, his wagging tail, those big brown eyes impossible to ignore.

The man was talking to him now. “You should know better,” he was saying, his voice drained of anger, which only made the Black whine louder, tail flail faster, eyes grow wider, until unable to control his relief, the big dog rose on his back paws, front paws sliding over the man’s shoulders, the dog’s weight bringing the man to his knees, his face slathered by the big dog’s tongue.


  1. Patricia Says:


  2. Jeff Hines Says:

    Keep ’em coming!
    I have two lab mixes and they DO know what to do with their tongues!

    Jeff Hines

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