A dog, I am. Cash, as in Johnny. And cold Cash. And (the one I like best), “Grab the Cash and run!” When Kathleen picks up my harness and leash and puts on her shoes I know what’s up. “Takin’ a dash with Cash,” she tells the Preacher.
But she doesn’t run. She walks. Sometimes I dash back and forth on the leash until she says, “Cash, you’re gonna trip me. Heel already.” When she talks that way, I try to behave with decency and decorum. I may be 91 in dog years, but she and the Preacher? They’re my pack leaders.
Nevertheless, I preempted her weekly writing gig today. She says she’s lost her sunny side; a temporary lapse. She spent too long staring at something terrible on the television yesterday. A pack of people, in some important place, acting like wild dogs. Now she can’t concentrate.
This morning, before she left for work, she and the Preacher held hands and bowed their heads, like always. When they begin, “Good morning, Lord,” I know they’re talking to someone I can’t see. Their own pack leader. I rushed over, squeezed into their circle. Sometimes they talk long, sometimes not so. I stay till their last word; always the same. “Amen.” The whole circle thing makes me feel…well, warm. Loved. At home.
“I can’t write today,” Kathleen said this evening. “My words are stuck in a dark hole.” So I thought I’d help her this once.
First. I’m grateful for a good home. I’m free here. The backyard is fenced, and I must wear a leash when outside it, but I have all I need. Leashes and fences help good dogs stay good, Kathleen says. But sometimes, at the end of our walks, she lets me off leash a few houses from ours. “Go home, boy,” she says.
Suddenly there’s no place I’d rather be than in our own backyard, and in the house where we all live. Me. The Preacher. Kathleen. And ungracious GraceCat, who swats me sometimes when I walk past. I could demolish that feline, but I ignore him.
When Kathleen commands, “Go home!” home courses through my brain. Pumps up my muscles. Spurs my energy. I live for those moments. I’m free, but I zip like a comet, my tail streaming behind, flat out toward house number 726. A minute after I get there, Kathleen arrives, panting and clapping. “GOOD go home, boy! GOOD go home!” (I just wish she’d get there faster. I get dizzy, turning in circles at the door.)
Second. I’m grateful for good pack leaders. Those angry, shouting humans on the television? They shoulda’ gone home. I heard someone say, “Go home,” but the tone said, “Good boys!” No wonder that pack ran wild.
I’m just a dog. I don’t know much, but I do know some things. A good pack needs a good leader. Kathleen says there’s only one perfect one. And a good leader needs loyal followers. Together they make home a place you want to be.