Chloe’s Springtime Step

It didn’t take long for Chloe to recognize me after her long hibernation. After few months of cold weather, she was as anxious as any (dog) could be to get out of the house. She seemed happy and a little less puppy-ish since I saw her last. The only problem she has been experiencing, really, is … me. Recognizing my 6-foot frame slugging about from across the road isn’t the issue. Her eyesight is sharp. Catching a waft of the meaty concession trailer smell drifting off my work clothes upwind from her pug-beagle nose isn’t the issue, either. I make no sudden moves, speak no ill-timed or unkind words to her, or walk googly-crossed, human limpy as I approach. She’s decided – in her furry little canine cranium – I am nuts.

Such was the case yesterday. This was a similar reaction she, surprisingly, had going into last fall when I thought the two of us were doggo-Doug-o sympatico. Toward the end of the summer of 2020, this slightly lighter in heft puppy started to react differently to me. Less neighborly, shall I say. We were pals … then we weren’t. She switched a switch … pulled a puppy lever in her brain. The run to Doug with fevered enthusiasm knob fused out, I guess. Not only did it burn out, it also triggered a rash of opposing phrases including: “Run from man!” and “Shake in fear at end of leash!”…

I did something I can’t rectify. I’d like to have a heart to heart talk with this animal. If I possessed the powers of a Dolittle, perhaps a solution would be possible. As of this moment, there’s little I can do … but try.

So, try I did yesterday. Once again, walking across the street to a heavier, hibernated, happy-to see-everyone but me chompy little brown ball of energy known as Chloe. She likes her stick pieces, her two adult owners – neighbors across the way – and her friendly dog pals who walk by every so often. Yes, everyone. Every dog, tree, wind gust, blade of grass, person on the freakin’ planet, … shall I go on?

If I seem a bit bitter about all this … I may be, however, she’s kinda cute and I’ll put up with being ignored and misunderstood. There’s no need for my ego to be stroked by a little semi-puppy living a few yards away who happens to still be a favorite of mine … even though she’s upset with me for some irrational reason. I deal with illogical ideas and suggestions 24/7 and have conversations with invisible clones who constantly argue with me inside my head, so a four-legged fur-ball giving me a little grief for no reason isn’t too much for me to handle.

I’d like her to like me again, though. A few snap shots from feet away – then cropped for the purposes of a blog – aren’t enough. Kneeling down in front of that face in 3D, real time, would be kinda’ better. Granted, Chloe doesn’t owe me a darn thing. Her life isn’t revolving around a big Doug sun here. She’s not my dog, but she’s a neighbor … a friend I’d like to have around for a while.

I think we made some progress yesterday. Small, but forward.

It was a really nice day for a change. A small 24-hour walk into spring was a welcome relief for all of us regardless of my relationship snags with the little stinker. She did allow me a few moments close by … sitting on the front steps petting her head. Ever so cautious, she was. Chloe’s springtime step of 2021 in my direction, I suppose.

We will meet many times this fair weather season. My clothes and smells won’t change much. Chloe, most likely, is bound to take her place at the end of a pretty leash a few yards away – across a calm street where other dogs will be passing by. Dogs I don’t know as well, but canine-friendlies not as finicky as Ms. Pugslie-Beagilo … with her slightly contentious attitude toward me.

Even with that, I wouldn’t change a thing. Chloe is pretty cool. I like a bit of mystery. After all, she’s recognizing me with all my crazy, too. Maybe, just maybe, we’re just right for each other and she’s shy. Yeah, that’s it.

Where’s Chloe?

She didn’t intend to be Waldo. I have my doubts she even knows who Waldo is. I’m positive Martin Handford and Chloe never met, so, in my asking, “Where’s Chloe?”, there’s no chance Mr. Handford will answer, “There. Right there … snuggling in her pink doggie bed!”. His character Waldo (better known as Wally in North America) is a literary, spectacled success. I applaud the many hours, days, and perhaps years Mr. Handford invested developing his craft. Aspiring authors, painters, musicians, athletes, sculptors, designers, chefs, and inventors all … my best wishes for your success.

Chloe’s success is measured in smaller increments: pulling at socks while they’re only half way up my feet, eating ends off of papers in the trash, barking into closed doors … all the while refusing to pass through open ones, sneaking away with any shoe available, and crotch rocketing into my unsuspecting, shall I say, nameless part gentile. All of these a tiring day’s endeavors for a puppy of five months. Also, very exhausting for a neighbor willing to dog sit such an excitable little puggle. A neighbor who doesn’t have a cute little pink snuggle bed to rest away the stressors of the day.

Ah, but Chloe does … and isn’t that just perfect! (sarcasm). Good sarcasm … if that’s a thing.

Where’s Chloe? I’m constantly asking that question every day. There are moments it’s too quiet. You know what I mean. For a rug rattle consistent with puppy play to then disappear into silence means some paw-hankery is afoot. One certain Chloe is not considering her blessings, or reflecting upon the return of her owners. She’s usually up to something.

Today, the issue was a simple math problem. How to not keep jamming a simple blue racquetball into the corner seam of a sectional sofa … over and over again. Here’s the equation:

BALL + SEAM / SOFA = Doug’s Time × 4

I’m a busy guy these days, but my Waldo story is pretty easy. Facebook updates keep my datebook oars in the water with a pretty steady headwind. With that, my mornings stay predictable … unless there’s a little puggle under foot. Don’t mind the company. The occasional yip or brush against my leg is no more a distraction than the random thoughts bouncing around in my noggin.

When the blue ball comes kitchen knockin, however, it can’t be ignored. There’s traction in Chloe’s puppy play world and that ball will bounce an infinite number of times until it’s thrown back into another room. So again today, I obliged. I had to. This week, the lesser of the options between a set of big, brown eyes staring at me, and the paw-patter of feet across the wooden floor into our living room … until silence.

The deafening quiet when I knew she pushed the ball, somehow, up into the most remote corner of the sectional sofa. A crevasse so deep that her head – in combination with her extra long tongue – could not, under any law of physics, remove the deeply embedded ball. Silence.

I knew the dilemma. Fuzzy donuts, monkeys, head socks, bones, … none of these readily available toys within snouts distance were a sufficient replacement for the simple, old blue ball … in her mind. In my mind, why not, right? Any puppy mouth occupier that can keep me from interrupting my routine is gold. Not to be. Silence is too loud for my liking, so off I go to unjam the ball.

Oh, but this starts the game all over again. Cheery Chloe, with ball slightly larger than the very mouth it occupies, enters the kitchen once more – bringing with her a small shadow from the morning sun that beams through the window over the sink. It’s where I find myself looking down, again, at eyes I can’t resist. Three more times. Each time digging the same ball … out of the same seam … of the same sofa … for the same dog-ette.

… And then, later, she rests. After hours of other activities and fun frolicking – most of which I’m not aware. The working thing gets in the way of my Chloe time as she occupies her time with other humans. My time with her – as dog sitter – is limited to seven days now and will end in a few. Back to her true owners she’ll go and I’m sure she’ll be very, very happy to return.

I’ll be glad to hand her back, too. Not that I haven’t enjoyed her visit, mind you. Kinda like Grandparents “graciously”, and lovingly, handing over their grandkids back to the parents. Her owners are wonderful people, great neighbors, and terrific people-parents for Chloe.

For the next few days, I’ll suffer gladly through the minutes. Hopefully I won’t hear that silence too many more times. If I do, I’d like it to be less about a ball and more of her snuggled in a pink, warm bed.

At least then I would know the answer to “Where’s Chloe?”