It seems I have acquired a reputation.
I have been handing out dog treats for three months. Every day, I take the same trail and every day, I meet many of the same customers. Dogs have an amazing memory when it comes to getting a treat -- particularly from a stranger.
One dog is not allowed treats. “No treats!” his owner says.
Before I knew her better, I suggested, “Maybe he’d like a treat?”
“Wouldn’t we all?!” she said. That lady sounded like she could really use a treat.
But she is the only one. There is an English family that walks their Bernese mountain dog, appropriately named Bernie, most days. Bernie always gets a treat. He does not even stop to greet me. He does a drive-by, taking the treat from my hand, then hurrying on to his important dog appointments.
There are two runner dogs, Fergus and Luna, who I see twice a day because their owner runs roughly the same route I walk in the opposite direction. I decided two treats every day was a bit much, so I only give them a treat on the second leg. Then, one day, they took a different route home. When I saw Fergus the next day it was pretty obvious he knew he’d been cheated out of a treat the day before.
Usually, the last dogs I see are two border collies, Ray and Cruiser. But yesterday, there was a big change. There were no longer two border collies -- there were three. And the third was a puppy.
“A puppy!” I more or less squealed.
The border collies’ owner, Ruthanne, was out with them.
“She’s not ours!” Ruthanne told me. The puppy, another border collie, was their daughter’s. The daughter was training to be a physical therapist and had a six-week rotation where her accommodations would not permit dogs.
So, the puppy, whose name was Scout, was staying with Ruthanne. Scout was only nine weeks old, which means she was nothing more than a black and white puffball of cuteness. Scout had been through a lot in the last 24 hours. She was scared of the new surroundings, scared of the new dogs, scared of the new people. At the moment, she was scared of me, offering her half a treat.
“Come on, Scout,” Ruthanne coaxed. Scout got close to my hand and then scampered away. We spent more than five minutes this way, while Ruthanne held Ray and Cruiser and I sat on my haunches with the treat extended.
Finally, Scout took the treat. She looked surprised.
“Now, that was worth it, wasn’t it, Scout?”
I don’t see the border collies every day, so I thought it would be a lot to hope for to see them again today. But when I came through the woods, there were Ray and Cruiser. They ran up to me and sat looking at me, with that intensity peculiar to border collies.
Then Scout saw me. She came running, on her little fluffy legs. She scrambled through the woods until she got to the two dogs, sitting at attention. She stood on her tiny back legs and squeezed herself between the two dogs, who did not budge until she was wedged in the middle. I’m not sure when I have ever seen anything so adorable.
“Scout! You have to sit!” Ruthanne told her.
I gave a treat to Ray, I gave a treat to Scout, I gave a treat to Cruiser.
“Well, she’s only nine weeks old,” I reminded Ruthanne. “The rules don’t kick in until she’s 10 weeks old.”
Somehow, I’m pretty sure Scout will have it down before then.
Till next time,
Carrie Classon’s memoir is called, “Blue Yarn.” Learn more at CarrieClasson.com.
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