I’ve been a bachelor this past week as Wendy has been in Winnipeg visiting her daughter and young granddaughter. When Madeleine was born a year ago, Wendy made it clear that she wasn’t going to be like I was, an absent grandparent (6 of my 8 grew up in Toronto or Kamloops) and I heartily support that decision. She takes a week every other month off and that’s great with me – except. Except that leaves me alone with Chauncey, our chocolate lab.
Until Wendy went on her first granddaughter sojourn I thought that we more or less divided the dog responsibilities. Not so. Not so by a long shot.
First thing in the morning as I’m trying to do the impossible – make a cup of coffee, pour some cereal into a bowl adding milk, and get some orange juice for my two vitamin pills, Chauncey arrives completely destroying my concentration. “What do you want, Chaunce”, I ask trying to disguise my annoyance. I scratch my head and there’s the answer – he gets a certain kind of biscuit called a toothbrush every morning at that time so I break my complicated routine and get him one then repair to the sunroom table for breakfast and the papers. But there he is, staring at me, head cocked and raised ears.
“What the hell is it now”, Chauncey?
Oh yes, he must have his collar on which I do. And I get 10 minutes peace which is fine because it only takes about 7 minutes to read the Vancouver papers – it takes longer to read the Globe and Mail’s BC section.
Then it starts. He hits me with his head using again his tilted head, raised ears pose. I know what this means – his swim. But because of my knees I can’t take him down the considerable hill and back so we’ve hired a neighbour, Trudi, whom Chauncey loves, as surrogate beach goer. But she’s not due for an hour so how to amuse him so he doesn’t use his final, fatal weapon and start barking. I play with him and seem to be getting away with it when the phone rings at which time Chauncey starts to bark.
Damn! I forgot it’s Monday and CBC Political Panel time which, ironically, I’m not doing in studio so I can look after Chauncey. I beat a hasty retreat to the loo and do the bit sitting on the john with muffled yet still pretty loud barks coming through the closed door.
As it ends, Trudi comes in, the barks become painful puppy squeaks (he’s nearly nine years old) and I have an hour to myself which I use downstairs in my office eliminating the emails that seem to take quite an interest in the size of my penis and what I can make it do, with help.
On the dot, Chauncey’s back, grinning from ear to ear and sopping wet. There is no expression of joy to match the grin of a sopping wet Labrador Retriever! This means what he knows as ruba dub dub, the vigorous toweling down with as much effort as possible to the ears, please! I must admit, we both have fun! Finally I’m done – and as wet as he is now dry - whereupon it’s time to fill his water and food dishes and I can finally get back to the computer and the writing tasks for the day.
Except, I hardly get started when Chauncey comes running down stairs, his sort of wool, sort of duck in his mouth and raising hell. Of course, it’s the right day and right time for Jack, the hot tub maintenance man, whom Chauncey adores and the feeling is mutual. If Jack had half a dozen Chauncey’s on his route, he’d never be done as play time is at least 10, maybe 15 minutes. “Duck” is thrown, Chauncey catches and retrieves. Duck is thrown over the fence into the woods next door, Chauncey chases and returns it along with a tennis ball he’s found. If you ever wonder why they call them retrievers, drop around our place sometimes.
Farewell to Jack and to that article my partner Damien wants for the website as soon as possible. Deep into my writing mode I go and the words are flying onto the screen - sort of given my hunt and peck typing style, and damned if Chauncey isn’t back! What bloody well now?
It’s 11:00 and its “go across the street and be a good boy time”.
Off we go and just inside the gate of the dog path we meet an enormous dog sort of like a Great Dane but not. Chauncey is a lover, not a fighter so when he disappears behind a bush chasing the tennis ball I’ve just thrown, and starts fighting with this other dog, his mistress screaming blue murder, I wonder what could have happened. I apologize and as we get the dogs apart, the other dog starts to hump Chauncey using a very firm grip. We separate them and the lady says, accusingly, is your dog un-neutered, to which I say yes, but for God’s sake, he’s not gay!
That done with, we cross the road to our townhouse and I think “this is a good time to go through the compound to the store and get the mail. “ Come on, Chauncey but please don’t” at which time he dumps right on the compound driveway area and I’ve used the last of my doggy bags. Besides which, bending down with my knees is a major undertaking. I’m rescued by a neighbour who, with understandable reluctance, does my work for me.
Get the mail, back him, take off his leash and he’s bugging me!
Right, I forgot you get a treat when you dropped the tennis ball, How stupid of me!
Finally it’s lunch time so I make myself a toasted, very old cheddar, sandwich. And there’s Chauncey in his cocked head staring mode right beside me.
“What the hell is it now?”
We don’t feed him at the table then I remember. When Wendy makes this for me she always puts a bit of cheese in his bowl. Right.
Back to the computer and on the adjacent couch Chauncey settles in for a nice long snooze and I finally get back to work.
But I know what’s next.
At 2:58 Chauncey stirs, stretches and yawns for a bit. Slowly he rises and at 3:00 precisely, there he is in his “let’s get with it” look.
Time for his afternoon walk so it’s back over to the doggie path and the usual stuff, including tossing a stick. As any Lab lovers know, a stick trumps a tennis ball any time.
Back home, I know all will be well until I go out for supper except what’s that bloody dog whining about upstairs?
His food and water, I’d forgotten and with the Chaunce, those things do not go unnoticed.
Back to the computer and I put my head down just for a moment and half an hour later I wake up. Damn! Its time for the dreaded treadmill, then out for dinner at Ya Ya’s in Horseshoe Bay and a plate of delicious Saltspring mussels and a brew. (To cops who may read this, I go down and back on the Toonerville trolley as we affectionately call our rickety bus which, in fact, provides excellent service and has very nice drivers.)
Sufficiently victualled I arrive home and from the moment I step off the bus I hear Chauncey – I’m 100 yards away and he’s inside the Townhouse and I can hear him – as, no doubt can most of the neighborhood. I open the door and he’s barking as only he can bark because it’s time for me to get a ball and go on the deck for twelve, precisely, throws.
That done, his water dish filled, yet another brew for me – I’m feeling pretty smoothened by this time – back to the computer and the blog for Damien is done and, the saints be praised, it’s the nightcap hour where I finally get to read a bit and sip yet another brew bloody hell, here’s that dog in that position again!
It’s cookie time – one of those huge ones that cost $1.75 each. As I said to the pet store guy, Rene, buying the expensive, highly pedigreed dog is the cheap part!
Then, having barely finished his cookie, there he is again with that stupid duck in his mouth. How could I forget – this is the time Wendy throws that damned thing out into the kitchen for him to once again show off his retrieving skills.
It’s 10:00 o’clock, time to go “across the road and be a good dog again”, then to bed and a bit of a read and sleep.
I don’t even open the book, I’m out of it the moment my head hits the pillow. I can’t understand why.
For God’s sake woman, come home – NOW!