The other day I took my dog Annie to the beach. Who should be unloading his dog from the van next to my car but my vet, Dr. Hurty with his wife and daughter. I immediately glanced at Annie’s midsection and realized she was still a little chubby. Oh, I wanted her to obey me perfectly, but what dog is calm when she arrives at the B-E-A-C-H? She flew out in an explosion of legs and tan fur, scratched up the back of Honda Element and pulled so hard I almost fell down.
“She’s solid, isn’t she?” the vet said.
“Yes,” I gasped, struggling to hold on. Bellowing “Heel!” right now would do no good.
We hurried up the dune and down onto the beach, where the wind had whipped the sand into peaks and valleys. The tide was way out, but we followed the water until Annie was knee deep and clearly wanted to go farther. My shoes and socks were already soaked, so we walked and ran and jumped waves and then sat for a while in the sand. Coming in for a face lick, she covered me with the stuff. And then we walked up the trail back to the parking lot. By then, Annie was behaving perfectly. Heel, sit, stand, down, wait, no problem. I really wanted the vet to see it, but as we approached our car, he was driving away.
She can be good. Really she can.
In a small town like Newport, you run into someone you know every time you leave the house. Back in San Jose, your dog might poop on someone’s lawn and you might ignore it, knowing no one would ever trace it back to you. But here, I have learned the value of carrying plastic bags. I don’t dare leave the poo, not when the person coming up behind me is probably somebody who knows me from church or a writing class or some story I did years ago. We leave nothing but footprints. And maybe a little drool from the dog’s long, dripping tongue.
When we got home, Annie ran out to meet her brother Chico. He immediately sniffed her legs and feet, as if to say, “Hey, where did you go?” Panting, tongue still out, she just grinned.