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The Dog Days Weren’t Over

January 9, 2011

For an eight-year-old, the scene was delicious, delicious chaos.    My entire birthday party was upset, half of my friends running after my dog, half, with tear-stained faces, running away from her.    My father was yelling at her to “Drop it.  Rosie, drop it now!”  My mother was taking pictures and giggling.  My brother quietly took the confusion as an opportunity to start in early on the vanilla ice cream, digging his over-large spoon into the Breyers.  And poor little Jessie, her hair frizzy and brown, wailed over and over, “The dog has eaten the pizza!  We have no food!  The dog has eaten the pizza!”

It was a hazy afternoon in August heat.  Boys didn’t have cooties yet and it would be the last party I had with both genders attending until high school.  I was a creature of habit, so the party schedule was the same as it had been for the previous two years.  When the my friends arrived, bringing gifts in colorful wrapping paper, I led them to the dining room table where we all made little personal pizzas.  My father had prepared the ingredients ahead of time so it was all a matter of taking a wad of dough, shaping into some whimsical form (I was most proud of my rough approximation of the continental United States, complete with Florida peninsula) and adding toppings.  Jennifer made hers into a calzone, Alex shaped hers like a dog’s face and added mushrooms for eyes, Cory made his into a circle because “that’s what pizza is shaped like, stupid.”  We were all liberal with the cheese.  Dad used the leftover dough to make a huge pizza to share, in case someone didn’t like theirs or wanted more.  We happily skipped off to swim in the pool as he put the pies in the oven.

The party proceeded as smoothly as a party with eight third graders, a five-year-old and infant brother can go.   James slipped and fell down while running around the pool, Kathryn pinned the tail on the mother, instead of on the donkey, and no matter how many times we hit the pinata, it refused to break.  It was great fun though; at first, my mother, worried that not everyone would get a chance to hit it, spun us around three times and blindfolded our eyes before we were allowed to take one whack at it.  After a round of this, we were allowed to simply walk up to it and swing the baseball bat as hard as we could.  After a round of this, we were encouraged to hit it three times each.  Then four.  Then Dad tried hitting it repeatedly, as we waited, a little bored now, for candy rain down into our chubby fingers.  Mom finally got a screwdriver to started to pry open the donkey-shaped pinata’s foot.   My father went inside to take the pizzas out of the oven to cool.  He put them on the table, and then went back outside to help my mother wrestle the paper mache beast into submission.  We all cheered and squealed as the combined efforts of my parents, a screwdriver, a pair of scissors and the aluminum bat overcame the glued newspaper.  We began to grab as much Laffy-Taffy and fun-sized Snickers bars as we could.  And that’s when Rosie decided to act.

She was a great dog, as far as I was concerned.  She was wicked smart (even for a Basenji) let me pat her with sticky fingers, slept in my bed curled up between my legs under the covers, chased me around the house and sat when I told her to (as long as I was holding a treat, that is).  She yodeled when I sang, had a curled tail like a pigs that was sensitive when I touched it, was small enough to fit into my brother’s clothing and playful enough to not mind it (too much).   But even I would have admitted that she wasn’t exactly an obedient dog.  To my mother’s chagrin, she had been ejected from her obedience class training pretty much around the time of ‘roll over.’  And she definitely had a mischievous streak.

Rosie jumped up on the table.  She grabbed the biggest pizza between her teeth.  And she bolted through the open door to backyard freedom.

My brother James noticed her first.  “Daddy?” he said calmly, waddling up in his diaper to my father.  “Rosie’s eating your pizza.”  We all looked over.  Rosie stood stock still and grinned a doggie grin at us, the pizza flopping in the dirt in front of her.  And then, with a whip of her head, the chase began.

I led the charge, chasing her as fast as I could, shouting things like “bad dog!”  She leapt away like a gazelle, stopping when she was too far ahead of us to start digging in the dirt, her way of adding insult to injury, telling us that not only did she have our food, but she had more than enough time to dig a hole before we did anything about it.   I directed my braver friends like an army general, telling them to cut her off, flank right and flank left, now, go, go, fall on her, James!  We ran in the dirt, stepping on my father’s meticulously planted flower bulbs, falling down at periodic intervals, getting filthy in our aim to catch her.  A few of my friends, instead of chasing Rosie, burst into tears anytime she got near them and ran away, screaming at the top of their lungs.  My father slipped on the pile of candy forgotten on the brick ground, and he was down for the count.

And poor little Jessie wailed over and over as she clutched her lollipop, “The dog has eaten the pizza!  We have no food!  The dog has eaten the pizza!”  She sank down to the ground in misery.  My mother then bundled her up, cleaned the rest of us off with the hose, and brought us inside to eat our personal pizzas and lift every-ones’ spirits with cake and what remained of the vanilla ice cream.  Normalcy and smiles were restored.

Outside, Rosie, finally tired and realizing that no one was playing with her anymore, surrendered the pizza.  It lay there, sad, ragged along the edges, covered in dirt and sticks and insects and dog spit.  My father and I looked at each other as we surveyed the damage, realizing that even if we had caught Rosie immediately, its not like we could have eaten the pizza.  It was hers from the moment she touched it.

No wonder she had been laughing at us the whole time.


Who, Me?

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