The house is quiet now. Too quiet. Amy and the kids have been gone for almost two hours, I’ve had my breakfast and now I’m back in bed trying to write. And that’s when the licking starts. Sometimes she licks her front paws, other times her bottom and sometimes it’s whatever piece of furniture she happens to be closest to; the rug, the chair, the arm of the Ottoman. It’s a heavy wet licking sound she produces, over and over and over. I sit up in bed and look around but she’s in the next room. I throw myself back on the bed, pull the pillow over my head but I can still hear her. Slurp, slurp, slurp, slurp…
Our dog Pip is never satisfied with her level of cleanliness, perhaps if she would stay out of the cat-box she wouldn’t feel the need to “groom.” I like the way my lovely wife describes her; “Bless her little pea brain.” Pip is a Boston Terrier and she’s probably ten years old. She’s practically blind due to her cataracts, she’s lost most of her hearing and she recently started having seizures. It’s the natural process of aging. Our vet friend claims Pip probably has doggie Alzheimer’s which would explain why she often forgets to drink water and why she also forgets to stop drinking water, once she remembers to start.
Pip found us one day. She was wandering the streets looking forlorn and lost so we put her in our backyard thinking someone with a leash would soon walk past. When that didn’t happen we called the vets; then we put flyers out, then we left flyers at Pet Smart and such, then we placed ads in the paper. Nothing. Full blooded Boston Terriers don’t come cheap so we were surprised. Until Pip started eating pine cones, then marbles, a crayon or two, rocks and sometimes she would eat her food. Often times we would hear the kids scream out from the back yard.
“Pip! Stop eating that!”
No wonder she was roaming the neighborhood. She probably had eaten her master’s house key for the last time and gotten a one-way ticket out the front door. Terriers have wide mouths too so unlike more civilized species of dog with those long snouts; a Boston like Pip can cram something ridiculously large into her mouth. And that large mouth provides an enormous echo chamber for all of those wet chewing and licking noises that she is intent on delivering. Slurp, slurp, slurp, slurp….
“Pip! Stop licking!”
She picks her head up and briefly looks around. “Was someone calling my name?” Then she returns to her chore. Slurp, slurp, slurp, slurp…
Years ago I watched her digging in the yard. She scratched then sniffed the dirt, dug some more, sniffed, dug a little deeper then sniffed again, dug a bit deeper and sniffed again then satisfied she found she found what she was looking for, took a big bite of soft dirt, looked up at the sky in triumph and swallowed.
“Pip! Stop eating that!”
Now that she’s in her twilight, she doesn’t get out much. It’s hard to take her on anything but a short walk but we still try. She spends a lot of time trying to jump up on our bed then trying to muscle up the courage to jump back down. And she spends a lot of time licking.
Moving is complicated for me. My left leg is heavily bandaged and occasionally I’m attached to an orthopedic chiller, a little ice chest with a water line running to an insulated pad on my knee. If I want to get out of bed I have to turn that thing off, disconnect the water line, swing my immobile left leg out then grip my walker or crutches and only then am I ready to hobble through the house.
It’s no use, Pip doesn’t hear me and she’s not stopping. Slurp, slurp, slurp, slurp… I go through the process of getting out of bed then grip the walker, stand up and make my way to the bedroom door. Pip jumps up and looks around but doesn’t realize it’s me until she bumps into me. The tension subsides, I reach down to scratch her neck and she contentedly tucks her ears back. I look around then head to my recliner, carefully settle in then thumb through “The Great Gatsby” to find my bookmark. Pip bends herself next to the aluminum legs of the walker and settles down. A few minutes later she decides the aluminum needs to be cleaned.
“Slurp, slurp, slurp, slurp, slurp.”
“Pip! Will you stop licking that!”
Startled, Pip cowers then looks over her shoulder at me as she bumps her way to the cat box. I look up at the clock, only four more hours until Amy is home.