TRUE STORIES: Shhh … I think Arlo’s listening
“You talk to your dog like he’s a person,” more than one of my consultation clients has observed when I told Arlo he needed to leave my office; that we’d be done in about an hour. (Sometimes, after about 50 minutes or so, he’d park himself outside the door and give a little whine.)
This hasn’t happened for over year, as I stopped seeing people in my office and went to phone and Zoom consultations because of Covid, so I haven’t thought about it much.
Until last week.
On Saturday, as the Labradorian hopped in the backseat to head to the Farmer’s Market with me, I matter-of-factly told him we needed to go by the drive-up window at the bank on the way to cash a check.
At the bank, he leaned out, drooling and staring at the tray that delivers a dog biscuit along with cash and receipts as I read the sign saying they didn’t open until 9 a.m. on Saturdays. “They’re not open yet, Arlo,” I told him. “We’ll have to come back later.”
At the Farmer’s Market we did our usual routine of visiting three different vendors for produce. Brian and Haley both offered, “Good morning, Arlo,” as we approached. “Arf!” he replied … and looked to me to reward him with a treat, as a woman in line exclaimed, “Oh, that’s cute.”
A couple of weeks back at the Market we did our ‘How Much Is That Doggie In The Window’ duet for some people at a Pittsburg Police information table. As they’d never met him, it ‘wowed’ them and sent one lady running for her smartphone. “Can you do that again so I can get a video, please?”
After we’d made two trips to load the Pathfinder with tomatoes, watermelon, peppers, cucumbers, red potatoes, onions, eggplant and eggs, I returned to visit with old friend John Bozich, who sells plants, woven bracelets, produce, chocolate and baked goods.
Arlo sat patiently and did some people watching as John and I traded the local news and commented on the state of the union, occasionally interrupted with greeting friends and acquaintances in the parade of townspeople that circled counter-clockwise in the pavilion.
My last transfer to the car was a large pie baked by John’s little bride, Patty, using cherries from the tree in their yard. Also a quart of fresh-picked blackberries.
The blackberries — which brought boyhood visions of cobbler eaten in the evening on the back step — I savored with my breakfast yogurt all week. The pie brought memories of the cherry trees in grandma’s yard and the sound of the wooden roller easing out the dough on her kitchen table. The combination tart / sweet taste of the cherries in combination with the crisp but flaky crust was divine. On Wednesday night before bed, I finished it — washed the last thumbprint of crust down with a large glass of milk and a sigh.
Back home from the Farmer’s Market on Saturday, I opened the driver’s side back door for Arlo to get out and then went to get the first load from the back of the Pathfinder. I looked up as I descended the back steps to get the second transfer to see him staring at me from the back seat. “Arlo, what are you doing? We’re home. C’mon.”
After depositing the second gathering on the kitchen table, I went back to let him in. He was in the Pathfinder, sitting attentively on his haunches.
Still didn’t come when I called … so I just went back to sort and put away my haul while singing my favorite Guy Clark song, “Homegrown tomatoes. Homegrown tomatoes. There’s nothin’ in the world like homegrown tomatoes. Only two things that money can’t buy … and that’s true love and home grown tomatoes.”
It wasn’t until I’d gotten everything stowed and went and looked through the back door to see him still in the backseat that it hit me … he was waiting for me to go to the bank.
As we pulled into the Commerce Bank drive-up window, the teller said, “Good morning Arlo.” Then “Here ya go Arlo,” as she sent my cash and his biscuit. Arlo said, “Arf,” to thank her and we rolled out. Back home, when I opened his door in driveway he immediately hopped out and proceeded up the steps ahead of me to be let in to the back porch for a long, splashy drink of water.
On Wednesday he did it again. I had to drive Linda to the dentist in Joplin for a 7 a.m. appointment, necessitating an early rise and short walk with Arlo to ‘do his business,’ rather than our usual two mile jaunt.
We talked the trip over Thursday night and decided Arlo — whose love of riding in the Pathfinder is second only to his appetite — could come along and hang his head out when we dropped below 45 m.p.h.
On our walk next morning at 5 a.m., he pulled me up to the end of the alley, did his business, and turned immediately back toward home without any of the usual prompting needed to change our daily two-mile ritual.
“Boy, that was fast,” Linda called from the kitchen sink when we came in back door. “I was thinking,” she continued. “I’m not sure we should take Arlo along since the procedure in the dentist’s office could last longer than they said it would.”
Then, turning to see the quizzical look on my face, she said, “What’s wrong?”
“Shhh,” I whispered. “I think Arlo’s listening.”
J.T. Knoll is a writer, speaker and eulogist. He also operates Knoll Training & Consulting in Pittsburg. He can be reached at 231-0499 or firstname.lastname@example.org