"Hi, Jean," he said to me as I handed him the keys to my car.
"Hi, Gene," I said back.
This was the third time in six weeks that I'd been in with my car. I was on such good terms with Gene that I was thinking of friending him on Facebook.
Tail swinging, Ray went to greet Gene. They had never met before but I could tell that Gene was a new favorite by the way Ray grabbed Gene's wrist and enthusiastically mouthed it a few times before letting it go. Unfazed by this scary display of affection, Gene made gnawing noises as Ray chomped on his arm. Obviously, this guy with such a great name also has a good sense of humor and knows a good dog when he meets one.
It was a three mile walk home and Ray and I had done it the previous two times, so I thought nothing of doing it again. It was supposed to be 80℉ (27℃) later in the day but as Ray and I set out it was a comfortable 62℉ (17℃).
Our usual MO when Ray is on the retractable leash involves Ray stopping to sniff things while I keep walking. When I reach the end of the leash, I either stop and wait and let Ray check his p-mail or I give a tug on the leash and encourage Ray to hurry up.
We made it about two blocks before Ray stopped. I turned to look at him. He wasn't sniffing, he was just standing at the end of his leash, leaning back the way we had come. I gave a tug.
"C'mon, Ray," I said.
Ray did't move.
I tugged again.
"C'mon, Ray," I said again.
Ray pulled back, taking a step in the opposite direction.
I mentally scratched my head. I wasn't sure what he wanted.
"Do you want to go back and visit Gene?" I asked.
At that, Ray planted his back feet to get a good launch and took off running back the way we had come, pulling me with him. I followed at a trot until I could get him to stop, then turned him around and continued on home. For about half a block. Then Ray stopped, turned, and tried to pull me back towards the garage.
I stopped him, turned him towards home, and walked, talking to him, encouraging him to keep moving. This time we made it about a block before Ray stopped and did a half-lie on the sidewalk. His front end up, his back end reclining, his nose pointed back the way we had come, his ears in Dumbo mode "looking" alertly up the street.
What the hell? I thought to myself looking at my dog. He wasn't breathing particularly hard. It wasn't particularly hot. I didn't know what was going on. He was looking way too alert for anything to be wrong with him.
After about five minutes of watching Mr. Alert to make sure he was ok, I started to get the uneasy feeling that maybe I had missed something. Maybe he could hear the faint, plaintive cries of Timmy down a well while I could stood obliviously by. I tentatively took a step back the way we had come. Ray leapt to his feet and ran ahead, pulling me along. I trotted behind him for a block, looking this way and that for someone in distress before I realized that Ray wasn't slowing, he was going to run me all the way back to the garage. I stopped him, turned him, and once again tried to get him to go home. We made it back past the initial place de resistance and onward another block before Ray did a total flop. I used my usual 'let's go' techniques. I nudged him with my foot. He didn't move. I bent over and tried to lift him a bit. He didn't budge.
"Guess he's too tired to go on, huh?"
Knowing that the voice was talking to him, (Ray thinks every voice is talking to him) the hound jumped up and tried to drag me to the car. The man laughed, gave a little wave, and drove off.
I pulled my dog back to the sidewalk and trotted him homeward, trying to cover as much distance as possible before the next flop. We made it to the cemetery, almost three-quarters of a mile from the start of our journey. Leading Ray away from the noise of cars whizzing by, I walked off of the sidewalk onto the open grass, the nearest headstones at least 50 feet away from us.
As soon as he reached the open area, Ray went into spastic cannonball mode. I laughed and dodged the 70-pounder, thinking how disrespectful Ray was being to the eternally resting residents within eyeshot. Ray spazzed for at least half a block before being overcome with remorse and flopping again.
Since Ray had chosen a nice shady spot to flop, I sat on the sidewalk and pulled out my phone looking for someone to call that could come rescue me. I settled on my neighbor, Sandra.
She was busy.
Having no one else to call, I sighed again. The sun came out, it started to heat up a bit. I was doomed. Heat = hot immobile dog. I thought that, with my car in the shop, I couldn't do anything important anyway so I decided to embrace the flop. That lasted about five minutes until my butt started to hurt from sitting on the concrete.
|This is fun, isn't it?|
Ray's eyebrows showed me that he was listening.
"Let's go home," I said enthusiastically, "Let's go see Moonie."
Ray's head lifted from the grass. I was making progress.
"Let's go see Hugo," I said.
Ray's eyebrows thought about it for a minute, but he didn't get up.
"Hey Ray," I said pulling out the big guns, "Let's go find Izzy."
At the word 'Izzy,' the hound jumped to his feet, put his nose to the ground, and started off down the sidewalk at a high rate of speed looking for his old friend (I haven't told him that Iz has passed away). I kept up as best I could.
We were nearing a busy intersection with a traffic light. Ray had caught on that Izzy was nowhere to be found and was slowing. To keep his momentum going, I steered him away from the intersection, taking a shortcut through the cemetery parking lot. We were half way through before Ray flopped on the tarmac in a sunny spot. I tried to move him to a grassy median but the immovable object objected. I looked around to see if he was in any danger of being run over but it was pretty quiet, only one small graveside ceremony taking place some distance away. I walked the length of the leash to a shady spot and sat down, waiting.
Ray rested, then for no particular reason, got up and jogged on. I followed at a brisk trot until he flopped again. The scenario repeated.
I was starting to wonder if I would be able to get the lazy dog across the busy four lane road without him flopping in the middle of traffic when, in a burst of energy, Ray got up and tore down the sidewalk. I looked for a significant gap in the cars, saw our chance, and took it. We jogged crossed the street then on for another tenth of a mile before Ray flopped again. This time it was a lovely, quiet spot under a dogwood tree. Specifically, immediately under a nest being built by a robin.
I got to my feet.
|The final flop|
Surprisingly, Ray got to his feet and took off down the street at a good clip. I trotted along behind thinking we would easily make it home this time.
Instead, we made it as far as Roxie's house. Roxie's house is one that we pass as we walk around the block and is almost directly behind ours. As Ray once again collapsed in the shady spot under a tree, I sat myself on the sidewalk, waiting.
Roxie's mom, Brenda, came out of the house and started across the yard.
"What's wrong?" she asked concerned, and, her view of the dog blocked by the big tree, "Where's Ray?"
As she passed the tree and saw the dog, she smiled.
"Oh, I thought maybe he had gotten away," Brenda said, "I didn't see him with you. Hi, Ray."
Ray didn't twitch a muscle.
I explained about our walk and that I was having trouble motivating the dog.
"I'll go get Roxie," said Brenda.
At that she entered the house and came out with the little dog on a leash. Roxie crept up to the big dog, tail wagging. Ray immediately got to his feet.
I gave a pet to the teeny tiny dog and thanked her for her help. I gave a wave to Brenda and Ray and I set off on the final leg of our long, long journey.