Dog Days of Summer
My dogs and I wrestled in my bedroom until I giggled so hard my insides hurt and their barking made me deaf. I said, "Sit." Sydney, my red-haired Australian shepherd, sat, tilted his head sideways, eyes glued on mine and waited for my next command. Jake, my newly rescued Black lab, followed Sydney’s example. Momma’s voice boomed through the door, “Trina, are you packed?”
“Almost.” I turned to the dogs and gave the release word, "Okay." Both dogs bounced up ready to play again.
I slid my desk chair backwards into the closet and climbed up. My duffel bag sat on the top shelf with its handle hanging over the ledge daring me to grab it. I stood on my tiptoes. Ah. Crud! I rebalanced and bounced. The ring of the phone startled me, but my fingertips reached the handle.
“I’ll get it,” I shouted to Momma and yanked the bag to the floor. I rolled it to the phone. Since Sydney was in-training to be a service dog, I gave him a hand signal for ‘Down’ and he lay at my feet. “Hello?”
Sarah never even said, “Hey,” or “How are you?” She just started yakking, "I've out-grown everything so Mom took me shopping and I bought lots of new stuff. Wait till you see my new bikini and…"
I ran my fingers through Sydney's long hair like a comb, listening, waiting, wanting to get a word in. I squeezed the phone to my ear with my shoulder and continued packing last year’s clothes. Sydney, never more than inches from my legs, panted. His bobbed tail wiggled. His gold eyes gave a saddened look and his floppy ears drooped. During his fourteen months with us, he'd learned the suitcase signaled a trip somewhere and he wasn’t always invited.
Jake flopped in the middle of the floor. Only his eyes followed me. When I moved, his long tail thumped. He worried, too.
During the moment Sarah paused to catch her breath, I blurted out, “Why do you want so many clothes? All we’ve ever needed is our bathing suits, t-shirts and shorts, and your soccer ball. This summer we’ll both have dogs. They’ll be so much fun!
Sarah interrupted me this time. “I know. But this time I want to meet boys.”
“You want to do what?” I looked at the phone receiver as if it spit out a different language. I had never cared about talking to boys. “Sarah, this week is supposed to be about you and me and our dogs.”
“But Trina. This’ll be the perfect place to learn how to talk to boys. No one will know us there.”
I choked back what I wanted to say and changed the subject. “Mom’s calling. We’ll meet at your house in one hour.”
With my last items packed, I rolled the bag to the back door. As I sat on the soft top, air whooshed from the zipper. I waited for Dad and worried about Sarah’s ideas. I remembered her talking to Tyler on the last day of school and exchanging pieces of paper. I bent my head and held my face in my hands. I know I chose to be a Puppy Raiser, but I never thought I might lose my best friend over training Sydney.
Each dog plopped their favorite toy, a red ball, in my lap. I lifted my head, patted their heads and said, “I hope you guys’ll be safe at the beach?” Sydney cocked his head. “At least I know you can swim in Mrs. Brown’s pond, chasing her geese, but Jake." His ears perked up. “I sure hope you can swim and not run away.”
I tossed their balls so they'd jump in place to catch them. They returned them to my lap, dripping with foamy slobber. We did this over and over until my cutoffs stuck to my knees and my fingers wrinkled from the slime.
I carried the dog bowls to the backseat car floor not noticing the open garage door. Sydney’s eyes never left my hands, but Jake immediately darted up the driveway. I gasped. “Crud. Crud. Crud. Jake. Not again!”
I ran up the drive, calling his name. A scent in the woods caught his attention. I grabbed his collar, headed into the house and clicked on his leash. He blinked his brown eyes and bowed his head. “I know! You just couldn’t help yourself.” I lifted his face and kissed his nose. “But, you have to do better if you’re going to be my Forever dog. I promised Syd’s trainer you wouldn’t interfere with his training.” He licked my face.
“M-o-m-m-a." I called. "Dad’s ready.” I pushed my wild curls behind my ears. “Sarah’s probably waiting outside. I’m putting on Syd’s cape and I’ve loaded all our gear.” With Syd’s purple working-cape velcroed around his chest, I gave the hand signal, “Let's go, boys."
Sydney rushed through the back doorway into the garage. Jake followed. Sydney slid into his learned 'Sit' at the car door and waited for his next command. Jake watched him and copied Sydney’s ‘Sit.’
“Syd, we have a whole week to train at the beach and I’ll get lots of pictures of us together before I have to give you away.” His ears moved backwards. “And Jake, I expect you to learn, too. “ He wagged. I opened the car door. Both dogs rushed to get in. “Silly boys. Sydney, Wait…Jake, in you go… Good boy!”
My eyes locked with Sydney’s. Pointing my finger at his face, I counted one thousand-one, one thousand-two, one-thousand three in my head, and then said, “Okay!” Sydney leaped to the seat. I smiled. "I'm so proud of you."
We drove across the street to Sarah’s house to caravan. Mr. and Mrs. Neal were loading the last of their supplies. I blinked and looked again. I couldn't believe my eyes. What the heck? Someone's taken over the body of my best friend.
Sarah stood at the end of her driveway wearing black shorts with blue and green sea shells along the cuff and a tight, blue tank top layered over a white one with lace at the bottom. And her blond hair was French braided with a matching ribbon.
She looked weird in her fancy outfit, dribbling her soccer ball. Darby, her black and white Springer spaniel, chased the ball, barked and wiggled her stub of a tail. I wedged my head out of the window and said, “Wow! Where’re your soccer clothes?"
“Gone!” She tittered, fluttered her eyelashes and twirled, showing off.
I noticed her eyes matched her new top, but I didn’t want to tell her. I blushed. My bathing suit was under my t-shirt and shorts. “Are you and Darby riding with us?”
“I will. Darby can go with my parents.” She climbed in with her backpack. “Hi, Mr. and Mrs. Ryan.”
“Hi, Sarah,” Momma turned around. “You look very pretty! Are you excited about going to the beach?”
“Oh, yes.” She played with her ribbon. “I can’t wait to lie on the beach and work on my tan.”
The windows went up and the air conditioner blew. Sydney climbed on my lap. I scooted over and Jake pressed his nose to the window.
“Well. Uh. That’ll be fun for a while,” I said. “Then we'll learn to surf? Or bogey board? Maybe ride a wave runner? Last year we said we’d do those things. Remember?”
“Hmm... I’ll have to see how cold the water is, or how many jellyfish I see on shore, first.”
“Oh, you know I can’t go to the beach without swimming.” I fidgeted in my seat. “And this house is right on the beach.”
“Oooo! That’ll make it easier to walk up and down.” Sarah’s eyebrows rose as she smirked. “You never know who we’ll meet.”
I scrunched my nose. "Like I care!"