I wave good-bye to Trudy, our Papillons’ breeder, and feel panicked. Wait! I want to yell at her. I am not able to take good care of Bashi and Lily. I am not qualified or competent. I can’t follow all your rules! I can’t even remember them all! Wait!
“Ernest,” I say, “maybe we made a mistake. I’m not sure I am capable of raising these puppies.”
“Yes, we are!” he says. When Ernest was nine, his father died and Ernest became the “man of the house” protecting his three younger siblings. Even with me, he’s a “mother hen” making sure I cross the street safely. “C’mon,” he says, “let’s take these Paps for a walk.”
I put the turquoise collar on Lily. The tags nearly hit the ground. Ernest puts the black collar on Bashi. He looks plaintively at me.
“Oh, don’t worry, Bashi,” I say. “You’re my dog.” I put on his harness and attach his leather leash.
Meanwhile, Lily has crawled onto Ernest’s lap, and he is petting her while he harnesses and leashes her up.
We four are family, now. Whatever that means.
I hold Bashi’s leash and Ernest holds Lily’s.
When we four reach the side door, two of us sit down. That would be Bashi and Lily.
I say to Ernest what I have remembered. “Trudy said we have to tell the Paps ‘okay’ before they will go out the door.”
“Ah, okay,” Ernest says to me, nodding his head. Both dogs stand up. I guess they didn’t know Ernest wasn’t talking to them.
Bashi steps aside, being the gentleman he is, and lets Lily through the door first.
“Looks like Lily is the Alpha dog,” Ernest comments. “She’s definitely in charge.”
We family of four begin our walk down the driveway and onto the street of our little historical enclave in the middle of Midwestern Ohio.
It is hard to describe the emotions I feel as I lead Bashi, the most beautiful of creatures down our driveway a hare’s breath behind Ernest leading Lily, another most beautiful of creatures.
I want all my neighbors to come out of their houses and gasp at Bashi’s and Lily’s beauty. Right now. I want them all to see how gracefully they prance, heads high, tails curled.
I am so proud to be with Bashi and Lily. Surely, I think, their beauty and grace reflects positively on me. Aren’t I the wonder to have found them? Chosen them? My usual humbleness and modesty erased. Just like that. Pride, pride, pride.
…hmm, pride comes before a fall.
Or, in the case of Bashi, a SIT.
At the corner of South and Mid, Bashi sits down on a neighbor’s front lawn and refuses to resume the walk no matter how much I tug on his lead.
“He must be tired,” Ernest says. “As a show-dog he has probably never walked this far before.”
“Yeah…how far have we walked? Two football fields?”
“Two and half,” Ernest says.
“Poor Bashi,” I say, picking him up. “I’ll carry you home.”
Ernest picks up Lily and carries her.
Once we are home, petting our dogs, their leads and harnesses hung on the hooks near the door, I have a revelation.
“You know.” I say to Ernest. “I don’t think Bashi was tired. He was just following some rule about not crossing a street without an okay.”
“Let’s free him from that rule,” Ernest says.
“Yeah,” I agree. “And all the other rules the breeder Trudy imposed on us, too.”
Ernest and I hug each other our laughter intertwining with the little yap-yaps at our feet.