Sitting in my office, my brain is in that weird writer’s fugue where time blurs and I take -10 to all my passive perception checks. I realize that my dog, who has spent much of the day at my feet, doing everything she can to capture my attention, isn’t there. I’m not sure how long it’s been since I last saw her; it could be a minute, it could be thirty minutes.
I push back from my desk and walk out the open doorway into the hall.
“Ferris?” I call out.
I listen. Nothing.
“Ferris?” I walk to the end of the hallway. From out in the yard, I hear the familiar jingle of her tag against her collar.
I walk across the house and toward the patio. Just before I get to the door that goes into the back yard, I see Riley. She’s lying down as low as she can, watching me. The tip of her tail barely wags. I’ve seen this before; it’s what she does when she is establishing an alibi. If she could talk, she would say, “Just so you know, I’ve been here all along.”
I quicken my pace and into the back yard. “Ferris!” The jingling stops, but I still don’t see my dog.
I’m pretty much speed walking at this point as I cross the back yard. I know she’s gotten into something, but what? We’ve had a lot of construction recently, and though I do my best to make sure anything that kills dogs isn’t in a place where she can get it, I remain paranoid.
I make it across the yard. As I pass the Chinese elm, my brain reminds me that I need to have it trimmed – it’s weird, the things your brain spits out at you in times of potential crisis – and around the corner of the house.
I see her before she sees me. She’s dragged a huge black trash bag off the tops of our cans and taken it to that spot in the yard where she takes everything she wants to chew on. Over the years, it’s been a graveyard for shoes, toys, loaves of bread we didn’t put far enough back on the counter.
I take a breath and use my deepest, growliest, angriest, you-are-in-so-much-fucking-trouble Dad Voice: “FERRIS!”
She flinches, drops the bag, and slinks toward me, head down, submissive.
“Dammit, Ferris. This is not for you.” I walk past her and pick up the bag. It’s full of rags and rolled up plastic. It smells like paint. I’m glad I caught her before she could really tear into it.
I find the top of the bag and cinch it closed, making sure I don’t get paint on my hands.
“Really? Paint? I can understand disgusting old food, cat shit, and all the kleenex and Q-tips you drag out of the trash cans, but paint?”
She looks at me, slowly lifting her head up, perking up her ears as I talk. By the time I finish and pick up the bag, she’s wagging her tail and smiling at me.
I walk past her with the bag, on my way to stuff it inside the trash cans that she can not open. Yet.
She trots alongside me, and sniffs at the bag. She looks at me, expectantly, tail wagging faster and faster as we get closer to the trash cans.
If she could talk, she would say, “Hey, can I have that? It looks like it would be fun to tear apart.”
I shake my head and stuff it into the can.
“No, Ferris. No you can not.”