BY JEAN MARIE JOHNSON
The pandemic has cajoled us into embracing the fine art of making our own fun. Lost in the confusion of it all, I was a bit slow on the uptake. But given my numerous and diverse circle of canine friends, I managed to find inspiration and to follow their instinctive ability to muster up some fun.
Out of respect, I really must begin with my own 15-year old poodle, Miss Noelle. She has taken to barreling out of the front door, hoping not to miss the landing, and barking ad nauseum like a disgruntled town crier. Of course, she can barely see, so her incessant yapping appears to be a preemptive warning to anyone or anything that may be nearby. Initially, I struggled to find the inspiration in Noelle’s noisy example, but as my late mother-in-law, Margaret, would say, “Oh, let the girl have some fun!” The more I thought about it, the more her barking made sense. Hell, who doesn’t now and then relish the idea of one, endless, I-don’t -need-to-justify-this rant?
It was a different matter altogether with Sox, the youngest coveted canine in my circle. A Welsh corgi – the breed favored by none other than Queen Elizabeth herself – Sox arrived on planet earth in July 2020, a bona fide COVID pup. Her humans have done everything they can to give her a “normal” puppyhood in an abnormal time. Voila, Doggie Olympics! As a mere pup of just a few months in age, Sox channeled her curiosity and mastered the obstacle course that became her training ground. Certainly, the omnipresence of treats sweetened the deal, but it was her gumption that I’ll always remember as I observed, safely-distanced from our next-door veranda, and cheered her on with a hearty “You go, girl!” on my lips.
While admiring Sox’s emerging agility by day, I became part of the canine sporting action by night. Hello, Miss Pepper! A two-year-old Australian shepherd, Pepper lives up the street and up to her name. A bundle of focused energy, Miss Pepper eyed me as I idled on the porch swing, wine glass in hand, and immediately sniffed opportunity. She stared me down and nudged me with her ball until I succumbed. With that first throw, I realized that I had managed to set Miss Pepper into perpetual motion. It didn’t matter where I threw that ball or how dark the night, a sprint, and a leap later, Miss Pepper would catch it with 99% accuracy. She wore out my arm as she warmed my heart with her determination to be who she was and to have a good time.
Many a summer night of playing ball with Miss Pepper was followed by a much-needed- yoga morning with Buster. Honestly, there are hardly words to describe this dog. A “chiwoodle” (chihuahua-poodle mix) who has had his DNA profiled, Buster – about seven – personifies the notion of a human trapped in a dog’s body! Highly-intelligent, Buster doesn’t miss a thing and usually has a lot to say about it. Take a horse galloping across the TV screen. That just about throws him into an apoplectic fit! But don’t be too quick to label him hysterical because he has many a redeeming quality. For example, he is quite the music connoisseur. The mere strand of a violin’s rich notes and Buster nearly swoons! You might say that Buster has an extremely broad range. Which brings me back to yoga. When Buster’s humanoid and I decided to move our yoga routine from the Y to her living room, Buster was all-in. As in, on-the-mat butt- in-my-face in. Out came a blast of Pet Corrector and Buster was stilled…at least temporarily. Eventually, Buster would join his more docile packmate, Miss Fea, and catch an aerial view of our bizarre floor antics from a nearby sofa. Except for the day when I arrived with a load of human worry. Buster sent caution to the wind and lay down right next to me on my mat because, fun aside, that’s what canine friends are for.