She knew it hadn’t been right to miss the last several lure trials. She knew the dogs needed to get out and run. She knew none of the older crew were getting any younger, and she knew Proper was in his prime. She knew all of that; yet she hadn’t been able to make herself pack her van and go. But Alabama had called and given her “what for” as she would say. “What good is it going to do you, sitting on your big old farm, wishing? Not one bit. In the mean time, you’ve got these dogs who are here, and who count on you. You aren’t doing them or you or Hope or me one bit of good by staring at that computer screen of yours, wishing things were different. It’s not like you, Emily.”
The sun was just a hint behind the woods as she put the dogs in the van. “Wait, Proper! Let your uncle in first. Jump up, Mr. Beans. Now you, Raine. Thelonious, up you go.” She opened the top crate behind the driver’s seat. And by pure force of habit she turned to look for Hope. A surge of electric pain shot through her heart, robbing her of all her air. Proper looked up at her, feeling her sorrow, and he worried. She looked at his deep soul-knowing eyes and smiled. Stroking his ears, she said, “I’m sorry buddy. I’ll get it together. Today is for you. Jump up big guy.” He saw right through her smile to her sorrow, and wagged his bravest wag for her. Dogs don’t waste their time on wishing, but he missed his sister, and he missed his Emily’s happiness more than he would have missed his right front leg if it fell off. So he looked into her and he wagged an extra wag and he smiled at her and then he jumped into his crate in the van, next to his sister’s empty one.
At the lure trial, at first it was awkward. People either wanted to hug the life out of Emily, or they didn’t know what to say and they avoided her altogether. Some of the huggers then tried to steer their cheerful conversations to anything but Hope. Like maybe Emily had forgotten that her dog was gone and their mentioning Hope’s name would remind her. After getting her dogs all inspected at Roll Call, she was delighted to seek refuge at the van, getting all set up and ready for the day. The dogs were beside themselves. It felt like ten forevers since they had gotten to chase the lure, and they all focused all their energy on their Emily, saying, “Me first, me first, don’t forget me!” Those shining eyes of fun were better than morphine for the pain in Emily’s heart. All the human eyes either looked at her with pity or sympathy, or they avoided hers entirely. But these dogs held her gaze and said, “Good human! Today is the best day of our lives!”
Even Proper had extra fun in his eyes. That part of him, which had been missing for so long, felt whole again. He looked into his Emily’s heart and he said, “We are going to have a great time today. I should go first, I think. Yes, my woman, that would be fine indeed. You can put the jacket on me now.” Emily laughed.
On the drive home, the dogs were sound asleep. The completely contented sleep that only a good day of hard running brought. Emily chatted about how the dogs had done and Alabama listened and laughed. It was grand to hear her friend chatter on.
“I’m so pleased with Proper. He really had a good day. I guess he was just so glad to be running again, but that was quite a performance he put in during the run off. You’d think the lure operators would have figured out by now that the dog can turn. But you can hear them laying off the button as it’s coming to the corner and you know they think he’s going to blow the turn. I love to hear the ‘zzzzzzz’ as they realize he’s caught them sleeping and he’s going to catch the lure if they don’t punch it. I can’t blame them; he is so agile for his size and speed.”
“He really is,” said Alabama.
“And you’ve got to be proud of Katie! A win and forty points – woohoo! What’s she need now?”
“Eight more skanky points. Lordy be, it’s been long enough coming. Two stinkin’ years. But she did run her little fanny off, didn’t she? I was proud of my Katydid today.”
Katy heard her name, and stretched her toes without really waking up, and let out a contented groan. The two women laughed.
While she was already laughing, Emily said, “Could you believe Thelonious’s second run! Oh my stars, I thought the first one was inventive, but I have no idea what he thought he was chasing the second run. I mean, he was never anywhere in the neighborhood of the lure! Too bad they don’t get points for creativity, he’d be the number one sight hound in the country. You silly old man.”
Emily reached behind her seat as she drove and scratched the old dog’s neck where it laid against the crate. “He gets no less enjoyment from his day. I don’t mind paying the entry fee to see him smile like that. And how about Her Highness Raine? Wasn’t she just on fire? She ran like she was two again. Oh it does my heart good to see those dogs grin at me at the end of their runs.” Emily shook her head, sending clumps of curls flying. “Thank you, Alabama. Thank you from my dogs and from me.”
hug your hounds