Saturday, November 24, 2007

Home at Last

“Careful of that crate! There’s a dog inside. We have to unload him first.”

A deep voice woke me from my nap. My airline crate thudded onto the conveyor belt.

“Oh, darn,” I said. “Now I’m drooling again.”

I drool when I’m nervous. And this plane ride made me nervous, even though I had my fish blankie and water bucket next to me in my crate. Well, my blankie was under me and my bucket hung on the door.

“Here you go, big feller.” A big man picked me up, crate and all, and pushed me through the flap of a doggy door.

I bumped to a stop in a big, bright room. It smelled like suitcases and people. Another big man lifted me from the moving sidewalk and put me on the floor.

“Omigosh, here he is! I can’t believe it,” murmured a voice next to my ear.

A small woman bent down and peeked at me. She held her hand up to the front of my crate. I smelled her excitement and shampoo. She opened the crate door and grabbed my leash as I jumped out. I really had to pee. That’s what a little anxiety can do to you.

“Hello, collie,” the gentle voice said. “I’m your new Mom. Come with me.”

She grabbed my crate in one hand. She put her other hand through the loop of my leash. Hoisting the crate onto her shoulder, she led me a cross the street to a nearby parking lot. I said hello to an SUV tire, an empty soda bottle, the side of a garbage can, and a tuft of grass near the fence. While I was busy, my new Mom put my crate into the back of her car.

“Thirsty? Want a drink?” She poured me a dish of cold water.

This water smelled different from the water I had been given since I was a puppy. It tasted good, though. I took a drink. I dribbled water on my new Mom’s left shoe.

“Gee, thanks,” she said, lifting up the wet foot and drying it on the back of her right pant leg. She laughed.

I was still nervous. I took a sniff around. First, I smelled Mom. She smelled like dogs and denim. I sniffed her car tire. It smelled like a car tire. I gave her pocket a sniff. I smelled cookies.

Mom knelt down at my right side and turned her shoulders away from me and licked her lips. In dog language, she was sending me calming signals. They didn’t work. I was still jittery. She gave my chest a rub. Then she stroked my shoulder and rubbed my neck all the way to my ears. That felt good. She held out a cookie and I took it gently, as I had been taught. It crunched. It munched. It was yummy. I began to relax.

I gave Mom a sloppy kiss on her chin. She smiled into my eyes and gave my side a gentle thump to help me feel brave.

She wiped her face with her sleeve. “Let’s go home,” she said, standing up.

Her words were drowned out by a mighty roar. The sound came from behind the building in back of us.

“Yikes! What was that?” I jumped in fright and looked around. I started drooling again.

I do not like loud noises. I thought about running. I lunged to the end of the leash to see how strong it was. The leash held me even when I backed up against its pull. My collar was too tight for me to slip my head through its opening and run.

“You’re all right,” Mom told me. “That’s just an airplane taking off.”

“Get me out of here,” I whimpered. I was afraid.

Mom opened the rear compartment of the car. I jumped in and skidded onto my fish blankie. I was shaking a little from the loud noise and the plane ride and the newness of Mom. I crouched in my crate, trying to make myself as small as possible.

“You’re OK, Sailor,” Mom said firmly. “We’ll be home in a jiffy.”

Sailor? That was me? I tilted my head and looked at Mom with a question in my eyes.

“Well, you just sailed right into my heart, didn’t you?” Mom asked. “So you are my Sailor.”

I smiled a doggy smile and relaxed. I was her Sailor.

We left the airport behind and headed toward the smell of freeway. Once the car was heading in a straight line toward the sun, I began to relax again. The car swayed. New Mom hummed. It made me drowsy. My fish blankie felt soft. I put my head down and stopped drooling. My eyes closed.

I woke up as Mom turned into a driveway between two trees. She pulled on the emergency brake and let me out of the car. She attached me to my leash. I bounded around her in circles. I bowed. I stretched. I sniffed every bump in the driveway. I smelled dog and cat and Mom’s footprints. I smelled her tire tracks, too, and the tracks of other cars as well.

After I had watered a small shrub, we marched up the walkway past the house. I sniffed the edge of the lawn. I sniffed an azalea bush and a light bulb on a stick. I looked up to see where I was going and stopped dead in my tracks.

“Ooph, Sailor,” Mom said as she crashed into my rear end. “Why stop here?”

In front of me, curled up on a brick planter, was a cat. She was a small cat. She had a cream-colored body and dark tail. She had dark ears and dark feet, too She watched me with her slightly crossed blue eyes. As I came closer, she stood up and put her back in the air.

“Hiss-Spit,” she called loudly. “Stay away. I am not fond of dogs and they are not fond of me. Hiss-Spit.” Her voice was surprisingly deep for such a small cat.

Quickly I looked away. I hoped that Hiss-Spit wouldn’t choose that moment to leap at me. I remembered another cat that used to ambush me when I was a puppy.

“Maybe if I ignore her, she will ignore me,” I thought to myself, careful to look at the ground and not at the cat.

Hiss-Spit followed us into the backyard, grumbling under her breath. I tested the leash again, in case I had to run. I hoped the cat wasn’t planning a rear attack on my more delicate parts. Hiss-Spit kept her distance and followed me to the back patio. The bricks felt warm on the bottoms of my feet.

The cat jumped up to the back porch. She crouched down. Her tail was puffy and twitching.

“Hiss-Spit, I won’t hurt you. Please don’t hurt me,” I whined. I was not sure what she would do next.

Just in case, I sat down to protect my tail. Mom unclipped my leash and walked out of sight.

Off to my left, I heard the clank of a gate. I heard four pawsteps coming toward us at a fast trot.

Suddenly, Hiss-Spit leaped to her feet and scampered up the nearest oak tree. Her feet made a scratching, scrabbling sound. Her eyes were wide. Her ears were flattened against her head.

I almost jumped out of my fur. I was afraid that whatever scared Hiss-Spit was going to scare me, too. I looked around for Mom, but she had disappeared.

I was about to start drooling again when I caught a wonderful scent.

“I smell dog,” I said to myself. “I smell dog and she’s coming closer and closer.”

My tail began to wag. My mouth opened in a grin. I put my ears flat against my head so the dog would know I was friendly.

“I’m Sailor and I’m over here!” I called. “Who are you?”

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