My sacred guardian, Kahu, calls me Bernard and my dog friends call me Dawg with a capital D. I hang on the dog grapevine most days, which I admit is not much different than humans staring at their cell phones like they’re some kinda lifeline. For instance, when Charlie needs to pull himself together and learn there is life beyond the cage where he called home for five years before a family adopted him and opened the back door to a world of grass, I give him little pep talks, like if he listens, he can hear a cricket sneeze, a squirrel cracking nuts, and leaning against the wind will tell him which direction a storm is coming. Charlie, bless his beagle heart, whines every time his toes touch a blade of grass, so a storm would be hurling his body hither and yon while he’s fussing with his feet.

I gotta confess it ain’t easy being a role model. Thinking maybe my Bullmastiff Mix stature makes me appear to know things. This could be in my sizeable head, but no one really knows what they know until called upon to take action. That’s how come I spend considerable time on the grapevine helping my animal brothers and sisters outta their troubles that most often don’t amount to much except a bad case of nerves usually caused by humans or coyotes living on the periphery.

My Kahu affords me an easy life, so I have plenty of time to help others on the dog grapevine. Yesterday for instance, a hyper-labradoodle named Millie tuned in and launched into a diatribe on her hard-done-by life by denouncing her Bloodhound pack animal who crowds himself in the queen-sized bed at night and sleeps crossways instead of remaining motionless on his side. “Dog Mom, a tiny thing, doesn’t take up much space squeezing herself in somewhere, but the hound just can’t be happy in one spot in the corner of the bed. Nope, he has to spread out and crowd the rest of us trying to get a good night’s sleep.” Millie goes on like this for fifteen minutes until finally I suggest a king-size bed or grabbing a comforter and sleeping on the floor. She went to pieces over my suggestion she sleep on the floor like a normal dog even when I jog the memory of her ancestors sleeping in a cave along with their pack animal friends who survived off of each other’s body heat. She groans for a while at the thought. I don’t understand a word she is saying in her disgruntlement and begin to lose patience. I tune out and not seconds later, the Bloodhound Otto plops on the grapevine.

“Millie ain’t got a lick o’ sense probly due to her bein’ some kinda poodle mix that can result in an addled mind. Got it into her head she’s special. Every mornin’ I wake up, Dog Mom heps me pull her fur outta my mouth. Near choked to death the other day. It flies through the air and floats on the sunbeams. She ain’t special, otherwise she’d o’ figgered out how to use the vacuum cleaner herself instead o’ my havin’ to chase her around the house trying to suck up the extra hair. No siree, that girl ain’t got a lick o’ sense. Keeps runnin’ at the mouth over her bed space and won’t let me hep with her hygiene. Goes to a beauty salon that costs Dog Mom a fortune to keep her in tip top shape and smell like one o’ those ladies handin’ out perfume at the department store. I don’t mean fer yer to do nothin’ ‘bout my situation, Dawg. Jus’ wantin’ yer to know there’s always two sides to ever’ story.”

I sympathize with Otto and offer a few suggestions like sleeping in the dirty laundry on the mudroom floor. He likes this idea and being a hound, the mixture of smells would excite his nose while at the same time causing him to relax at their familiarity, especially the scent of his Dog Mom whom he considers an angel come from heaven to rescue him outta the dark side of a Southern state, a beautiful place to live if your nose has never been inside a house or any place other than the woods where it can remain an extraordinary olfactory tool for chasing small game and sometimes tracking people. Once housed indoors, its nose loses value, and most owners have their hounds put down or drop them off at a shelter like Otto who got into the neighbor’s pantry and went to town eating her fresh-baked pies every time no one was looking. An angel arrived at the shelter one day and drove him several hundred miles to her home where the pantry door remains open and even a backyard swimming pool calls his name but mostly being held in the arms of a human who loves him is all a dog could ask for when down on his luck. Listening to Otto wax on about his early beginnings lifts my spirits when knowing all he wants is a kind ear, unlike his sniffling sister.

I hear Kahu yelling, “Treat” which sets me to gallop in the direction of a tall man grinning from the pleasure of having such a handsome dog in his life, one who thinks the sun rises the moment his eyes open and the birds begin to sing in harmony at the same time the katydids lower the volume on their symphonies.

Kahu always calls me a ‘good boy’ every time I smile at him in the soulful way humans mistake for love when we just want the treat their holding like it’s some kind of gift in exchange for good behavior. I ain’t perfect. Sometimes my butt itches and the only way I can scratch it is by scooting across the carpet until I get some relief. Kahu frowns at me, but I can’t help myself ‘cause there’s no way a dog can reach his own butt with his front paws. Once Kahu tried to help by scratching it himself, but we looked at each other with manly embarrassment. I appreciated his effort, but this dog has got to keep his dignity; otherwise, I’ll find myself on the dog grapevine eliciting suggestions for a shampoo brand that best soothes delicate skin.

My sacred guardian stands taller than a privet hedge and skinny as a sapling with a litheness allowing it to bend in a soft breeze. He ain’t much to look at by Bullmastiff standards, but he’s a kind sort with good intentions. His being a vegan, though, is a thorn in my side and probably the cause of my untenable itch. He expects me to eat a bowl of rice twice a day covered in vegetables and dog supplements. Whenever I get a good sniff of my food bowl, I glance in Kahu’s direction like he expects me to eat a bowl of dung beetles. He takes this opportunity to pacify my mood by pointing out elephants are vegan, cows, horses, rhinos, and even the mighty bison are all vegans. He waxes on this subject for some time. Finally, I get tired of being compared to an elephant like I got a stomach capable of eating a hundred pounds of plants fresh from the vegetable garden, so I lick my food bowl clean, which prompts him to smile like I completed a dog marathon and solved a knotty problem for him possibly due to the loneliness that overcomes my Kahu every night when he sits on the couch without a human companion to fill in the gaps of solitude. I can hear him sigh and then he gets busy cuddling me with the same enthusiasm most humans reserve for their human companions. Naturally, I enjoy the backrubs and even roll over without shame allowing him to rub my belly until I fall asleep to the sounds of a television cowboy riding a horse, hoofs beating on the dust, and the words, “Yee haw” traveling on the airwaves. His love of westerns belies this dog’s understanding seeing as how he’s a vegan. I mean, does he think the cowboys are taking their herd to a spa? I forget the contradiction and fall asleep to the belly rubs feeling a flutter of happiness causing my hair to lie flat against my delicate body.

Another annoying thing about my Kahu, he grows his own vegetables including micro greens in the portable greenhouse off the kitchen. I shudder when he walks me up and down the rows of tiny plants and waxes on about all the nutrients found in an alfalfa sprout. He even calls me a “lucky boy” and encourages me to graze whenever my heart desires. So far, I’m lacking the wherewithal to pack away something that would stick in my teeth and be more annoying than butt itch.

I love the human who puts food in my bowl, calls me ‘good boy’, takes me to the gym, and the restaurant where they serve fake meat. Having a loyal nature and a grand capacity to love, I will remain his faithful companion and try to fill the emptiness when he feels something is missing in his life.

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