“Someday we’ll look back on this, and it will all seem funny…”
From Rosalita by Bruce Springsteen
Okay, it’s not funny yet, even though it’s been almost two months. I am starting to smile about it, though. So, I guess it is finally time to tell the story.
First a little background. My friend Marianne and her family go away every year to a family reunion at the White Stallion Ranch in Arizona. Back in 2018, she called me up in a panic. Their dogsitter wasn’t going to be available. Could I come up to New York? Sure, why not. Maisy was just a small dog, and I didn’t even have to walk her, just let her out in the big fenced-in backyard whenever she had to go. Plus, it was a chance for me to see my New York friends. So, I quickly said, Yes.
A little before Thanksgiving this past year, Marianne called me. Could I watch the dog again? Sure, no problem. In a way it was kind of an honor. Marianne’s family is special. She was once voted Nassau County’s Person of the Year. Her husband Tres is one of the best video editors in TV, and he has the Emmys to prove it. How many Emmys? I don’t think he even knows the exact number, but if you were trying to count them all on your fingers and toes, you would have to take off both shoes. Their oldest boy, Will, just accepted a teaching position in Japan. Their daughter, Jessie, is a world-famous Irish Step Dancer. The youngest boy, Shane, is a musical prodigy, who gets along with everyone. After their vacation at the ranch in 2018, the owners of the ranch begged him to stay there as one of the horse wranglers. He did, despite the fact that he had never ridden a horse before going to the ranch. Now, he’s a bonafide cowboy, a musical cowboy, the next Gene Autry.
The only problem I remember having had in 2018 was that Maisy didn’t always want to come back in. If there was a squirrel, raccoon, possum, or anything that moved in the backyard, she wanted to chase it and bark. I wasn’t nearly fast enough to catch her, so I always had to just wait until she was ready to come back in on her own. So, this time I had a plan. When I got to Marianne’s house on Long Island, I got out my phone, switched on the voice recording ap, and had Marianne say, “Maisy…Maisy…come here girl.” Now, I was all set. I also know that Marianne has a support group behind her that is more efficient than any SWAT team. They are a SWAT team, they’re a Support With Attitude Team. They do a lot of charity work. They hold drives and collect food and clothing for the less fortunate. Anything that needs to be done, these ladies get it done. So, I knew that If I had any trouble, all I had to do was call Sherri, the Captain of the SWAT team.
My first night there, I went to sleep and had a great dream. This is very unusual, because my dreams usually suck. I don’t have nightmares, but I don’t have very satisfying dreams. I usually dream that I’m lost, or late for work, or having a serious problem at work. This is really odd because I’ve been retired for close to 10 years now, and I never even think about work during my waking hours. But there I was having this dream, one of the best dreams of my life. I was the judge of a beauty contest and all the contestants were flirting with me to try to get me to vote for them. Flirting is a mild word compared to what I was actually dreaming, but you get the point. So, I am enjoying their attention and really getting into it, when I suddenly wake up to find that Maisy was licking my face like it was a bowl of ice cream.
I got up and slid the outside door open for her. She just stood there wondering why I had ended the make-out session so abruptly. Well, now I had to pee. I slid the door closed, did my business and returned to bed only to find Maisy waiting for me.
“Okay, but no tongues,” I said, quoting a line from Young Frankenstein, as I crawled in next to the dog.
That turned out to be my wake-up call every day for the entire week I was there. Basically, all I had to do was feed the dog, make sure there was water in her water dish, and let her in and out whenever she had to take a stretch or fertilize the yard. So, I made a lot of plans to see my New York friends. I spent some time with my former next-door neighbor, Susan, my friend Linda, my friend John, and my family. Nice work if you can get it, huh? I was even able to get high while on the job.
The first night while I was getting high, I heard barking. What a noisy neighborhood, I thought to myself. It sounds like the Hounds of the Baskervilles out there. Then I realized what was happening. That was Maisy barking. I had forgotten that I let her out, so I quickly went to the door and let her in. I’m not used to taking care of anyone besides myself, so I would have to either stay straight and sober or come up with a foolproof way to remember when the dog was out. I came up with a plan. Whenever I let her out, I turned my watch band around, and with a permanent marker I wrote D-O-G on the back of my watch. That worked!
I spent a lot of time talking to the dog that week. Naturally, she didn’t talk back, but I pretended that I could tell what she was thinking just by the look on her face. On Sunday she told me she wanted to watch football. Not out loud, of course, but that’s what it looked like she wanted to say.
Unfortunately, the game I was looking forward to watching wasn’t on. New Yorkers don’t care about the Eagles. They want to watch the Giants and Jets. So, I shut off the TV. I don’t have cable in Lancaster. I had it removed when they doubled the price. I usually just get DVD’s from the library or watch YouTube on my phone. So, everyone expected that I would spend the week watching HBO, etc., but I’ve become so used to not watching TV that most days I didn’t even turn on the television. I had my laptop, and I watched a lot of Harness Racing.
That amused me, but it bored the heck out of Maisy. So, we played Fetch. That didn’t work out too well, though. Back when I was married, I used to play Fetch with my wife’s dog, Liebchen. She would get a ball and drop it by my feet. I would pick it up and throw it. She would fetch it and drop it at my feet. I would throw it again. This went on until she was tired of fetching. Maisy liked to fetch, too, but she didn’t believe in dropping the ball at my feet. She wanted to play tug of war with it, and she wouldn’t let go for anything. Trying to retrieve a drool-covered ball from her mouth didn’t much interest me, so that game didn’t last too long. Maisy came up with another game, though. There are sleigh bells hanging by the door and when she wants to go out, she just has to ring the bells. She came up with a game I called, Make the Dogsitter your Bitch. She would ring the bell. I would get up and open the door. Then she would give me a little doggie laugh and casually walk away. This went on constantly, and there was nothing I could do to win the game. I had to open the door. If she really had to go out and I didn’t open the door, I would have to clean up the consequences. So, I kept getting up to open the door and she kept doggie laughing at me every time.
I mentioned that Tres is a video editor, so I invented a game of my own. I pretended that Tres had placed a nannycam on the dog, and I acted out what I thought would be funny scenes with Maisy for Tres to make into a hilarious video. I made a fool of myself, but I was just having fun, and I didn’t really think that Maisy was wearing a miniature camcorder.
Maisy and I were flowing into a rhythm. She was getting plenty to eat and drink, and a good bit of exercise chasing whatever squirrels dared to trespass on her domain. We were in sync. Then came Black Friday.
Maisy woke me up as usual at 7:30 a.m. I let her out into the yard, so she could do her business while I cooked her breakfast, two-thirds of a can of dog food, heated in the microwave for 12 seconds.
When her breakfast was ready, I went to the back door to see if she was ready to come in. I didn’t see her anywhere. I watched for a while. I still didn’t see her. I put on my coat over my pajamas and I went outside. She was nowhere to be found, but I did find that a strong wind had blown the gates open just far enough for a little dog of Maisy’s size to get out. She was gone, and I had discovered her escape route. My heart sank.
I thought about calling Marianne’s SWAT team, the numbers she had given me to call in case of emergency, and Sheri was at the top of the list. I thought about it for a couple seconds and decided to at least check to see if the dog was on the front porch before I went into full panic mode. Pictures kept flashing in my mind. Pictures of Maisy on a milk carton. Pictures of me on a wanted poster. I wondered if I was too old to join the French Foreign Legion.
I checked the front porch, but Maisy wasn’t there. It was my worst moment of the year. I decided to spend a few more minutes looking for the dog, before I called in the cavalry. I started walking around the neighborhood with my phone ap constantly playing “Maisy…Maisy…Come here girl.” I was like John Cussack in the movie “Say Anything” when he was standing outside his ex-girlfriend’s house holding up a boombox playing their song.
When I got to the corner my phone rang. It was Marianne. I hesitated before I answered. Remember how Ralph Kramden would stutter humminahumminahummina whenever he didn’t know what to say. My “Hello” must have sounded a lot like that.
“Maisy is down the block” she said casually. “A neighbor found her. Sherri is picking her up. She’ll be there in 7 minutes.”
Marianne was 2500 miles away, and she had already found the dog that I had just figured out was lost.
It was 5 o’clock in the morning where she was. How was this possible? Was Maisy actually wearing a Maisy Cam?
A few minutes later Sherri pulled up with Maisy sitting contentedly in the passenger seat. I was quite sure that she was doggie laughing at me, but I didn’t care. I was just relieved that Maisy was no longer missing, even if I was gonna look like an idiot if a video ever came out. Maybe that’s when it will all seem funny.
Peace and Love, and all of the above,