What a beautiful garden. We sat on the well-cushioned wrought iron chairs waiting for our hostess to bring tea.
“Won’t you take tea and some scones?” Linda asked before we had even signed the guestbook. “The garden is lovely this time of year.”
And it was, a springtime profusion of color, growth, and scent. Enough to lull us away from the tensions of the day’s drive. More than enough to assure that I would spend the night suffering with allergies. Still, a true delight of a place.
I breathed deeply. My wife pulled out the little pillbox that held my antihistamines. Choosing one of the various pills at random, I swallowed it without benefit of water. When it came to allergy medicines, I had been swallowing pills that way since I was three. Not that they did much to help, or perhaps they did and I still suffered. Oh well, it was a great garden.
I was so busy enjoying the warm spring New England day and the joy of the Bed and Breakfast’s backyard that I hadn’t noticed him. It was only when I allowed my left hand to drift down from my lap, perhaps it and I were ready for sleep. Suddenly, I was fully awake. Cold, wet. What? I jerked my hand up and looked down. What did I expect to find?
I started to laugh. A buff and white cocker spaniel, his head cocked to one side, his tail awag with energy that belied his graying muzzle, his mouth barely able to hold the outsized ball dripping with saliva. Now that was a benefit I hadn’t expected. We had left our dogs in the kennel, and only two days into our trip I already missed them—especially our Airedale who loved to chase sticks. Since she didn’t retrieve, a ball wasn’t Jennifer’s thing; but chasing a thrown stick, now that was a great game.
“You want me to throw that for you?” I asked and held my hand down near the dog’s mouth. I expected to have that well-slobbered orb dropped into my palm, but it wasn’t.
“You have to take it from his mouth.” Linda had returned with an elaborate tea tray. Scones with jam and cream, cakes, sandwiches, and of course a pot and two fine china cups. Perhaps she thought we were royalty. Over her right forearm was draped a small linen towel—a lovely touch of fine service. If our room was as nice as this greeting, we had lucked into a wonderful deal for our night in Providence.
“He’s blind,” she continued, so he doesn’t see your hand. He smells you… and hears you of course,” she explained before I could ask, “but he can’t actually tell if your hand is open.”
“Blind, how sad. Then he can’t—”
“Of course he can. He uses his hearing. Throw it and watch.”
I gave the ball a little tug and out it popped. Now I understood the purpose of that towel; my hand was awash with saliva.
I threw that sopping ball—not too far, how could he possibly find it if I threw it too far? No sooner did it land then the dog took off, his great cocker ears flapping with each bounce. Almost immediately he was back, nuzzling my hand.
Another throw and then another: each longer than the one before. Without hesitation he was after each toss; The garden was truly the dog’s domain. Never a stumble or a problem with a bush or plant.
“Enough, Baylor,” our hostess said. “Let the man have his tea.”
With an audible sign, Baylor lay by my feet, clearly waiting for me to resume the game. I wiped my hands on the proffered towel and dug into the feast.
Not by accident, I dropped a piece of scone, a bite of cake, a bit of sandwich. Even in the profusion of scents which filled that garden, Baylor found them all.
“Glaucoma,” Linda explained to me at breakfast. “Cockers are prone to eye problems. And ear. And of course they require brushing, just endless grooming. But…” She reached down and stroked Baylor. He buried his nose in her hand.
“Where’s his ball,” I asked.
“In the garden, where it belongs. Do you want to take him out for a while?”
I thought about for a moment, took another bite of the delicious soufflé and one of the fresh baked biscuit covered with homemade strawberry jam.
As I weighed the options, my wife wisely made the decision for me. “Finish your breakfast, and no, you can’t get another dog.”
A New Englander by birth and disposition and trained as a psychologist and minister, Ken Weene has worked as an educator and psychotherapist.
Besides writing, Ken's earlier interests included whitewater rafting, travel, and playing paintball.
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