Luke learns through play
By AMY LECLAIRE
Luke follows me everywhere, even into the bathroom. Dog People understand. Dogs want to know where we are at all times. Therefore they make themselves available to us all the time. For this reason, amongst so many others, it’s so very hard to lose them. A dog’s life is far too short. They’re there, and then suddenly they’re not. The empty space marking ‘what was’ and ‘what is’ often leads to one of the most painful life transitions for a dog owner.
Henceforth, we don’t mind tinkling on the toilet while our dogs sit in front of us and wait casually, as though there’s no reason to be private about the business of going pee-pee. A dog has a one-track mind. Follow owner. Be with owner. Love owner.
I’ve had dogs my whole life, and appreciate their brand of love. Never would I have guessed, however, that my latest addition to the family would follow me into the bathroom for yet another reason.
“What are you doing, Luke?”
Luke happens to be watching me do laundry. He sits and waits for me to drop socks and shirts, piece by piece, into the washer tub as though to say, “When will it end? Look at all of those clothes!” His ears prop up intelligently. He’s hoping that I’ll accidentally drop a sock onto the floor amid a soft toss. Here’s the sad truth about this.
A part of me actually wants to feign an accident for him just to witness the surge of joy in his eyes as he realizes his good fortune. “My life is short. I’m grabbing that baby before Mom takes it back.” Believe me, I’ve played Bad Cop, and said no to my pup often. Still, I must confess—it’s difficult to say no to a six-month-old pup with eyes that plead, “I’m just going to hold it, Mom. I promise to give it right back.”
Nevertheless, Professor Luke isn’t fooling anyone. I’ve seen that pup steal a sock with the grace of a burglar in slippers, then dash beneath the kitchen table (his cave) and tuck it between his paws. “No one can see you under there, Luke,” I say with sarcasm not lost on a smart puppy. He looks up in paranoia yet refuses to come clean. “Let me just take care of this loose thread.”
His cuteness tempts me, but most times, it’s not enough to sell me. So I make sure that every sock makes it into the washer. Then I kneel down with him and share in the joy that is the laundry finale. I press the magic button and we both watch the clothes dance and bounce against the washer door. “There they go, Luke!”
Professor Luke is always on the move to learn new things. Water play has offered him added opportunity, especially during the summer months. I’ll never forget the first time he watched me water flowers. “The water is shooting from the snake’s mouth!” He couldn’t hold back his elation, and wanted IN. He barked, crinkled his nose and became boss to the water. He chomped at the droplets and struggled to track the irregular direction of the spray, while I moved the hose back and forth. “I’m gonna’ get you, sprays of water. And you! And you, too! Hey, what happened?”
The water game has been a hit all summer long. A child of the seventies (and to my pup’s benefit) I still adore playing with the hose. I hold my thumb against its mouth to control the water flow. The water stream changes shape, morphing to a thin section that sprays and darkens Luke’s roaring little face. “Knock it off!” He digs his heels into the grass and barks some more. Luke is rather cute when he’s angry but I haven’t the heart to frustrate him more with the water’s erratic behavior. Instead, I lower the hose to the ground and create a bubbler for him to drink from.
Empowered, Luke gulps at the water with the satisfaction of a mob boss. He even takes a shot at biting the green tube, a final nail in his coffin of frustration. “Take that, Hose!” I use the hose as a gun (capitalizing on an ironic defense) and spray him. “Luke – No!” He jumps backwards and shakes his head. “He started it!” His bear cub face is dark and dirty. Residual water drips from his mouth and he smiles devilishly, a small wolf with a temper. I make an important decision to turn the water off at its source.
Luke carries his love for water to pools and lakes. His first swim at Lake Singletary proved to be an enlightening experience. My son, a former lifeguard, dove underwater first. Luke, needing to follow his brother (and favorite person) learned to swim by virtue of needing to swim. It was that simple. He initially slapped down at the water, his paws frantic and desperate, as though he needed to save himself, then his brother, from a horrific drowning accident. After only a few tries, he learned to paddle efficiently. Now he swims smoothly, just as Lincoln had for so many years, barring one exception.
Lincoln was an athlete. Luke is a learner. The curious pup encountered a clever new trick while swimming. He found that he’s able to create the same “hose effect” by slapping his paws against the water. Then he’ll bite and swim after delicious circles of bubble and spray. I’ll never tire of watching Luke bring life to the term, Simple Pleasures. My pup is intelligent enough to create his own fun.
Luke’s quiet side is as remarkable as his fun side. He goes out to lunch with me often, and rests calmly beneath an outdoor table while person after person comes by to pet him and learn more about him. He especially loves children. I think he senses his own small age while watching them move and speak in small voices. “Can my daughter pet your dog?” He listens to Mom and lowers his head obediently while a small hand pets his head. One time, from a distance, he watched as a child cried. He softened his gaze and studied her intently. His mouth stilled. I think he may have been saying what dogs have been telling us for years.
“It’s okay. I understand you, and I love you. I don’t know what happened or how it happened, but I’m here for you.”
Dogs do not leave our sides. For this reason, Luke is always welcome to join me in the bathroom.
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Find Luke on Instagram: instagram.com/livingwithlukevalentino