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The Yankee Express

Luke reveals a stubborn side

Luke sits at his spot.


Life has been far more interesting with a puppy named Luke Valentino. He entered my life on Friday, March 25th at 11:00 a.m. He stole my heart at noon.
“There you are! I can’t believe it’s you again!” He awakens to the sight of me and wiggles in a circle around me. The routine is utterly fantastic.
“Hi Luke!” We’ve been apart for over nine hours and I’m so ready to reunite. “How is my puppy?” He tells me how he is with whimpers of joy, a sneaker in his mouth. “I just can’t believe this is happening!! You’re here again and it’s going to be such a great day!”  Dogs are ecstatic about being with us—and this is no exaggeration. Their love is unconditional, boundless. They see no baggage, hold no grudges, and appreciate us exactly as we are. 
“You’re such a good boy, Luke!” Positive affirmations are everywhere. Social media, inspirational quotes and Wall Art remind us to Be Positive and Live Well. Dogs naturally understand the vibe. “I really am a good boy.” He smiles as dogs do, with genuine innocence and appreciation for living. “Watch how good I am at finding my spot. I’ll go sit down and you get my breakfast ready. Sound good?” He sits regally, posing like a dog model preparing for a headshot, then studies me. “She’s going to make coffee, fill my water bowl and scoop up my cup of dog food, then add some water.” His eyes are glued to my moves. “I just can’t believe this is happening. My meal really is on its way!” 
He jumps off of his spot. “Let’s just get on with eating!” He’s mastered having patience since he was eight weeks old. I want to sustain the achievement, one built on both our efforts. “Luke, go sit at your spot.” He tap dances back to his spot and does his best to sit still but—
“She remembered the blueberries!!” I finally set the bowl down and another pie-eating contest begins. Sometimes I can’t believe how much Luke Valentino embodies his name, one that contains the letters L, O, V, E (just as his cousin, Lincoln Veto did). Other times I can’t believe how stubborn he is.

*  *  *

“Luke!!” I trot, barefooted, into my neighbor’s backyard, where my pup has crossed a border of shrubs to chase after a bunny. 
He zigs. He zags. He zooms. Then he finds himself in the middle of the road in front of both our houses. I watch him from a distance. A light bulb has gone off in his boxy puppy head. “How did I get here?” I watch him put two and two together. “What just happened? Something doesn’t feel right. Where’s my family?”
I approach him. “Get over here, Luke.” He freezes to the sight of me. “Hi Momma.” Then he shows me some sass. “Ha hah!” I lunge for his collar but he dodges me as though we’re competing in a game of flag football. “Bet you can’t catch me!”
Truth. I’m cannot catch a 55-pound puppy who’s built like a miniature Rob Gronkowski. “Let’s go back to Luke’s house!” I reach into a pocket of invisible dog incentives. “I got something for Luke!” He knows the phrase. His head squares while he pauses to think it over. I’ve been very consistent with food rewards and am hoping to capitalize on the tactic. I move towards him. 
“Let’s play Keep Away instead!” Baby Gronk isn’t sold on another kibble. He gallops further away from me then lowers his head in mischief, game on.
I have to be smarter. My pup is on the loose in the road and thinks he’s being funny. “Bye, Luke.” I cross over the sidewalk and head into my yard. I keep walking away until we’re parted at a distance curious enough to keep him engaged. “Where are you going? You’re really going to leave me?” I make my way up to my deck and exaggerate the role of saddened Dog Mom. “I was hoping Luke would come home today.” I even use his baby name. “I don’t know what I’ll do without my Lukey.” He perks up and stiffens to my tone of voice. “I’m right here, Momma!!! Stay right there!! Coming home now!!!” 
He rushes back to me as though auditioning for a role in Lassie. We reunite on the deck. “There’s no place like home!” Dogs tell it like it is. I massage his ears. He lifts his head and smiles, his tongue hanging out of one side of his mouth. “Do you think I could have a few blueberries now that I’ve listened so well?” 
Reverse psychology worked for a while. Until Luke’s paws grew bigger, along with his will to do things his way. Walks have become more a chore than a score, and I’m partially to blame. I’ve introduced Luke to a variety of friends and he remembers exactly where they all live. He’s wrestled and romped with Kaiser. He’s played Chase with Rosie. He’s pulled me onto Benny’s front lawn for a quick game of let’s-sniff-each-other. 
Luke’s popularity, however charming, has become problematic. 
Every time we pass by the homes of his friends, he stops and sits.  “I’m stopping to play with Kai.” He glances up at me casually. “I’m not moving until I see my friend.” My puppy appears calm and poised, as though he has all day to wait. Truthfully, he does. He’s a dog. He lives in the moment and has no agenda. As a Dog Person, I empathize at first. “Kai has been a good friend, hasn’t he?” It’s the truth. Kai has allowed a feisty Luke to jump on his back, tear at his ears and be aggressive. Kai is twice Luke’s size. He could easily pin my pup to the ground. Instead, a dog with a notably high self-esteem backs off and lets the crazy pup win. I endorse the friendship. Still, my patience has run thin. “Kai went for a ride, Luke.” The white lie slips out easily. 
“Woo, woo, woo, woo, woo.” My cover is blown. Kai calls back to his young friend from the front window.  “I see you, Luke! I want to play, too, but I’m door-blocked! Maybe there’s a way you can let me out!” 
I feel vulnerable suddenly, manipulated by a pair of dogs with a bond. Luke pulls and stretches closer to his doggie pal in the window. He’s panting and desperate, as though his life suddenly depends on a reunion. 
C’mon, Luke. We need to go see Daddy.” I pull him forward while he puts on his brakes, apparently unimpressed by the thought of Daddy. “Let’s go home.” He retracts and slips out of his harness until it rests on his head like the veil of a nun. “Luke, please.” I pull him some more. His face folds up to convey The Joker’s smile. “Aren’t I cute?” The struggle lingers and starts to feel embarrassing. My neighbors have very possibly witnessed the scene from high windows. “Cute pup but, gosh, he’s stubborn. Nice girl, terrible dog trainer.” My tone of voice darkens with impatience. “Luke Valentino!” I reach for the back loop of his harness, but he flattens himself to the ground, a cartoon just run over. His eyes roll up to me in mischief. “I just want to play with Kai.” 
Somehow I muster up the energy to scoop him beneath the legs and shuffle ahead as though carrying an overweight lamb. I set him down at the next house, thankfully that of a non-dog owner. “Let’s go, Luke.” He trots beside me, the incident already a distant memory (because he’s a dog), and we make our way home. I bring him a bowl of fresh ice water and place it down on his favorite spot at the front steps. Then, as though bobbing for apples, he draws out cube after cube and chews. He reminds me of Charlie Brown’s Snoopy, crunching away at the ice cubes casually, as though the world is put on hold for him. Ice chips and water dribble from his mouth while I kiss his head. Luke Valentino has a stubborn side, but I still love him to pieces.