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The Yankee Express

Luke Brightens a Morning

By Amy LeClaire

I don’t know what’s better, coming home to Luke or waking up to him. In all fairness, the latter stands out. Typically, I awaken before he does. We sleep on different floors; he downstairs and me, up. Luke outgrew his crate when he was about five months old. He was a big pup that needed more space. We heard him jostle in bed throughout the night. After one too many collar jingles, we cursed the bed. “Luke can’t get comfortable in that stupid crate.” The dog crate, designed to appear a piece of furniture, was anything but stupid.  Expensively plush with a thick orthopedic mattress and mahogany-stained frame, the crib could charm the most colicky of infants. Still, our pup was uncomfortable, and that was all that mattered in making the decision to follow. 
“Good night, Luke. We kissed his head and left him, uncrated, downstairs on a bright summer night. What about the next morning? Would Luke feel safe in an open downstairs that had become his new apartment? Was he ready for independence at only six months old? Would he crack open a beer? My mind wandered while lying in bed that first night. 
“Good boy, Luke!” Our pup, instead, chose solitary confinement beneath the kitchen table. Despite having the option to roam the house, he curled up in a ball, as though to make himself smaller. “Good morning, Luke! What a good boy! I praised my pup.
However convenient, his confidence grew with his maleness. Before long, he puffed out his chest and ventured outside of the kitchen table to explore other options. He’d fall asleep on the kitchen floor, at the foot of the couch and, finally, at this favorite spot—on top of smelly sneakers at the front door. 
Luke isn’t ready to get up yet. I look down the staircase and whisper to myself. Meanwhile, my one-and-a-half-year-old dog sleeps on his side like a lion. Outstretched, side of head pressed against sneakers, he sleeps soundly at the threshold of our front door. The clock reads 7:30 a.m. My son has already left for Boston and I’m getting ready to teach a dance class. Something about the fact that my dog sleeps while I’m getting ready for the day comes as a comfort. I’m an energetic person. But I need my first cup of coffee. The house is quiet. All is well. Until my phone drops by accident. Baboom. I sense Luke’s attunement. He knows I’m up now. A part of me doesn’t want to gaze down the staircase. I need a few more minutes of freedom. I need to attach false lashes to tired eyes. The other part of me can’t wait to see Luke’s big head. We’ve been apart for a whole eight hours. I face the mirror and realize I am nothing without my dog. The decision is made. 
“Hi Luke!” I glance downstairs. He stares up at me, starstruck, as though it’s the first time he’s seen a human. His head squares. The creases in his expression deepens with curiosity.  “It’s you—my Person! You’re up there and I’m down here!”
One foot socked, I trot down the stairs to greet my dog. “Hi Luke!!” He rolls onto his back for a tummy-rub, and our routine begins. He rests his head back on a smelly sneaker. “Luke, do you want to go back to sleep? Are you still tired?” He twists himself back to a standing position and looks at the door. “No. Time for me to go pee-pee, then eat.” 
I let him out. He accomplishes the fastest pee of all time and dashes back to the door. He rushes through the opened doorway, finds his spot, and awaits his breakfast. “Momma. Time to feed me.” His discipline and positive attitude, be it to be eat, inspires me. I scoop his food into the stainless-steel bowl and add water. Luke watches my every move. “Don’t forget, Momma. It’s time for breakfast.” 
I place his bowl down in its stand and the pie-eating contest begins. “Go easy, Luke.” His quest to ingest as many kibbles as possible betrays my advice. By the time my Keurig has made its first gurgle, Luke’s bowl is empty. Then comes the most endearing part of our routine. 
Now that he’s eaten (a top priority) it’s time for him to be present for what exactly has happened in a dog’s world. A new morning has happened and, along with that, the potential for so many new beginnings including stuffed tacos, a messy home, a doting family, and green grass. Luke couldn’t’ be more grateful. He rushes to his toybox, grabs his taco, and wiggles back to the kitchen He whimpers with joy.  “It’s a new day! I love you! I am so thankful for my stuffed home! Did I mention it’s a new day!”
It’s a new day, I’m reminded, and smile down at my dog.