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The Yankee Express

Sticking Together

By Amy LeClaire

Some mornings are simply crazy.  The week following Memorial Day was no exception. A four-day week caused a traffic jam in the flow of our typical week. Since Luke is a dog who married into a busy family, he was about to pay an unfair price. Ahem. That is, until I stepped in. Here’s the Wednesday morning story.
My son, Ben, fed Luke and let him out before leaving for work at 7:15 am. I checked into the kitchen fifteen minutes later to find the obvious note. LUKE ATE. (Luke has been known to bluff when a family member feeds him early, facing his bowl like an impoverished child in pursuit of a double dip). I did a happy dance. One less thing to do before leaving to teach a class. I texted my son a follow-up note. “Did Luke poop?” Dog parenting is much like training a toddler to go on the potty. Scheduling and communication are important. My family is not above talking about Luke’s poops.  “No.” 
The weight of the world bore down upon me.  
Jim, my husband and Luke’s Daddy, entered the scene 15 minutes later, briefcase in hand. “You’re headed to the office today?” I did the math. Who would be available for Luke this morning? “Do you think you can let Luke out to do his poop before you leave? I have class this morning.”  
Luke raised a brow. “Mummy, I’ll go when I need to go.” When Luke needed to and when he could go were two different things.  Unlike my last few Goldens, Luke outgrew his crate when he was only four months old. He was a bull with a big head in a China closet that he resented. We heard him shift through the night like a sheet-tossing sleep partner and had to make a change. We allowed Luke the freedom to choose where he wanted to sleep downstairs. First, he created his own safe space beneath the kitchen table, where he curled up like a kitten throughout the night. I’d enter the kitchen to find him waiting for the morning cue to get up and walk around. “Good boy, Luke!”  Months passed, and he began to collapse on the dog beds we offered him. Now, at two and one-half, Luke has developed the sleep habits of a male living in his own bachelor pad. He snuggles with us on the couch. He stretches like a lion across accent rugs. He sips water from the toilet bowl. We’re waiting to find him cracking open a Coors Light at 3 a.m. Luke stayed in his crate until he was over a year. When we left him alone for a few hours, even outside of the crate, he never had accidents. Luke is a dog of a different color. 
“I never should have eaten that bunny poop. My stomach was off. I did my best to hide that mound on the edge of the carpet. How did you find it?”  
Busy lives or not, Luke needed to do his business before we left the house. “Go do poopies, Luke.”  Daddy let him out, but only to find Luke trotting back up the stairs, almost as though sensing the immediacy of our request, and perhaps not wanting us to leave. He collapsed on the floor. His dog calendar was wide open. “I need to relax before the poop will come out.”  
“He’ll be fine.” Daddy detached from the conflict and headed out. I was less convinced that Luke would be fine. It wasn’t fair to make him hold it or worse, not hold it. I did what every good Dog Mom does. I grabbed his leash and told myself we’d figure it out. “You want to come to Crunch Fitness with me, Luke?”
“I thought you’d never ask!” (I swear I noticed him wink to an invisible reader at that very moment). We drove in peace. Luke has been the easiest travel companion of all my dogs. He popped his head from the sunroof of his dog crate and quietly watched the cars and houses pass him by. We arrived at Crunch Fitness ten minutes early on a sunny Wednesday morning. There was no way I could leave Luke in the car, even with the windows open. The temperature was already climbing. Dogs are vulnerable to heat stroke. With a few minutes to spare, I unloaded Luke and walked him along the sidewalk flanking the gym. We found a patch of mulch across the street. Luke did number two while solving problem number one. Hallelujah! But what would Luke do while I teach class? Where would I put Luke?
“That water bottle is the best!” Luke was about to party on through a Zumba class. He made an immediate connection with his Auntie Jo (sweet Bruno’s Mom) and pranced about the room with her water bottle. He squealed joyfully. He could barely contain his sudden luck.  “Fitness is the best. I feel like they cranked the AC too!”  I set up my music with only one minute to spare. I couldn’t let Luke roam freely about the room. Members needed to concentrate on the dances. How would I teach a full Zumba class with my dog? 
I was about to find out that I would teach with my dog present very easily. Leashed and tied to a bar at the back end of the room beside Auntie Jo, Luke rested against her cloth pocketbook and listened to the music calmly; an old man waiting for a catch on a fishing boat. He looked up every so often at me and broke into a smile that made my heart dance. “You can always count on me to be a good boy, Momma. We just need to stick together.” 
I couldn’t agree with Luke more.
Stay tuned for more on Luke Valentino.
Follow him on IG @livingwithlukevalentino  
Write to Amy at [email protected]