The view from the top of the hill was spectacular, blue sky and floating cotton balls as far as the eye could see. Beneath us, a sea of green unraveled, complete with rippling waves of grass that spread out for miles until at last, they met a wall of maples, oaks, and elms. The entire panorama took my breath away.
In the midst of it all was a brown dog with two very floppy ears. That would be me, Cindee, half chocolate lab, half pit bull, and all kisses!
I closed my eyes expecting to find a paradise in my imagination. Instead, I discovered a replica of the world I was already in, only lacking in brilliance and luster. Disappointed by what I found; I was content to let my other senses take over.
Sunlight danced on my flesh, eliciting an outbreak of goosebumps, and warming not just my body, but the deepest part of me where my soul resides.
My nose wiggled and picked up the sweetest scent of flowers: tulips, orchards, and chrysanthemums. The freshness of the air mingled and merged with the floral bouquet to create the most deliciously intoxicating aroma. I could not resist smiling.
As if I was not already in heaven, the tender melody of warblers, larks, and swallows entered my ears and penetrated my heart. I tipped over on my back and enjoyed the sensation of leaving my body to float along in the wispy ether.
Oh, what bliss!
Fate chose that very moment to drop a forty-five-pound puppy on my chest.
“Wakey wakey old lady!”
My eyes popped open and were met by a set of honey brown irises floating in an ocean of pristine white.
I tried to complain but could only manage to accomplish an irritated gasp. The flames from a fiery heat began to rise in my cheeks.
The creamy white puppy had managed to channel his excitement into a movement that raised memories of mommy practicing CPR on a crash test dummy, only I was the dummy, maybe in more ways than one.
Darkness began to creep in from the corners of my vision bringing with it a sense of unbridled panic. This puppy was choking the life out of me and didn’t even realize it.
The sound of my own body coughing and wheezing in an unsuccessful quest for air finally triggered my fight or flight mechanism.
Little pin pricks of needles began to stab at my arms and legs. The room around me started to fill with a white haze. The last image I could remember before fading into a white-hot rage was a furry off-white face with a maniacal grin bouncing around in front of me.
My legs kicked at thin air and my body writhed around beneath the dog, who still was administering chest compressions in a feverish frenzy.
I was done for!
In one last bid to stave off imminent death my head lurched forward. My teeth latched onto the puppy’s nose and chomped down hard.
“Ooooouch,” he howled from the depths of his diaphragm.
“Are you crazy, Mylo?”
The anger that had been simmering inside had bubbles to the surface and erupted in a fierce growl. The puppy gazed at me with a scowl while he rubbed his sore nose.
“What did you do that for?”
The words tumbled out in a mixture of half whine and half anger. He shot daggers at me through his narrowed eyes, but didn’t speak another word, instead he marched up slapped me across the face with a paw, then turned and ran for his life.
“You’ll be sorry when I catch you,” I huffed at him. That is when the chase began that weaved across the lawn and into the house.
I was beginning to think that my threat was a hollow one. There was no way my old bones were going to be able to catch that young pup. Now that I think about it, he probably took that calculation into consideration before smacking me.
He skidded around the corner and started up the stairs with me still in hot pursuit. At last, his youth was starting to show itself. I couldn’t help but smile. Mylo had made a fatal flaw, and I was going to take advantage of it.
The puppy slowed down at the top of the stairs, almost coming to a complete halt. He glanced into the bedroom on the left, then shifted his focus to the guestroom on the right. I had stopped running because I knew he was trapped. The little whipper snapper had nowhere to go. He took one look at me and pranced into the guestroom.
“You are all mine you little …”
I turned the corner and my words stuck in my throat. There before my very eyes was that little troublemaker, standing right next to mommy and innocently batting his eyelashes at her.
“Cindee! What are you doing to Mylo?”
I didn’t like the tone in her voice. I could already tell this wasn’t going to turn out well for me.
“I was just … nothing,” I quietly murmured.
“You be nice to him,” she reprimanded me in the most serious of voices.
Defeated, I dropped my head then turned to walk away. It’s not fair. Mr. Prince Charming can do whatever he wants and get away with it. It makes me sick. I stopped in the doorway and turned to look over my shoulder at the puppy.
Having expressed my feelings, I trotted away as quickly as I could before I got into any more trouble. I was halfway down the stairs when I heard Mommy’s voice and the repercussion hit.
Having dealt with Mommy’s agitation, I found myself back outside in the yard, watching the cars go by. I would like to have gone back to the wonderful dream I had been having, but my nerves were still buzzing, and all I could think about were the ways I was going to torture Mylo when I got my paws on him.
“Why so glum chum?”
My head rose from my arms and my ears perked up. Loping towards me was a giant ball of unkempt white fur. Optimism took shape and grew in that instant, for it was my good friend Rufus Johnson. You see upbeat vibes rolled of Rufus like no other, and though he was a dog, he was known as the coolest cat in the neighborhood.
“C’mon Cindee, lay it on me, what’s eating at you babe?”
“Mylo and I had a fight.”
“Not cool man, not cool, give ole Rufus the 411,” the sheep dog said in that signature James Earl Jones type of voice.
I planted my butt on the ground and sat in silence for a minute, mulling the thoughts over in hopes of sorting them out. I decided the best place to start was at the beginning, so I shared the dream and Mylo almost strangling me with his bare paws and the fight that ensued. Through it all, Rufus listened intently, nodding, and shaking his head as the long-convoluted tale unraveled.
“Your upset because you got blamed huh?”
“Exactly. But you know, I think the worst thing was being blamed by Mommy.”
The big sheep dog fell silent. I focused on the area where his eyes would have been if I could have seen them, but alas his bangs were so long it was useless to even try.
“I get that underneath it all, there is this deep sense of hurt. The only thing you were guilty of was having an afternoon nap and trying to keep from being choked to death, right?”
“Right,” I answered, fully expecting there to be a …
“But, Mylo is still just a young fellow. It seems like maybe you were a little hard on him, no?”
I was shocked by this turn of events. Rufus Johnson was the wisest dog I had ever met. Surely, he had to see this from my point of view.
“He tried to kill me Rufus!”
“Did he? Was that his intention?”
“Well, no, but …”
“Did you apologize for biting his nose?”
“No, but …”
“Did you sit him down and talk to him about what a dangerous situation he had caused?”
“No, I …”
“Is there anything you could have done differently?”
The sheep dog dipped his head and flung it backwards, sending his bangs soaring through the air. To my amazement they landed squarely on top of his head and stayed there. He turned to face me and gazed deep into my eyes.
All this time he had been hiding the most beautiful amber eyes behind that veil of hair, and now, they were boring into my soul.
“You’re right Rufus, I panicked and went overboard,” I confessed.
He was right. My thoughts wandered back to my adopted older sister Cosita. I could see the black and tan terrier gently correcting me when I did stupid things. She was so kind and patient with me. Growing up, I vowed that one day I was going to be a good mentor to some puppy, just like she had been to me, only today, I hadn’t been.
“What are you going to do about it?”
The sheep dogs deep voice drew me back into the moment. A calm had settled over me, covering over all the raw emotions I had been struggling with.
“I hope you can understand, but I gotta go Rufus!”
I smiled, then turned to trot towards the house, but stopped after a few steps to glance back over my shoulder at my friend.
“Thank you, Rufus!”
“My pleasure, Cindee. Now go do your thing!”
I nodded and turned to go and as I drew away from the sheep dog, I heard the timbre in his voice as he called out to me, “be sassy and stay classy girl!”
I couldn’t help but giggle. I would have answered, but I had some urgent business to attend to.
Daddy was already in bed, sound asleep when I crept up onto the mattress and curled up into a ball next to him. I heard the stairs creaking behind me and a moment later Mommy and Mylo came through the door. The bed gently shimmied and shook a little when they climbed in causing Daddy to stir just slightly then settle back into a sound sleep.
With everyone finally tucked in comfy and cozy, I stared out the window at the crescent moon hanging over the backyard and listened intently to the sound of silence. All my nerves and muscles began to shut down for the night, and I began my deep descent into the world of dreams. Teetering on the edge, I suddenly became aware of the not-so-subtle sensation of a forty-five-pound puppy snuggling up next to me.
“Good night, Mylo,” I said, content to have him there.
“Good night, Cindee,” he answered back wearily.
Not quite ready for sleep, he shifted and maneuvered around the bed until he settled into place with his cheek right against mine. Certain that he was now comfortable I let my eyelids close. Out of the darkness a voice whispered to me.
“I love you Cindee!”
I did the only thing I could do. I smiled.
“Love you too, Mylo!”