A groan slipped past my lips before I had the chance to stop it. The urge to protest began to descend on me, but I remember Mommy saying that complaining never does a body good, so instead, I forced my eyes open and immediately wished I hadn’t. The morning light had launched an all-out assault on my retinas, leaving me blind and in pain. The sensation of a million and one tiny grains of sand rolling around underneath my cornea was enough to convince me to slam my eyelids shut again.
It turns out that was exactly what I needed. I was temporarily concerned that this unfortunate incident was going to be enough to wake me up, but I needn’t have been troubled. All I needed was a couple of deep breaths and I was on the edge of dreamland once again.
“Wake up sleepy head!”
My eyes snapped wide open. Sure, they were blurry and burned like the dickens, but my prior experience left me with the impression it would be short-lived. It turns out I was right. Once my vision had cleared, I was able to glance about the room and study my surroundings. Right away, I was aware that something wasn’t quite right, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. The walls were this weird shade of blue grey and the windows, well, they were in the wrong place. What disoriented me, even more, was the cardboard boxes that were piled up here and there, but that wasn’t even the most perplexing thing. No, that was the furniture. It was ours, but what was it doing in this strange place?
“Have I been kidnapped?”
The words didn’t sound like mine either. They sounded gravelly, kind of like I had taken up smoking. The day was still fresh and new, yet already my heart was pounding, and those pesky butterflies had taken flight in my tummy.
“Are you going to sleep the day away?”
The sound of the sing-song voice and sudden head covered in black curls peering around the corner startled me so much that I fell out of bed. The collision with the hardwood floor jarred loose a yelp that had been buried somewhere deep within.
“Oh, baby girl, are you okay?”
Mommy rushed to my side; the natural olive coloring of her skin had suddenly gone pale. In a flash, she had managed to race across the room and slide down next to me on the cool hardwood surface. I was quickly gathered into her arms, where I relished the rhythmic sound of her heart beating in her chest and the delicious lavender scent of her shampoo.
I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply letting the floral aroma carry me off to a field that was filled with purple flowers dancing in a soft breeze. My vision was interrupted by the warmth of Mommy’s soft lips pressing against my cheek. My body came alive with explosions of joy, the kind that leaves you with deep emotional gratitude that you only get when someone cares for you and loves you no matter what.
“I am fine, the only thing bruised is my ego,” I said, rising to my feet and shaking off the dust.
Mommy’s soft cushy lips smooshed against my nose again. I couldn’t resist flashing her the biggest smile yet since the move.
The move. The tumble to the floor had cleared all the residual fogginess from sleep reminding me that we were in our new home and Rapi hates my guts. It was all starting to come back to me now.
What wasn’t making sense was that whole thing with the end table drawer yesterday. Now that was still a little fuzzy. Mommy claimed that there was a simple explanation for it, insisting that it was nothing more than my collar catching on the drawer’s knob.
That theory was not sitting quite right with me though. The problem with that scenario was that my collar was never anywhere near the table, my but was. That I knew for certain.
“Let’s go for a walk Cindee!”
I wasn’t quite ready to let go of the drawer situation yet, but let’s just say that multi-tasking is not one of my strongest qualities. So, setting the bizarre end table situation aside for a second, I turned my attention towards the whole go-for-a-walk thing.
I didn’t want to do it and was considering doing a sit-in to protest. I still needed to get my point across that I wanted to be back at home in New York playing at the park with Rocco, Flacco, Oreo, and all my other friends. Just the mere thought of it spawned Images of Rocco and Flacco playing tag without me. Was Oreo wrestling with some other dog? Have they forgotten all about me? These were things I didn’t want to think about, yet, because I didn’t have the answers, I would be plagued all day wanting to know.
“A walk will do you good, sweetie!”
Mommy’s words were happy and playful, but I, on the other hand, was neither of those things. The problem with Mommy is that once she gets an idea in her head, she becomes persistent to the point of being annoying, which was where we were now. This crazy woman had launched into a singing game that included jumping up and down and dancing like a clown with two left feet.
I barked emphatically. I was not going to have any of it.
“Please? For me?”
It wasn’t just the way she said it, she had that pleading face and that thing she does with her bottom lip. I am a sucker for that trick, and she knows it. As if that wasn’t terrible enough, she even reached out and tickled me under the chin. There was only one way to combat this kind of harassment.
I turned my back on her and gazed out the window, focusing all my attention on the house across the street. The room fell silent and at last, it seemed I had made my point. I had already commenced a mental victory lap, which much to my chagrin was interrupted by an unexpected shoulder massage. I am not going to lie, it felt exquisite.
She had brought me to the brink of surrender when out of the blue a shockwave rippled beneath me. I was hoping it was an earthquake, but in my heart of hearts, I knew that it could mean only one thing.
Unable to resist, I peered over my shoulder. Much to my dismay, the big orange cat had sat down next to me, his eyes were red and swollen. For the briefest of moments, I forgot I was upset with him and opened my mouth to console him, then realizing my error, closed it.
A wave of melancholy and regret swept over me, but before I had a chance to try again, he shook his head at me and leaped from the bed. He crossed the room and headed for the hallway. I didn’t take my eyes off him until he disappeared through the door.
The pit of my stomach filled with rocks, but still, I was not going to be the first to give in. I wasn’t going to surrender to Mommy’s wily ways and have fun either.
There was nothing anybody could do to change my mind. Nothing, that is until I realized I needed to pee. With a new sense of urgency, I dashed down the stairs and waited impatiently in the foyer.
As I said, my business was urgent and I wasted no time taking care of it, then turned and started towards the house ready to spend the rest of the day hiding in my bed. Much to my displeasure I quickly ran out of leash. Before I even had a chance to protest Mommy had given me the look. In case you are not familiar with it, her face said in no uncertain terms that I was not allowed to disappoint, embarrass, or make her sad in any way. What Mommy wants; Mommy gets. I reluctantly surrendered, and together we peacefully strolled down the street.
I almost fell over. I had not foreseen the loud greeting, and I certainly did not expect to see what I saw next. A nearly three-foot-tall grey and white ball of fur with stubby legs and a giant black nose came bumbling towards us. My heart leaped into my throat and my tail tucked between my legs.
“Oh, how cute!”
“Are you crazy,” I howled in protest.
The furball stumbled towards us, with a tall slender man trailing behind him. My fight-or-flight instinct kicked in. As usual, it chose flight. Not wanting to wait around to see what happened next, I turned to run, but Mommy held her ground.
You spend your whole life with someone, and you think you know them, but then, something inevitably happens, and you realize you never really knew them at all. Take Mommy for instance. I had always thought she was a strong, brave woman who was extremely intelligent. She seemed to have such vigor and love for life, but here she was about to surrender that life to this giant … whatever it is. Why hadn’t I seen it before, she has a death wish! Mustering all the strength I had, I closed my eyes and said a silent prayer then geared up to tug on my leash again but by now the creature had reached us. It was too late, we were doomed.
“What is this cuties name?”
Mommy knelt and began to massage the monster where its cheeks would be if it had a face.
“Rufus,” the tall man answered.
“He is handsome, a sheepdog?”
“Yes ma’am, and I am James Johnson, he said, extending his hand in greeting.
“Hi Mr. Johnson, I’m Sarai Oliveira,” Mommy replied, straightening up and taking the older man’s hand in hers.
Having watched the introduction and concluding this man was not going to harm either Mommy or me, I turned my attention back to the fur ball, which now stood in front of me, its tongue flopping out of the side of its mouth.
“So, you are a dog?”
I had met many dogs in New York, but none that looked like this. He took a step closer, and though my instinct to turn and run flashed through my mind, I found myself being drawn towards the sheepdog as if I was being controlled by some invisible magnetic force.
“I am. Sorry, but I didn’t catch your name?”
It didn’t feel like a courtesy, he seemed genuinely interested, and that was different. He was right too, and that was rude of me. I was out of sorts, the New York me would never have been this uncouth. I closed my eyes for a second to regroup, then smiled and extended a paw.
“My name is Cinnamon, but my friends call me Cindee.”
He nodded and returned my smile before accepting my paw. It was strange. I felt like he was studying me with his gaze, but with all the hair falling over his eyes, I wasn’t sure how he could see me.
“Nice to meet you, Cinnamon.”
I liked him and felt comfortable around him, it was like we had known each other our whole lives.
“Cindee it is then,” he answered with a warm chuckle.
I searched his face again for eyes. You know that old saying, the eyes are the window to the soul or something like that, well this lack of eyes thing was making me a little uneasy.
“You know Cindee, you have this special aura about you, I have never seen this color before. It makes me feel like you are a natural leader, but there is something more to it. I just can’t put my paw on what it is though.”
I thought about the words, unsure of what the heck he was talking about. I opened my mouth to ask him about it, but lost focus at the mention of my favorite word.
“I hear there is a pet store around the corner. Shall we get you a cookie?”
My ears perked up. “Are you crazy? Of course, I want a cookie.”
“Rufus and I are headed that way; do you mind some company as far as the corner?”
“What do you think Cindee? Is the company okay with you?”
“It sure is,” I howled, pleased that I didn’t have to say goodbye to my new friend just yet.
“So, what brings you to our neighborhood?”
Mr. Johnson’s voice was deep and rich. I liked the way it made me feel, like I was safe from all harm.
“We just moved from New York,” Mommy answered, casting her eyes down the street
Mr. Johnson sounded surprised. I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not.
“What brought you here from the big city?”
I glanced over at the big sheepdog who was strolling along next to me, his head bobbing back and forth between my Mommy and Mr. Johnson. I could tell by the way he was carrying himself that he was hanging on every word.
“Work,” she said, eyeing our new neighbor with a casual smile.
Mr. Johnson was about to ask another question, but Mommy cut the interrogation short with an inquiry of her own.
“What are all these about,” she asked pointing in the direction of a yellow cardboard sign with three pink roses and the initials BGW printed on them.
“Those? The Buffalo Garden Walk is this weekend and those signs let people know that the owner of the house is showcasing their garden.”
“Really? You mean anyone can walk down the street and just stop by people’s homes and traipse about their gardens?”
I knew that expression, it meant she couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
“That’s right. Pretty cool isn’t it,” Mr. Johnson answered with a nod and a grin.
“Very cool,” Mommy said, her eyes scanning the street at all the signs dotting the landscape.
“Well, this is where we part,” Mr. Johnson said as we approached the corner.
A strange but familiar emotion inserted itself inside my heart and began to spread through the rest of me, warming me as it went. I was enjoying Rufus’ company and certainly was not ready to say goodbye to him just yet.
“I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“Definitely! Tomorrow, Rufus,” I barked as Mommy led me away.
“He called me friend,” the words tumbled out in hushed excitement. I was somebody’s friend!