It wasn’t following proper etiquette. The dog had given a short, happy bark and was standing there wagging his tail, ready for a pat. He was not strictly following the doggy code of behaviour that every dog is instinctively born with (which I knew well because up until I was 14½ years old my family had handled many dogs) and a slight variance could offend and earn a small nip. There were rules and he wasn’t following them. We had not formally met - I had sized up this confident middle-sized dog and was willing to bet that I had never seen him before in my life - and he was being way too casual. So I ignored him. So he barked again, “I’m here!” I was surprised because dogs do not usually make a social gaffe like this – their keen sense of smell remembers better than their sight, and he was treating me very familiarly. I was in a tricky position. The dog had obviously made a mistake and if I bestowed the pat, the shock of understanding could result in a horrified yip or even a bite. On the other hand, I didn’t want to hurt his feelings so I looked at him, smiled and said, “Hello little doggy!” He was really happy and wagged so hard his whole body wiggled. He moved closer to more easily facilitate a patting. However I did not, for I did not know him, and he yapped again.
Suddenly his owner appeared. “I’m really sorry about this – he’s usually so shy with strangers. He has never done this before.” I said, “It’s all right – I really like dogs.” The owner removed the dog and I heard him being ordered into the car. I was outside my downstairs flat, packing my own car, which was parked behind the dog owner’s car. The dog owner was finishing a visit to the upstairs flatters. I felt something on my leg. Looking down – the dog was back! Standing next to me with one front paw extended, resting on my leg. I was really baffled. His owner was calling him and he moved away for a second, then came back, rearing himself up on his hind legs, balancing himself with one front paw on my leg – and looked up into my eyes with a puzzled, slightly hurt expression. That was too much. I patted him. Really properly. I scratched his neck and everything – and he was ecstatic! He wagged his tail so hard and licked me as far as he could reach. Then his flustered owner appeared, grabbed him and shut him into her car, apologising profusely, “He has never done this before. I’m so sorry.” Out of the back window the dog was looking at me and I waved to him. He looked at me adoringly and wagged violently back.
Back at my car, packing it for an outing, I heard the dog owner and upstairs flat lady talking about it, bewildered about the dog’s behaviour. “He has never been here before except for that time you went away when you first got him...” The penny dropped.
All of a sudden memories flooded in and I flushed hotly with embarrassment. I had been out-polited by a dog!
A little over a year before, I had uprooted my life from Hamilton and moved to Auckland. The small downstairs flat had been available immediately and I started looking for a premises to open a café in. In the meantime I was taking a small business course and getting the requisite hygiene certificate and behind-the-scenes organising and planning necessary for such a venture. I was also doing voluntary work for the Sri Chinmoy Centre, flyering for their free meditation classes – sitting in on those same classes and even teaching some classes myself! As well as errands – like delivering Sri Chinmoy’s books to libraries all over Auckland, which helped me to orientate myself in the enormous metropolis that was my new home. (I had some terribly lost – but ultimately beneficial – experiences along the way!) At 2pm each day I would arrive back to my flat, prepare some lunch and a cuppa, and enjoy it sitting on the back step, having some peace.
One day shortly after arriving in Auckland, I sat on my step and heard a small mournful yodel. Upon investigation, it was a tiny puppy. Having no idea where it could’ve come from, I called it and it came over. After a hug and a small comforting suck on my fingers, it fell asleep in my arms. It was out cold for a full 20 minutes, then it awoke and made it’s stumbly way upstairs. Obviously the people in the flat upstairs had very recently acquired it – but in my eyes (having had a lot to do with puppies during my childhood) it was just a spot young (by maybe a week or two) to be removed from it’s mother. I thought nothing more of it until the next day when he came for a pat, a cuddle and another 20 minute nap in my arms. At exactly the same time every day for two weeks, that was the routine. And then he came no more. And I missed him. Fearing something had happened to him, I asked the upstairs flat. They had only been looking after him for a friend who had been called overseas suddenly, immediately after acquiring him. So that was it. I sent the puppy my love and goodwill in my prayers and that was that. Until now, over a year later, when the grown puppy had shown more courtesy than I had, and remembered me!
So again he was remembered in my prayers, only this time I felt more confidence in his future. As the polite and alert little gentleman he has turned out to be, he will go far.
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