He snorts loudly, as if I have just said the funniest thing he’s ever heard, and shakes the cobwebs from his head before walking the few feet from his bed to my arms. His big brown eyes look into mine and I can see the trust in them, the unconditional love that he has given me since the first day our lives converged.
His name is Sloppy Joe and he is brightest light in my life every single day. He nuzzles next to me and turns away so I will be forced to rub him just above his tail; he can’t reach it on his own and is always looking for someone to scratch him in the sweet spot. I oblige him, giving him a few good minutes of serious scratching before asking him what he really wants.
“Do you need to pee?” –There is an obvious step count to the dance he performs if I have hit a bulls-eye on my first attempt. They involve two full spins, and a one and a two, a shake of his butt, then a snort, and a three and a four, a shake of his head, another snort, before stopping and staring at me with his ears perched high, “Did you see? I did it, take me out. You said it now, there’s no take-backs.”
“Do you want some water?” –I tell people he is a water buffalo, ever since he was small he would drink copious amounts of water. Taking in as much as is available, even to the point of turning to vomit in the floor, before turning back to his bowl and drinking more. I think this has to do with being abandoned as a puppy; I don’t really know how long he had been outside before he was found by a friend of mine. I have chased him away from a water bowl for almost seven years now, and now he thinks he has to ask before getting any (but only if I can see him, if I am not around any and all water is fair game), I don’t know how to tell him it’s okay, but only a little.
“Are you hungry?” –The dance is shorter and more direct in this answer, he has been taught to sit and wait for his food, until I say he can have it. He waits semi-patiently as I pour the food into his bowl and give him the word that it is okay to go. So, when I ask him, his ears hit that high mark again instantly, and he walks to the other side of my chair before sitting down and looking at me with those dark brown heart-melters.
There is only one question left and if none of the above can illicit the proper response, I ask it already knowing the answer,
“Do you want to go to bed?” –There is much less choreography when this is what his little heart desires; there is no dance, or peaked ears that still flop down to his jowls, even when he is agreeing whole-heartedly, no snort or butt wiggles. He simply turns and deftly leaps onto my bed. He settles after a spin or two and then rests his head on his front paw before cutting his eyes at me one last time before closing them altogether.
He saved my life and I saved his; he’s loved me longer than anyone I can name, and for that he never has to worry that I won’t be there for him. We are enforcer and enforced, big man and little boy; we are Daddy and Doggie, and we put on one hell of a show, if I do say so myself.