Early each morning before the rest of us are even awake, Sam, the handyman who has been overseeing the renovations to the upstairs bathroom lets himself into the house. The pugs, still sleepy, largely ignore him. Sometimes Alfie barks her gentle woo-hoo. Waffles opens one eye. Sam glides through the house like a dancer barely making a noise. He has become part of the scenery to the pugs; not one to bother about. If they are loose as he passes through they may acknowledge him by running up and standing on their hind legs to sniff his knees. They greet everyone this way – with sniffs and snorts and high-pitched squeals. Alfie, my watchdog, has a purpose in her shenanigans. She seems to examine guests, catalogueing them in her “Book of Scents and Identifications.” Waffles becomes excited in sympathy with Alfie. “She’s barking, so should I!” seems to be her overriding thought. Both, however, seem to primarily regard Sam as a piece of furniture, par for the course, nothing to get worked up about.
All that changed yesterday. Sam was passing through the kitchen just as the pugs came in from outside. They ran in happily, their hindquarters shaking from side to side so frenetically that their rears almost touched their noses with each sweep. Glimpsing Sam they ran to greet him with their customary snorts and sniffs. That done Alfie stood watching him, her mouth open, tongue half out, panting. Sam suddenly turned from his work, paintbrush in his hand and addressed Alfie.
“This one sometimes barks at me in the morning,” he addressed me, gesturing at Alfie with his paintbrush. She started and looks amazed, moving toward me like a young toddler seeking its mother’s reassurance. “He talked to me,” she seems to say. “He’s never done that before. Did you see that Mom? He talked to me. What do I do?” It might seem unfair to assign such thoughts to a dog, but from my all-too-human perspective, the message seemed all too clear. I couldn’t help but laugh. Furniture doesn’t talk, but Sam was not furniture. He may have become part of the ebb and flow of our daily lives as he works to ready the house for Mom’s approaching surgery, but as Alfie’s encounter indicates, we should not take him for granted.