The day this photo was taken, it was 95 degrees in the shade and the heat index was 105. Cody, the husky, and Red, some sort of hound, were so hot they simply found a cool spot in the dirt and panted.
Red belongs to Estis, a pianist who teaches music to elementary school kids and is on break this summer, and Cody belongs to Karin, who was out of town. Estis usually shows up at the dog park around four, and she’s chatty and happy. But when she walked in today with both Cody and Red, she looked miserable.
“What’s going on?” I asked her.
Estis rolled her eyes. “Well, Karin left town on Thursday. My husband was going to drive her to the airport, so he first dropped me off at the dog park with Cody and Red. I had forgotten the park is closed for maintenance on Thursdays, so I had to walk home with both dogs.” She lives about a mile from the dog park and Cody isn’t easy to walk on a leash.
But Estis and the two dogs finally got home and everyone settled in the kitchen – Estis and her two daughters and the two dogs. Her daughters were painting and working on something and no one was paying much attention to the dogs. Suddenly, Red begins to howl from another part of the house, a wild, frantic howling, and Estis and her daughters raced to the back of the house.
At the end of the hall, there’s a bathroom where they had put their caged parakeets while Cody was visiting, and the door was no longer closed. Cody had somehow managed to open the bathroom door and the door to the cage, and had grabbed one of the parakeets.
“He was totally wild, Trish, and raced up the hall with blue parakeet feathers plastered all over his muzzle, and his eyes were…just wild, I’ve never seen his eyes like that. My daughters were screaming, Red was still howling and cowering in a corner, and I raced after Cody, trying to catch him.”
Estis finally offered Cody a treat and as he opened his mouth, the dead parakeet fell to the floor. At this point, her daughters were freaking out, Red’s howls filled the air, and Cody raced up and down the hallway, “totally out of control.”
Estis got everyone calmed down and eventually put Cody out on the porch while she cleaned up the mess. Karin’s daughter was home, so Estis called her and asked her to pick up Cody.
I was frankly astonished by this story. At the dog park, Cody is unusually gentle with other dogs, even when they’re playing and roughhousing. He races into the park every afternoon to greet his buddies – humans and canines alike – and his joy so obvious that it’s a treat just to watch him. Then he trots off, pursuing scents, chasing squirrels, playing king of the mountain on the mound of dirt at the far end of the park. Rob and I have often called him Cody the Trickster because he can be so mischievous. Estis’s story prompted me to think about the emotional lives of dogs, which is certainly as real as the emotional lives of humans.
Cody actually belongs to Karin’s son, but when he was in college he became Karin’s dog. She is his main person. Whenever she leaves the park to get something out of her car, Cody paces along the fence, watching her, waiting anxiously for her to return. She left town to meet her husband in upstate New York because her brother-in-law is dying. There has been a lot of tension in the household this summer and Cody, like most animal companions, has probably sensed it. So when his human drove off in the car with Estis’s husband that Thursday morning, bound for the airport, and then Cody ended up at Estis’s house, the bottom probably fell out of his world.
As Cody and Red panted in the shade this afternoon, I ran my fingers through Cody’s thick, soft fur and he dropped his head back, looking up at me with eyes that are such an exquisite turquoise it’s as if you’re peering into an undiscovered sea. He ran his tongue over my hand, then my cheek as if to say, I know you what you and Estis were talking about. But I’m not a bad dog, really I’m not.
Red nudged Cody’s back with his snout. Hey Dude, I’m here, pay attention to me. And they curled up in the hot shade, best friends forever.