Quesa and I stood silently listening for sounds of activity from Otta and Libby’s room.
“Why are we standing here?” Quesa asked.
“Just wanted to make sure the coast is clear,” I responded. “I think we’re safe.”
“What coast?” Quesa asked, tail wagging. “And I still need to go potty.”
“Yeah, me too. I’ll meet you outside in five.”
“Five what?” the dog asked.
I shook my head. “Just go. I’ll be right out,” I said.
Quesa was a good friend but not the quickest crayon in the box. Or was that the brightest tool in the shed? Either way, I slipped out of my room, rounded the corner to the bathroom and made for the big boy potty where, after pulling down my training pants, sat and peed. “Ahhh,” I crooned to myself, “blessed relief. Who’s the big boy now?” I added, quietly moving the plastic stool closer to the sink. It was at the sink that I ran into a tiny obstacle in my hand washing plan.
Otta or Libby always squirted soap into my hands, turned the water on for me and helped to get my hands clean by rubbing all four hands together. I was primed and ready to squirt soap in my hands and, with water running, wash them all by myself but the distance to the water taps and the soap proved farther than my reach would allow. “Oh well,” I said, stepping down from the stool, “I’ll just have to wash them before I eat anything.”
I listened carefully once again before stepping from the bathroom and back into the hall. Hearing nothing, I took a baby step forward and received a huge shock as a dark figure shot out from my left, brushed up against me and streaked away in the direction Quesa had just traveled.
“Holy dirty diapers!” I called out. “What the heck was that!?”
I knew the answer before I’d finished forming the question: Fabulosa, of course. A dark brown, nearly silent rocket streaking by in the darkness was trouble spelled C-A-T. I saw her take the left turn into the kitchen that led to Quesa’s door and our backyard and I toddled along after her.
Everybody called the swinging pet door Quesa’s even though Fabulosa and Tom used it too. Otta and Libby didn’t like it when Tom used the door into the backyard without them on account of Tom’s missing claws and I had been repeatedly admonished to never use the door, an admonition that, to be honest, just made me more eager to do so.
Quesa’s door was set into the wall and stood directly next to a sliding glass door. The door led to what I longed for, our deck, and the steps leading down to the glory of the fenced in backyard. I looked out onto the deck in the brightening twilight and saw neither Quesa nor Fabulosa. This pleased me because that meant that the protective gate that Otta and Libby would latch shut at the top of the stairs had been left open, which in turn meant that nothing separated me from moving beyond the partial freedom of the deck to the true freedom of the backyard. While the backyard was Quesa’s toilet bowl, it was also The Promised Land. Today I was going to cross the River Jordan, today I was going to taste freedom.
I stood at Quesa’s door and hesitated for just a moment. Pleasing Otta and Libby was important to me; few things in this world made me happier than hearing their chorus of, “Who’s a good boy? Why, John’s a good boy! Isn’t he? Aren’t you, Johnny?” Juvenile? Sure. But it still made me happy every time they said it to me.
Of course, there’s a big difference between none and few and developing independence was one of the few things I found more alluring than the gushing, emotional reinforcement that I received by being a good boy. I inhaled, pushed against the door, lowered my head just a tick and walked out of the house and onto the deck.
I can’t tell you what freedom tastes like but I can assure you that it smells like an Iowa backyard, surrounded on three sides by fresh soil and short, fresh, June corn sprouts. It smells heavenly.
It was easier to see down into the backyard from the deck than it had been from the sliding glass door but Fabulosa was well camouflaged with her stealthy ways and dark brown fur against the dark green grass. Quesa’s jingling collar clued me in to where she was and I saw her relieving her full bladder in a far corner of the yard. Fabulosa’s whereabouts were soon established when she came running up behind the unsuspecting dog, pounced on her and “playfully” began biting Quesa’s ears. Surprised more than injured Quesa barked loudly and ran from Fabulosa back towards the deck as fast as her frightened paws allowed, creating noisy hubbub that I feared would bring Otta or Libby outside to investigate.
“Shh! Shh!” I shushed, but as Quesa was too startled to even hear my plea I discerned no return to calm in my befuddled, barking friend. I rushed down the five steps that led from our deck to the sloping backyard and hurried toward the two disharmonious housemates, hissing, “Quesa! Quesa!” as I ran.
I had almost reached level ground when light spilled out from Otta and Libby’s room. “Quesa!” Otta’s voice boomed out from behind the window screen. “Quesa! Shut up! Don’t make me come out there! You wake John up you’re gonna get a whooping!”
Quesa’s deafness must have been temporary because with Otta’s remonstration she quieted immediately, put her tail between her legs, slumped behind a bush and lay down on the ground as low as her considerable size would allow. Otta added a, “Darn dog,” as he shook his head in frustrated farewell to the miniature melee and then turned the bedroom light off.
I heard Quesa whimpering behind the shrubbery and approached my friend, asking, “You okay, Quesa? Fabulosa didn’t hurt you, did she?”