Why there's a dog on our sofa

I'm not saying Susie deliberately planned her brush with death, but it came right on the heels of an enticing addition to our sparely furnished farmhouse. Lacking room for a real sofa, we recently bought a used and comfortably cushioned love seat and positioned it by the west-facing windows near the wood stove. Our two dogs watched its installation with lively interest.

The very next day as I was milking the cows, our sleek black hound-mix, all muscle and motion, came limping to the parlor door. The car that had grazed her sped on, and she was sore and badly shaken but apparently not seriously hurt. I massaged and prodded her, checked her, and convinced myself she wasn't in shock. She curled up on a bed of hay as I finished my morning chores.

When we both walked up to the house, Susie padded stiffly yet resolutely to the new love seat, her eyes large and pleading. Clearly she knew a fine sickbed when she saw one.

"OK, girl," I said, spreading an old blanket across the upholstery. "Just for now." Before I could bend to boost her up, she had climbed onto the cushions and settled down with a sigh.

For the next several days she barely moved as wave after wave of warmth wafted from the wood stove. I fed it logs assiduously, concerned for her comfort, though the mere sight of her stretched luxuriantly on the little sofa left no doubt of that. She abandoned her post only for an occasional nibble of food, lap of water, or obligatory stroll to the backyard shrubbery. After these outings she lost no time in reclaiming her position on the love seat, and she did so with an increasingly suspicious litheness.

Charlie had been away for her mishap. By the time he returned she had fully bonded to the love seat and almost fully recovered from her bumps and bruises. We indulged her for a while longer, squeezing into our respective corners of the love seat as she dominated its length, head in one lap, feet in another.

Oscar, our border collie mix who'd had the good sense to stay out of the road, sulked on the thin throw rug at our feet, perhaps wondering where he'd gone wrong. He eyed Susie's privileged perch with quiet longing, clearly questioning her access to this forbidden fruit. Susie stared dreamily back until her pupils wandered off into space and her head lolled down for another snooze.

Soon she took to sitting upright, her chin on the sofa's back, her nose lightly steaming the window behind, just inches from the bird feeder where chickadees, juncos, siskins, and jays regaled her with their comings and goings and occasional feeding skirmishes. It's an entertainment Charlie and I also enjoy, and we each began to reclaim our respective cushions, nudging her to the floor.

In fact, it was high time to break her of the couch habit altogether, but we could not bring ourselves to banish her fully from the place she'd come to love so completely. And so, the three of us time share the love seat, and when Susie must yield to our first-dibs rights, she takes no offense. The moment a spot is free, she climbs back with an unmistakable air of righteousness, arranging herself into positions of such supple bonelessness she looks almost invertebrate.

Whatever is wrong with the day, it is hard not to smile and relax at the sight of Susie stretched on her back, feet limp on her chest, as she enjoys a bottoms-up view of the world. Sometimes from this position she contemplates the ceiling fan, as if already anticipating its cooling whir on sultry summer afternoons.

As for Oscar, his nose remains out of joint about this state of affairs. He ventures onto the love seat now and then, but he lacks Susie's fluid assurance of a place there; he rests better on the old rug.

To avoid a possible misconception, let me state for the record that there is nothing lazy about our couch queen. She enjoys, more than anything, a full-throttled romp outdoors, where she normally spends much of the day. She is ever leaping and running about us on walks, or badgering Oscar into mock battles and competitions that she invariably wins with feats of athleticism that leave him spinning. She expends prodigious amounts of energy moving just for the joy of it, though taking care, now, to avoid the road.

But come time to relax, there is no creature quicker to her comfort, or surer of its place. And that is why there is often a dog in our love seat.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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