Our dog, Lucy, marks the time of day by dog biscuits. The first one comes after her breakfast but before ours. No. 2 comes at lunchtime. No. 3 comes after her last visit outside at night.
If, heaven forbid, we are not ready with a biscuit in hand at just the right time, Lucy starts what we call her "chomping." She has perfected talking with no words. She smacks her teeth together repeatedly and directs a meaningful stare at the countertop where she knows the glass biscuit jar is ready and waiting.
Lucy is a small black dog with a long wavy coat. Many who meet her say they had a dog just like her when they were growing up. Her demeanor is warm and friendly – except if you happen to be on the other side of our picket fence. Her favorite pastime (besides biscuit-eating) is racing across the front garden to bark at and chase whoever happens to be walking, skateboarding, or pedaling by, especially if they happen to have a dog in tow.
We have tried countless methods to cure Lucy of startling the general population in this way, but with little success.
One never-to-be forgotten morning, she saw a jogger coming along in the distance. There was a light fog over the water in front of our house, and the sun was beginning to penetrate the mist.
Lucy crouched down on the porch, ready to make her move. As the jogger approached the picket fence, Lucy hurled herself down the front path and opened her mouth to bark.
From our vantage point at the front window, we could see the jogger fumble around in her pocket and lob a super-size dog biscuit over the fence. The biscuit landed, like manna from heaven, in the long grass at Lucy's feet. The bark never sounded.
Lucy was stunned, staring at the biggest dog biscuit she had ever seen. She glanced back at the house and then at the fast-disappearing jogger. She had no idea where the biscuit had come from but she slowly picked it up in her mouth. Her head cocked to one side with its unusual weight. This was clearly a biscuit meant for Great Danes, not small black dogs.
She trotted slowly up to the front door of the house. We opened the door and she came in, dropping it with a thud on the hardwood floor. She looked up at us as if to say, "Can you believe this?!"
We were surprised by the size of the biscuit, but more surprised by her hesitancy to eat it. Lucy does not usually dillydally around with biscuits. She doesn't save them for later or savor each bite. She's of the crunch-it-up-quickly-and-swallow-fast school, followed by a huge swig of water to wash it down. We told her to go ahead and eat the big biscuit. We also told her that this was a great life lesson. A beloved teacher always says, "Be willing to be surprised!" and this was a great example of this wisdom.
While we were talking, Lucy flopped down on the floor and began gnawing away. It took her quite a while to conquer that biscuit, but conquer it she did. When she got up, swaggering over to the water bowl, there was an air of wonderment about her.
The wonderment lasted until lunchtime, when we heard her chomping in the kitchen. Apparently just because she was willing to be surprised didn't mean she would be going off her usual schedule. We reached into the biscuit jar and looked down into her expectant and happy brown eyes. Surprises are great, Lucy seemed to say, but there's nothing wrong with being prepared in this dog-eat-dog world.