(This is the text for my 2nd Toastmasters speech, which I will be giving in less than 8 hours. I should be sleeping, but I have to practice now.)
I mentioned a few weeks ago that I am a storyteller, and today I would like to tell you the story of my dog, Bella.
Bella is a very happy, slightly spoiled, fifty-pound, black lab mutt. She keeps close watch out the front windows and alerts us to all passing pedestrians, the FedEx guy, the UPS guy, and, of course, the mailman. She sounds big and fierce and very scary, and we appreciate that. We believe that were any of us in actual danger, she would rush in to save us. At least, we hope that she would. Usually once an intruder/visitor gets past the threshold, she hides behind whomever is handiest. But we still have hopes.
Bella came into my life several years ago when an on-line friend mentioned the skinny, half-grown pup that was haunting her alleyway. She yearned to play with the children in the backyard, but was so scared of men that she wouldn’t let the dad take the trash out. I lived alone in a small duplex and had been telling myself that when it was time for me to have a dog, I would know. When I saw the internet posting, and that the family lived nearby, I decided this must be the sign I had been waiting for.
I picked up dog food, and a couple of doggie bowls at the grocery, and drove over to their house. The mother and I managed to coax/push/pull/carry the nervous, skinny pup into the back of my mini-van. I took her home, gave her a bath, and then belatedly decided to check the integrity of my back yard fence, as I didn’t want to leave her alone in the house the next day while I was at work, since I had no idea how housetrained she might or might not be.
She was very nervous about being left alone for even a short time, and barked and jumped against the door all the time I was outside. Bark. Jump. Bark. Jump. I decided the backyard would probably hold her, and headed back inside, only to find that with all her jumping, she had flipped the deadbolt locked. It was a French door, so I resigned myself to breaking one of the panes and paying for its replacement. That’s when I found out that those little windows don’t break nearly as easily as in the movies. After several unsuccessful attempts, I went to a neighbor’s house and called a locksmith. Bella was very happy once I was back inside with her. The locksmith was very happy with his after-hours fee.
Several months later, I moved into an apartment and Bella went to live with my daughter, Janette, where she had a doggie door, a large backyard, and two barking buddies. It was, indeed, doggie heaven. And that was where we found out that Bella was not just a barking machine, but a fierce huntress. Unfortunately for Janette’s peace of mind, this included Bella sharing her trophies with the pack leader, who was, of course, Janette. She always knew when to expect to find her share of the kill, because Bella would be very excited upon the pack leader’s arrival home, and run back-and-forth, back-and-forth between the front door and wherever the trophy was waiting. This was usually some lesser portion of a squirrel, and Janette was very glad that the possums and raccoons seemed to be too much trouble for Bella to carry inside. The animal control number was pinned up on the refrigerator door for when those unfortunate critters needed removal from Bella’s hunting grounds.
Janette taught Bella to sit and patiently wait for doggie treats. Bella learned on her own to talk in order to be rescued from my granddaughter’s affectionate attentions. Bella knew that Eva, small as she was, still had higher pack status and so could not be directly corrected. So, Bella would vocalize her need for rescue when her floor-lounging was interrupted by a toddler using her for a pillow or handy seat.
When I moved to Florida, Bella stayed behind in Texas, but last year she finally made the trip, too. I worried that she would feel lonely being the only dog, but she seems to think that this is a fine turn of events. She doesn’t have to eat her food all at once to keep it from going missing later. She has her own bed that she is never displaced from. She gets a doggie biscuit every morning. She never has to jockey for position in the “don’t pet him, pet me” competition. She has learned how to shake and sit up on her back legs in order to get leather doggie chews. And she has several big windows across the front of the house to help her monitor all sidewalk trespassers.
She doesn’t seem to miss the doggie door too much, either. When she wants to go out, she’ll let one of us know. If her need to go out is dire (official doggie business, bark at encroachers, sit on the lanai and watch the rain), she will use her conversation skills to tell us that it’s very important. She also has different barks for different applications. There is the “intruders in adjoining backyards” bark, the “trashmen are taking our stuff away” bark, the “neighborhood doggie gossip update” bark, and then, of course, the “let me in, please” bark. And when Mother is the only one home, Bella knows to go to the sliding door off the living room to announce herself, because Mother is a bit hard of hearing and can’t hear her from the back of the house.
In the past, Mother has been nervous around larger dogs, but she is quite taken with our Bella. Bella keeps Mother company during the day, gives a good bluff to passing strangers, and has doubled or tripled Mother’s daily physical activity. She has also increased my level of activity, as my formerly irregular vacuuming is now a near-daily event in order to keep my home as fur-free as possible, and weekly doggie baths have also been added to my routine.
That’s OK, though, because we love our Bella, and it’s really nice to have a dog around the house again.