Peanut butter and loneliness: Leaving the dog in the morning

This dog does not like Mondays. [SUE CARLTON  |  Times]
This dog does not like Mondays. [SUE CARLTON | Times]
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The dog does not want me to go. This is a given.

This is our weekday morning ritual. I down caffeine and check the paper standing up in the kitchen with a bowl of cereal in my hand and TV news in the background. He digs busily through his toy bin, ignoring the gutted stuffed duck, the tattered anteater and the eyeless wiener dog until he finds his prize: a slobbery tennis ball.

In the shower, I hear this outside the door: the dog dropping the ball on the wood floor, thump thump thump as it bounces, the dog picking it up and dropping it again, thump thump thump. The invitation is clear:

Come on, throw it. You know you want to. Come on.

He is a rescue dog of great optimism, always up for fun, ready to look for squirrels at the park or roll in something enticing or leap into the back of the car even when it turns out to be a trick — a trip to the vet. Monday mornings he takes especially hard.

No matter that he has had his walk and his morning constitutional. No matter that he has visitors during the day, even an outing. No matter that the sound of the lock clicking behind me each morning is what keeps him in kibble (and the humans in the household in cable.)

He lies in the hallway as I dry my hair, the ball close by. He stares at me. He is not above resting his head on his paws with his eyes theatrically rolled up at me, the ball resting between them.

Come on, throw it. You know you want to. Come on.

One handed, I do. He chases with abandon. Rugs are rucked up, tables jostled, lamps threatened with shattering. We do this three, four, five, six times. I have to go.

One more ritual just before I’m out the door: A cookie from the treat jar is slathered with peanut butter. He will accept this offering with great dignity as I leave, but I don’t like to look at his face. Peanut butter must smell like loneliness. I promise myself I will throw the tennis ball for him in the backyard when I get home, knowing he’ll chase it like I never left him.

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