Life settled into a pleasant routine. Rico learned to love his crate and ran to it whenever he felt overwhelmed by the chaos of five children and Bob. More often, however, he romped, big paws reaching as he galloped around the house after one of the children or in his constant torment of his crabby big brother dog.
Bob, used to being an only dog, rarely tolerated the energetic puppy. He spent an awful lot of his time up on the L-shaped couch or Blue Chair. He would stay on his perch, safe from the needle sharp milk teeth of the golden fluff ball and watch as the little one romped and skidded and tripped over his own paws.
Once in a while Bob would fall asleep with one tempting paw hanging over the edge of the couch. Rico would soon discover the paw above him and go into spasms of joy. Leaping and growling his puppy growl, he would try to grab it with snapping jaws.
Everyone in the household stopped whatever they were doing to watch. Rico would make a mighty leap…slightly higher now that his one inch leaps…but not by much. He would land, legs splayed, with an “oof” and a growl. Recouping his strength, he would try again. His determination was astounding.
Bob slept on, blissfully unaware of the struggle below his dangling paw.
Day after day the battle waged: puppy versus dangling paw. I often wondered if Bob was teasing the pup on purpose, but he proved to be ignorant of Rico’s desperate plight.
Within a week or so, it became obvious that Rico was not going to give up. Leap after leap ensued. Hard landings didn’t dissuade him from his purpose.
And then one day it happened.
It is said that practice makes perfect. Rico must have jumped hundreds of times. And the day of his success was no different from any other. The children and I had become used to the daily battle and often ignored it. But someone, this day seemed different.
Rico had napped after his morning romp in the yard and a good breakfast. He awoke to find the dangling paw once more tantalizing him from above. He sat, tipped his head, perked his ears and watched the paw. It twitched once or twice in evidence of a fascinating dog-dream. No doubt Bob was chasing some offending fluffy puppy out of the yard or away from his food.
Rico growled a sweetly menacing rumble deep in his little puppy chest. There was something different about that growl. It was as though Rico was saying, “This time I mean it.”
We stopped what we were doing. Kelsey and Aiden left the table where they were doing crafts. The boys dropped their game controllers. I entered from the kitchen where I was preparing supper. Kait walked in just in time from the hidden sanctuary of a teenage girls room.
Thus we were all there when it happened. Rico gave a mighty “Wuf” and dropped his chest to the floor, his tail high in the air. He wiggled his bum like a hunting cat. The paw dangled, unsuspecting of the determined puppy below.
With what was meant to be a roar, the wild puppy leaped. And, miracle of miracles, his little milk-teeth snapped shut on the paw.
The roar of the wounded Pug-a-Poo eclipsed the puppy’s growl. The paw pulled back toward the couch, a small fluff ball firmly attached to its toes. Bob tried to gain his feet, but the weight of the puppy on his foot pulled him off the couch and onto the hardwood floor.
There was a wild scrambled filled with growls and roars. Bob stood, pulling backward away from Rico. Rico pulled valiantly, his paws skidding forward on the hardwood floor. Bob snapped at him. Rico smiled.
Yes. Smiled. His teeth firmly holding the paw of the larger (not by much) and older dog. His little black eyes sparkled and his jowls raised in an impish puppy smile.
We were all laughing too hard to intervene.
Bob pulled. Rico skidded, gained some traction, and pulled back. Bob growled deep in his chest. Rico gave a puppy growl. Bob snarled. Rico smiled.
Finally Alex lifted Rico and Aaron lifted Bob. Holding Bob’s paw, Aaron spoke soothingly to the older, much offended dog. Alex gently pried the little jaws open. The paw was freed at last.
Bob turned and crawled up Aaron’s chest, his paws over his shoulder, his head nuzzled up next to his ear. Aiden scrambled across the couch to pat his dog.
Alex set Rico on the floor. Rico looked up at Bob, gave a satisfied “Wuf,” turned and sauntered…yes, sauntered…down the hallway to Kelsey room.
The Battle of the Paw had been won.
To this day, almost eight years later, I have not seen Bob dangle a paw off the furniture.
Rico loved the children, insisting on following them around and helping whatever task they implemented. If I ever needed to find the puppy, all I had to do was check the various available laps.
Often he could be found snuggled in the nest of Kelsey’s crossed legs as she read in Blue Chair. He watched football games with the big boys or ran in the yard with them as they tossed a football back and forth. He snuggled in next Aiden, displacing the disgruntled Bob who did not trust the fluff ball with the sharp teeth, and watched Pokemon.
However, almost every evening Rico became confidante and tutor to Kaitlynne as she did her homework at the computer in the dining room.
At first he fit neatly on her lap, resting as Kait typed, flipped pages in the book next to the computer, and rechecked her work. Rico lay his chin on the chair arm or, more often than not, on Kait’s arm, preventing her from completely her work in a timely manner.
It wasn’t a case of “the dog ate my homework,” but, rather, “the dog prevented my homework.”
Still, she worked, he napped. She shifted, He shifted. And she spoke softly to him or read him passages.
It became a bonding ritual for them. No matter what he was doing or whose lap he occupied, when homework time came for Kaitlynne, Rico skittered across the floor to the computer station, raised up on his back legs and pawed at her legs, begging to be lifted to her lap. Settling in with a sigh, Rico began his evening duty as “homework dog.”
Considering Kaitlynne’s grades were very good that year, the dog did his duty.
However, in not too long a time his insistence on being a “lap puppy” began to show some flaws.
Rico was growing rapidly. His soft puppy fur was giving way to the beautiful blonde waves similar to the beautiful coats all Golden Retrievers sport. His stubby puppy tail began growing longer, a lovely plume of fringe budding along its length. His snout lengthened. His needle-sharp milk teeth were replaced by hard canines.
And he grew. Larger and larger, he grew. It was not long before he was as big as Bob.
Bob began to exhibit the signs of small dog in the presence of larger dogs. He stalked, stiff legged, around the house, showing Rico his dominance. Rico, in turn, smiled and licked Bob’s face. Offended, Bob would growl and stalk about, refusing to give in to the gregarious young dog.
Rico, for his part would roll and swat at Bob while on his back, trying to get the crotchety dog to play. Bob did not play. It was beneath him. He was more human than dog and would not behave in such an undignified manner.
Unable to find companionship with the other four legged beast of the house, Rico would retreat to the lap of an available human.
He began to fill the entire seat of Blue Chair, curling over the legs of Kelsey and Aiden who shared the chair. Often I would enter the room to see two blonde heads barely raised above the mass of dog fur and paws that was our gangly Rico. They would giggle and gasp for a breath as the huge dog lolled across their laps.
Alex and Aaron, when they weren’t running Rico to near exhaustion in the yard, would perch on either end of the couch allowing Rico to stretch out from one to the other, his plumed tail brushing furiously across the face of whoever got the tail end. The other boy was rewarded with two paws across their legs and a huge tongue scrubbing his chin.
At Katilynne’s study station, Rico would gamely try to crawl into his former position on her lap. She would push him gently back. He would sit at her feet, his head in her lap. After a few moments he would slip a single front paw onto her lap next to his chin. Kaitlynne called me over to watch.
Leaning on the breakfast bar, I watched as Rico slipped his other front paw onto her lap. He remained seated on the floor, the upper half of his body now resting on Katilynne’s thighs. Pretending to ignore him, Kaitlynne continued typing of the computer keyboard.
There was a subtle shifting of weight and Rico slid slowly across Kaitlynne’s lap. Then, ever so slowly, a single back paw reached up toward the chair, hooking a claw or two onto the edge of the chair. There was a pause and then the paw continued its way onto the seat beside Kait.
Rico stopped, flicking a glance upward to see if Kait had noticed his slow crawl onto her lap. She kept her eyes fixed on the computer screen. Rico slowly leaned into Kait’s chest and raised his final paw, bringing it to the edge of the chair and lifting his torso further onto the petite girl who weighed only 20 pounds more than the dog.
At last Rico sighed with success. He was on the chair, engulfing Kaitlynne in fur, paws and chin kisses. Bob stalked past in disgust.
Our little fuzz ball had become one of the largest lap puppies in the world.
He didn’t realize that his position on Kait’s lap was soon to be taken over by a creature far smaller, although not as stunningly beautiful as our gorgeous Rico.