Saginaw was drenched in cold rain. Bother! I had forgotten to pack Bryn’s raincoat before I left Traverse City. When she wears it I have only to wipe dry her head, paws and a bit of her tail when we come inside, instead of spending 20-plus minutes kneeling on the floor to run the hairdryer all over her soaked self.
We stared out at the bleak scene. What could I substitute to keep her dry?
I foraged through the pantry’s shelves, thumped down to the basement to peer into cupboards, then ran up two floors to poke around before eventually deciding on a well used rectangular muslin laundry bag, complete with thick drawstring, that we’d always included when taking lengthy road trips with the children. It would be perfect for Bryn’s long back as we sloshed around our fenced two-acre yard. But- would she tolerate it? Securing her red fitted Velcro-secured raincoat was one thing. She never gave that garment a second thought. This covering, though, would simply drape, like a blanket, over her back and up her neck, unsecured. It could be- unsettling.
I brought the pale bag to her and she sniffed it, curious. I placed it high, from just below her floppy ears, with the bulk of it extending the length of her back, dropping eight inches to either side of it, and ending just past the base of her fringed tail.
“Leave it on, Bryn, to keep you dry.” She looked at it, then outside, then back at me, yawned, and moved toward the door.
Hmmm. This substitution just might work!
Out we went, with Bryn under the laundry bag. The peculiar, but apt description made me grin. She’d probably shake the silly thing off... But I was dead wrong. Finally locating ‘the right spot’ on the grass she did her business carefully, leaning much more forward this time to avoid it sliding down and off.
I was impressed!
As the rain increased the urge to shake was powerful, but she looked back at herself- and thought better of it. From a little distance I watched her think it through, fascinated. During that entire time, maybe six minutes, the laundry bag’s top side got wetter and wetter, but it stayed on.
Inevitably, though, shoulder motions as she walked did result in some slippage to starboard, so she paused to throw me a look.
It wants a tweak, Boss.
She stood in the rain, head slightly bowed, while I trotted over to adjust it. We carried on...
Back inside at last I lifted the sozzled sack away: her neck and back were perfectly dry! I had only to towel-dry her paws, part of her lush tail, and her head.
Bryn had grasped the concept of rain gear!
I reflected that war dogs understand massive amounts of information, respond to hundreds of hand and voice commands, and yet are able to think independently. For example, a dog might ‘tweak’ a given command to adapt to changing circumstances while a fair distance from her handler. Bryn’s voiceless request that I adjust the bag because she sensed slippage and so deemed it prudent, was a subtle way of working with me toward our shared goal- to stay dry.
A few days later in Traverse City I had bank business. A light, steady rain there had settled over this city, too.
We set out, Bryn at heel, arriving at the big Chase Bank building on Front Street about 10 minutes later. A banker directed us to a three-sided cubicle overlooking the main area. I ordered Bryn to ‘sit and stay’ in a spot two feet from me.
Down went her bottom. And there, with the damp, bright red raingear complimenting her fleecy white fur, she stayed, nearly motionless for at least 30 minutes. People entering the bank admired her perfect stillness, noting quietly that she wasn’t tied to anything. Only her head very slowly rotated as she thoroughly surveyed the entire bank from ceiling to floor, as well as each new client who entered the much bigger room, which housed sofas, chairs, tellers behind barriers, etc.
Bryn routinely studies- ponders?- the world in this deliberate, meticulous way.
I never get tired of watching it happen. (What is happening in that head?)
Our eyes occasionally met as the banker’s long fingers patiently clickety-clacked his computer keys. Time dragged on. She had to be terminally bored, but made no sign. Once, during the ages-long silence I mouthed, “Good girl.” She looked straight into my eyes, acknowledging the compliment. We held our gazes long enough to mark the moment, and traded thoughts...
I’m patient, Boss.
Me, too, Bryn.
She gazed straight ahead again, statue-still.
Small, intimate exchanges like these make life with Bryn a constant delight.