Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Barkley’s leash

Barkley was a good dog who got in trouble more often than he should. He trampled the garden and chewed on the fence posts. He meant no harm but sometimes his puppy nature got the best of him and he unintentionally made trouble for his master.

One morning Barkley’s master drove a peg into the middle of the yard and slipped a leash over it. He hooked the leash to Barkley’s collar. “Now, Barkley, you’ve left me no choice. I’ve done this so you won’t get into trouble while I’m gone. You’ll only be able to go as far as this leash allows. I’ll check in on you tonight.”

The master left. Barkley was sad. The great, big yard seemed to beckon to him, taunting him. He stretched the leash as far as it would go and lay motionless in the grass, watching the birds hop across the lawn out of his reach.

“What’s the matter, Barkley?” one bird asked.

“My master has tied me to this peg, and I can’t roam free in the yard like I used to,” he moaned.

“That’s because you got into trouble,” the bird said. “You trampled your master’s garden and chewed up his fence posts. You did wrong in your master’s eyes.”

Barkley rolled onto his back and howled at the sky. “I’m so bored. What am I going to do?”

“Why don’t you roll that ball around?” the bird suggested.

Barkley’s head whipped around. Sure enough, a bright green ball sat at the base of the master’s house, just within his reach. He pounced on the ball and rolled it from one end of his circle to the next. He rolled it every which way he could in that small space within the leash’s range, knocking aside his food dish and water dish, scattering their contents into the grass. The water was absorbed into the ground, and the pieces of food fell deep into the grass out of sight.

When Barkley started to get hungry, he regretted scattering his food in the grass. He looked up and saw the bird he had been talking to picking bugs out of the ground with its beak. Barkley decided if the birds could do it, he could do it, too. He dug a hole until he seized a fat, juicy grub in his teeth. It was delicious, but it upset his stomach.

“Silly dog, that’s bird food,” the bird laughed at him mockingly. “And now look, you’ve rolled the ball too far and you can’t play with it anymore.”

The bird was right. In his excitement, Barkley had rolled the ball beyond the length of his leash. The ball was a foot away, but it may as well have been in the next-door neighbor’s yard. He pulled on that leash until his neck hurt. Hard as he pulled, the leash would not stretch, and the peg he was anchored to would not budge.

Barkley whimpered. He was in an even worse spot than before. Now he had a belly ache and he had no toys to play with. “I hate this leash!” he proclaimed. “I wish I was rid of it forever!” He futilely tried to chew through the leash.

“Is it the leash’s fault your belly aches?” the bird chastised. “Is it the leash’s fault you rolled the ball too far?”

For once, Barkley ignored the bird. With nothing better to do, he circled around the peg, drew his paws underneath him, and fell asleep.

When he awoke it was past midday. The sun had crossed the sky and now bathed the whole yard in warm light. Barkley’s belly felt better, but he was still hungry. And he still had no toys to play with.

“At least that annoying bird is gone,” Barkley thought. “I’ve had nothing but trouble since he came around!”

He got up and paced in circles, twisting his leash around the peg as he sniffed around to bide the time. In the bright afternoon light he could see an unusual amount of detail in the blades of grass. He noticed how large they were when he got up close to them. They towered above the end of his nose. He watched the ants’ slow progress crawling over them. When Barkley considered how many blades of grass were within his reach, how many little things there were to explore, the leash didn’t seem so bad.

He noticed something else. Where he stood his paws sank deeper into the grass than in other spots in the yard. He had stepped into a little depression. The ground here was softer because it retained groundwater better. Barkley prodded with his paw, feeling the slight variations of softness and elevation in the dirt beneath the grass. Forgetting the leash completely, he flipped over on his back, enjoying the sensation of the grass and the dirt on his coat of fur.

Barkley passed the whole afternoon like this without even noticing the time.

In the evening, the master came out to see how Barkley was doing. He grinned at the puppy rolling around in the grass. “Barkley!” he called. Barkley rolled onto his belly and greeted his master with a bark.

“I see you dug a hole...but it’s just one hole. Not bad, Barkley. Good boy.” Barkley’s tail wagged at the compliment.

The master slipped the leash off Barkley’s collar and watched, expecting the dog to bolt to enjoy his restored freedom. But Barkley remained where he was, thankful for the small plot of ground around the peg.

The master reached under Barkley’s chin to scratch him affectionately. “Good boy.”

Related: “Snakebitten.”

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