Around the Island

Charity’s column: Mabel’s very good day

Mabel is a 40-pound beagle/coonhound mix who has been top dog (and the only dog) in our two-human household since we adopted her six years ago. She is a beautiful and queenly creature, used to being admired, and more comfortable giving orders than obeying them. Here is Mabel’s account of a good day, because she knew you were wondering.

7 a.m. Good morning. I’m curled on the couch in a loose ball of black and tan, my long legs folded, my feet pressed against either side of my muzzle and my fluffy white tail wrapped around the folded legs from stern to stem, looking more like a tiger skin rug than a stuffed animal. When I hear one of my people enter the kitchen, I lift one eyelid. Is it time to rise?

7:25 a.m. I don’t hear the food dish, so my eyelid goes back down, and I return to REM sleep, flexing my toenails, and twitching my legs in pursuit of the rabbit who lives under the porch.

8 a.m. Breakfast. At last I hear the ring of kibble hitting the bowl. I stretch elegantly (a yoga pose called “downward dog”) and enter the kitchen offering my person the opportunity to scratch my ear, before I tuck into my breakfast. Since she insists on heating food before she lets anyone eat it, she mixes warm water into my kibble to “make gravy.” This is strange, since when she makes actual gravy I’m not allowed to have any.

8:15 a.m. A good walk spoiled. After I’ve eaten breakfast, she connects herself to my collar with a piece of leather (which she won’t let me eat) so I can take her out to smell things. She has a lot to learn about smelling things.

Maintaining good hygiene is a constant battle. I have learned to act nonchalant when I spot deer, raccoon or best of all, goose droppings in the grass. I sniff aimlessly, unenthusiastically until she loosens the leash and I can roll in ear-first, executing a twisting dive that lays down an even coating on the fur from my neck to my ribs.

9 a.m. Ablutions and a sun bath. A successful roll in something smelly is often followed by a warm sponge bath (with chicken treats) and then a few hours lying in the sun on the porch.  So that happens, and it’s very nice.

10 a.m. Working girl, job #1. As soon as I hear the garbage truck approaching, I start barking. What are they thinking!? How can they allow a week’s worth of garbage to be taken away forever? I am heartbroken and ashamed.

Noon. Nap.

1 p.m. Working girl, job #2. Our next-door neighbor pulls up in his truck, and it’s my job to bark at him. I continue barking as he chats with my kennelmate about the state of bicycling on Shelter Island including the shortage of parts (he can’t find a tube to fix a flat) and the hazards of off-Island biking. By the time they get around to the question of whether there is still a bike shop in Mattituck, I stop barking and assume a very intimidating guard-dog position – still as the Sphinx of Giza, ears erect, ready to sound the alarm again if the situation deteriorates. This is called community policing, and it is my vocation.

2 p.m. Massage. I awaken from the second of my three afternoon naps, sidle up to one of my kennel-mates, and place my front paw on the keyboard of her laptop, signaling to her that it is time for my massage. She seems to be in the middle of something, so she tries to type around my paw but after I’ve gently replaced it in the middle of the keyboard, she realizes delay is futile and scratches all around my neck and shoulders, under the harness and collar and rubbing my very itchy ears. Heaven!

4:45 p.m. Kibble and a long walk. After my evening bowl of chicken, lamb and rice kibble, my human clips herself to me again, and I take her out for another long walk. My other kennelmate, (man-who-often-smells-like-roasted chicken) joins us. Every day we find treasures! I lead them on an important mission to see what the tide has washed up and look for half-eaten fish that the osprey has dropped. Today my most exciting find was a porgy dropped in Father Peter’s yard. She allowed me to eat most of it! She said I could “clean up the yard” in atonement for past sins, but I deny all wrongdoing.

7 p.m. Helping with dinner. It’s my responsibility to provide companionship and moral support when there is serious cooking going on. I sit quietly, composed and ladylike, except when there is butter or cheese on the kitchen counter. Then I lunge for it, and take it into the living room where I can eat it without upsetting them.

8:30 p.m. Clean up, and a bone of my own. Most nights there is enough chicken, or spaghetti sauce, clinging to the plates for me to have a nice snack while helping load the dishwasher. On this night, due to an obvious lack of planning, the pickings are slim, so I am offered (and accept) an enormous raw marrow bone to keep me busy while they watch the baseball game.  The Yankees win!