How I trained my human

Ayla in de bibliotheek; foto copyright Bruno Lowagie
                                                                                                                   Picture made by Bruno Lowagie

This story was written for the Reedsy contest "Staying Inside".
More specifically in the context of the prompt: "Write a story from the perspective of a dog, thrilled to find their owner has been spending so much time at home..."

How I trained my human

“OK, Boomer, you warned me about this, but I think it finally happened. In the last couple of weeks, my human hasn’t left the house for longer than an hour at a time.”
“I hate to tell you I told you so, but this was bound to happen given the age of your human when you first got him.”
“I know. You said there was a word for it, but I had to look it up in the dictionary. I already forgot what it was.”
“It’s called retirement, Benji,” Boomer said. “Once it starts, there’s no way back. You’re stuck with your human. You’ll see him around all day for the rest of his life.”
“Seriously? That sounds tiresome. I guess I’ll have to make the best of it.”
“Make the best of it? You should be thrilled! Just follow my advice and you’ll be the happiest dog in the neighborhood.”
I had my doubts about Boomer’s advice, but I couldn’t deny that he had often been right in the past. I wondered if he’d also be right about this retirement thing.

I got my human right after I got out of prison. I never knew what I did wrong with my previous humans. A couple of them were merely children; they told me they would love me forever. Then they suddenly stopped playing with me. Imagine my surprise when two strangers come to my house to arrest me. They put me behind bars without a trial.
Boomer explained that I didn’t commit any crime —unless growing up was considered a crime.
“If you could have been a puppy for the rest of your life. They would have allowed you to keep your family as long as you wanted,” Boomer explained, “But you grew up, so they locked you away.”
I didn’t believe Boomer. His explanation was too absurd; surely humans couldn’t expect dogs not to grow? But since he was right about other things, he might have been right about that, too.
Anyhow, I did my time and I got myself a new human and a great new place to stay when I was released. Boomer had been living with his human on number 121 for five years already when I moved in into number 119. Not only did he proof to be a good neighbor, he also became a good friend. Without him, I would have felt very lonely during the days my human wasn’t at home.
Now that so many years have passed, it’s hard to imagine why I felt the need to howl so much the first weeks after I arrived in my new neighborhood. I howled for hours when my human left for something he called work. I also scratched the kitchen door because he always forgot to let me in before he took his car and drove away.
At first, my human didn’t seem to mind. He was annoyed by the neighbor of number 117 —an old man owned by a cat— who complained about the noise I made. It goes without saying that my human ignored him —cats and dogs don’t allow their humans to socialize. My human only turned mean towards me when he saw the quote from the painter who assessed the damage done to the back door. Once more, I had to do time: I was chained to a post in the garden.
The chain was long enough for me to find shelter in my doghouse, to reach my food and water, and to do my business on the lawn, but I could no longer reach the back door. That didn’t stop me from barking at the neighbor’s cat when she came into my garden to tease me while staying just out of reach, but after a couple of days, I stopped howling —except for when I heard a siren in the distance; when that happens, all dogs howl.
It was during the three weeks I was “on the chain” that Boomer supported me as only a real friend would do. He took the time to answer all my questions about the neighborhood, about humans, and about life in general. When I was sad, he told me stories about bitches he claimed he had met in the park. Although I didn’t always believe him, I had to admit that he was a wise and experienced dog.
Once I was released from the chain, the good life began. Boomer taught me how to enjoy my freedom.
“Many dogs have it all wrong,” he explained. “They don’t own the human; the human owns them. Don’t make that mistake!”

As it turned out, Boomer was also right about the whole retirement situation.
“When your human stays at home all day, you have to make sure he has structure. Without structure, you won’t have a life anymore. Lack of structure is the principal cause of neuroses such as anxiety disorders, hysteria, depression and what have you.”
I started barking at 7 AM in the morning to make sure my human didn’t stay in bed until noon. He needs to serve me breakfast at 7:05, after which I take a long nap while he reads the newspaper.
At 11:00, I annoy him until he takes the shit shovel to remove the poop I’ve deposited in strategic places on the lawn to ensure his gets his daily dose of exercise outdoors. While he’s busy shoveling my shit, I sit back and relax, chewing on a treat that is essential for my dental care —if what the advertisements say is true.
Come noon, I watch him prepare lunch in the kitchen. I help him with the dishes when he’s done eating. I also make sure there are no leftovers.
After a long siesta, I let my human out to do some shopping for dinner. Sometimes, I accompany him; sometimes I stay home to talk with Boomer.
Once we’ve had dinner, my human sleeps in the couch when I watch television. When it’s time for me to hit the sack, I bark until he wakes up to let me out.

Today, my human went out to see his GP. He’s worried about a crab or something. No wait, I think the word he used was cancer. I took the opportunity to go for a run in the garden.
I didn’t notice Boomer was watching me until he greeted me. We don’t see each other as often as we used to, so we had many things to chat about.
“You're rolling in clover,” he laughed.
“It surely feels that way,” I answered.
“I'm happy to hear that you followed my advice.”
“It took some time to train him, but nowadays, my human is regular as clockwork. You were right about giving him structure. The first weeks were hell, but he’s much calmer now.”
“At least you didn’t have to chain him,” Boomer laughs.
I don’t mind when he makes fun of me. I don’t know what I would have done without him and his good advice.
Life is good. I never want it to stop.


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