A True Royal Blue
If MyGladys were here, watching me lay helpless bound by plastic tubes and breathing apparatus, she would kick some butt. One time she left me at Doc Anderson’s office for a minor case of O.P.L.S., (obsessive paw licking syndrome). When she returned, finding me wearing a giant plastic cone on my head, she promptly removed it, restoring my dignity. Now it’s my turn, but I’ve been given a last warning to stop chewing on the tubes or I’ll be tied up outside.
I expect, any moment, she’ll open her eyes and say, “King David, turn that frown upside down.” A difficult command, since I don’t have eyebrows. I call those Gladisms
; a saying that often makes no sense, but always shines light on what is good. She has an endless supply of Gladisms, some overused, like –If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
My name, King David, is a guy in the Bible who, “was after God’s own heart.” Sometimes she calls me David, or Dave or Davey Boy, saving formalities for serious modes, like “King David, you’re an angel,” or commands like sit, stay, stop barking, and no stalking -- a euphemism for sniffing someone’s behind.
I hear someone coming up the walk. It’s PoorIdaPotter, whose sound-signature consists of raspy breaths, shuffling and waddles. I bark to alert nurse Margaret, who threatens me with a wagging finger. Then, surprised by the knocking -- duh, like I didn’t just tell her -- she answers the door.
MyGladys is PoorIdaPotter´s only friend. From what I can see, others treat her like -- a dog. They turn up their noses, using rude body language that says shoo-shoo. I think she has a pleasant aroma, particularly the array of alluring tales on her shoes, and I know for a fact that five other dogs agree that she’s primo company.
Normally, PoorIdaPotter sits in the overstuffed, mohair chair while MyGladys serves molasses cookies and hot tea. On summer days she wears a mu-mu, confessing that she stays cool by wearing nothing underneath. After visits on hot days, MyGladys sprays the chair with Lysol, a scent I am not fond of.
I greet my friend at the door, leading her past the comfy chair, through the bathroom, and into the bedroom where MyGladys lays, helpless, bound by tubes and machines. PoorIdaPotter’s wearing the mu-mu with the yellow pineapples along with the delightful green sneakers that smell of the little pups she speaks of so dearly. Placing her cane on the floor, she slides the wooden chair closer to the bed, taking the hand of her friend. We sit listening to the machines breathe and beat like a robotic mother dog. PoorIdaPotter, one of the smart humans, pats my head and says, “Dave, ol’ boy, I don’t know what to do, either.”
MyGladys always knows what to do. On the day we met she walks straight over to me, smiles, and says “hello” like we’ve known each other forever. Then she walks away, returning moments later with the prison guard marching dutifully at her heels.
“This one here,” she says, pointing at me. “This fine, handsome, royal-looking golden lab.”
Moments later, we strut through the prison gates and hop into a flaming red 1969 Plymouth. Red is one of the few colors I enjoy, but early on I realized red warns others to get out of her way. She’s been known to “scare the bejeebies” out of the locals at busy intersections when she declares “my turn” and steps on it, leaving the outcome in God’s hands.
Since that day, six days a week we pack Juicy Fruit gum, molasses cookies, a freshly ironed, perfumed hanky, our Gladisms, and climb into the red alert mobile to “bless a mess of fish.” That’s her crazy way of saying be kind to those who need it
. The Shady Rest Care Pavilion is one of our routine visits. I don’t like to boast, but I am a card-carrying pet therapist, certified and approved to make visitations. My clients receive inner healing by rubbing my head and scratching behind my ears. We could go pro, making scads of money, but that’s not our style. I do accept a few meager treat tips for my efforts.
Of course Gladys does her part at Shady Rest, too. She reads the Bible to Mr. Stokes, paints Alice’s toenails, tweezes Bernice’s stubborn chin whiskers, and listens to Orneryolmisterallen complain about his lumpy bed, the burnt toast at breakfast, Mr. Jones’ snoring, and the weather. She says Orneryolmisterallen needs our love, and she gives him extra Juicy Fruit gum because he suffers from the most powerful case of halitosis on God’s green earth. I give him special treatment, too; the most intensive therapy treatment available – rubbing a dog’s belly.
I hear the rapid clicking of Tiffiedear’s heels and alert the nurse.
“King David! Why are you barking?” she scolds, wagging that finger in my face. The door opens and in walks Tiffiedear.
“Oh, you startled me. Ida, Ida, time to leave now,” says nurse Margaret, waking her with a tap on the shoulder. “Tiffany is here to see her Grandma.”
“Hello Tiffany,” says Ida, passing her on the way out.
“Ida,” replies Tiffany, looking the other way. “Margaret, get that dog outta here. You know I am allergic to dogs,” She points her painted fingernail at my nose.
I don’t appreciate her tone and wait until nurse Margaret grabs me by the collar, escorting me to the back porch. No worries, MyGladys fixed the back door latch with duct tape, allowing me to come back in whenever I want. With a gentle nose nudge, I return to my post outside the bedroom door.
“How is she doing? Did Dr. Swartz see her yet today?” asks Tiffiedear.
“Yes, he said there’s no change yet. The fluid in her lungs has not responded to the antibiotics yet,” says Margaret.
I’m not sure why Tiffiedear dislikes me. After all, she’s just a pup like me, both being five years old. Mygladys is a whopping 13 years old and SweetLily, Tiffiedear’s mom who went to be with our Lord, she would be nine years old now. In human math, me and Tiffie are 35 and Mygladys is 91. I allow Tiffiedear alpha dog status, but sometimes it hurts my feelings when she turns me away. Mygladys reminds me, “King David, remember, her bark is worse than her bite.”
That’s wisdom I understand. I’ve been told that Tiffiedear changed when her mom became ill. She walked away from her fiancé and according to Mygladys, “the light inside her switched off.” The father left them before Tiffiedear was even weaned, so SweetLily raised her alone. I guess he lives in London with another family. As the story goes, he left and never looked back.
Tiffiedear pulls a comb from the dresser drawer smoothing and securing her grandma’s hair into a neat bun. Then she returns to the chair next to the bed, sitting with her back rigid and straight, looking as if she’s waiting for her master to give her a treat. I expect any moment Mygladys will speak her words of wisdom --What´s the use of worrying? It never was worthwhile, so pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag, and smile, smile, smile.
“Tiffany, the frat boys from the university want to come see your grandma. They’re on the phone - do you want to talk with them?” the nurse asks.
“No. Just tell them no,” she says.
I think a visit from her boys might be just what she needs. We met them about a month after she broke me out of prison. She volunteers as the fraternity mom for a house full of college dudes at W.S.U. We visit every week, tidy up, cook a meal, and make sure they’re not getting too crazy. One day we were in the kitchen cleaning. Before taking out the trash, we go through the den where the boys are to collect the old pizza boxes and beer bottles. When we enter, a hush falls over the room, unlike the usual greeting of “hey Gladys, yo Davey boy.” They were watching a video, like well-trained retrievers on point after spotting a pheasant in the bush. The movie was strange. I say that, because humans are rarely seen free of clothing, and this woman was completely at ease, waving a bright blue scarf while gyrating to the beat of Cliff Richard’s Devil Woman
The boys studied the floor as the silence tarried.
“My, oh my. That is the most beautiful blue scarf I have ever seen,” said Mygladys. “It’s a true royal blue.”
Needless to say, her gift for finding the good in any situation was received with great gratitude.
“King David, be quiet. Stop barking. What’s wrong with you?” yells Tiffiedear.
Moments later, the doorbell rings and she tells the nurse that someone is at the door. Duh, hence the warning, Tiffiedear.
“Mr. Cannery, what are you doing here,” she asks, peeking around the corner to where he stands in the entry with Margaret.
“Hello, Tiffany. Good to see you. I visit your mother every Friday afternoon. Is she here?”
Grabbing her purse and sweater, Tiffie mumbles something as she passes by them, leaving the screen door to slam behind her.
Art Cannery, the “sweet man who means no harm,” showed up at our door about a year ago. The school district wants to buy our home and tear it down. We should have seen this coming since the expansions have sandwiched our house between the new school addition and the future parking lot.
I don’t like Mr. Cannery. After he visits, MyGladys always reminds me --Now King David, the school needs more room, and someday all will be dust and rubble anyway. You won’t need your plush bed in heaven, Davey, God has prepared something better.
Better than my bed? I’m skeptical.
Art’s visits changed from business to pleasure early on. He got his yes the first visit, but every Friday he sits in the over-stuffed chair, tossing his head back guffawing between nibbles of molasses cookies and sips of black tea. Mygladys has left strict instructions, often reminding Tiffiedear saying, “Don’t forget I gave my word to that sweet man Mr. Cannery, that when the time comes, the school district can do what they want with this house.”
“Gladys has taken quite ill. You are welcome to sit with her if you like,” says Margaret.
“Ill? Gladys? Is it serious?” he asks.
“Yes, I’m afraid it is quite serious,” says Margaret.
Sitting in the rickety, wooden chair with the tattered cane seat placed next to the bed, he takes her limp hand in his, staring at it, looking as if he’s nestling an injured white dove. The scene nearly convinces me that he cares, and then a tear slips down his cheek, resting in the crease framing his mouth, and I know. Approaching, I offer a little head rub therapy as he quickly wipes the tear away like I’m going to rat him out. People are funny.
Even without cookies, tea and laughs, Art remains by her side more than an hour, after which I settle in at the foot of the bed for a serious nap. It’s dark when I wake to the sound of Tiffie’s heel clicks. She has an overnight bag, which she places in the bright yellow room that remains unchanged, with sunflower wallpaper, awaiting her visits. She sets up a regime in the wooden chair with the leather bible Mygladys has worn to shreds and reads aloud from Psalm 27 until she nods off, head dangling.
It’s hot. I’m standing in the cool water of our beloved fishing hole, basking in the glory of the rock striations, the trees, the sun’s light show, and the delightful breeze tickling my ears. I’ve heard it said that only humans worship God, but this is my version, for I know He alone is responsible for these wondrous sights and senses. The birds are chirping their own version of worship as they circle above me, and I’m in awe that I have no desire to chase them, for all is well and good …
“King David. Davey, Davey boy…”
I hear Mygladys calling. I assume I’m scaring the fish off again and she wants me to move, so I ignore her calls. I’m startled when someone touches me on the head. I wake to find I’ve been dreaming, and that I am still at the foot of the bed. I’m astounded to see the eyes of Mygladys open and she’s smiling. I nudge her hand, but what she sees holds her engaged in anticipation, wonder, and delight. I squint and sniff, and strive to see what she sees. Giving up, I return, reveling at her glowing face, but I cannot resist for long and turn once more to see. This time, I see. There are no words to describe what I saw, but I can tell you that I would be happy to gaze upon it for eternity.
Suddenly, I am compelled to retrieve Tiffiedear. I remember her stirring and leaving the room just before I had the fishing dream. I race to the sunflower room where she’s asleep on the bed, and gently snort on her neck. When this fails, I jump on the bed, accidentally landing on her, but succeeding in waking her up.
“Are you crazy? Go away!” she shouts.
Desperate, I grab her hand with my mouth and tug in the direction of the door. She doesn’t get it, so I bark, and bark, and bark, until at last she gets up and follows me back to the bedside. She gasps at the sight of her grandma’s glowing face, and turns to see what she is looking at. I couldn’t say for certain if Tiffiedear could see, but after that night she changed drastically, from the inside out.
That same night, Mygladys left this world.
To my surprise, I wasn’t sent back to prison, but instead Tiffiedear welcomed me in her home, where we have become grand litter mates. I miss Mygladys like a flower misses sunshine, but she taught me to see good in everything, and because of what I saw that night, I know she is where good is.