Canine Mathematics

Stretched backwards on an oversized recliner, I swigged from a gallon of water. There wasn’t much left so I finished it in two gulps. It was another lazy afternoon in which comfort was more important than productivity. With my shoulders pressed against the cushioned back of the chair and my feet still elevated, I reached out to place the empty jug on a nearby end table. I missed and it dropped to the floor.

It wasn’t the first one to have fallen and sure wouldn’t be the last. I heard it bounce off another plastic container before settling into its final resting spot. The next time I stood, the empties would be moved to a recycling barrel in the garage. At least that was the plan. The only thing that was going to get me out of that chair was a trip to the bathroom. Until then, out of sight, out of mind.

Behind me, laying in a similar, near flat position, my dogs relaxed on a double sized mattress devoted to their comfort. Both retired racing greyhounds, Propane and Charcoal enjoyed an identical afternoon of restful laziness. With happy thoughts of procrastination dancing in our heads, each of us drifted off to sleep.

A few hours later, I awoke needing to go to the bathroom. I half expected Propane, the dominant of the two, to be sitting upright at my feet. He only sat that way if he wanted attention or needed to go out. He’d stretch himself as tall as possible while still in a seated position and stare at the wall across the room. He never barked or stared directly at me. An innocent look of quiet obedience explained what he was thinking.

“I know you can see me so I’m not even going to look in your direction. You know what I want. I’ll be patient.”

Any time he sat that way, his eyes wandered around the room until he looked in my direction. When our eyes met, he looked away. It was as if he got caught doing something he knew was wrong. A few seconds passed before his gaze returned. The charade continued until I either stroked the top of his head or took him outside.

With my dogs nowhere in sight, I grabbed the side lever to return the recliner to its normal, upright position. The footrest lowered but was unable to recess into the front of the chair.

Assuming an errant water bottle had fallen in its path, I tried to dislodge it using the least amount of effort. After returning the footrest to a reclined position, I brought it down a second time with more force. I envisioned the container popping out of place.

I was wrong. So very wrong. The obstruction was Propane’s head.

Unbeknownst to me, he was laying with his head wedged into the front opening reserved for the footrest. When Propane felt the force applied to his head, he bolted upright and glared at me. He was pissed.

A greyhound’s neck is narrow and fragile. It is why martingale collars are used. They prevent a leashed dog from slipping out of his collar and never tighten past the width of his neck. Even a retired greyhound that sprints away leashed can run thirty miles per hour in just three strides.

Angry, Propane stared at me and said, “Who did that? I did not enjoy that!”

I felt horrible and moved quick to kneel by his side. However, in the two or three seconds it took to reach him, I remembered this was the second time such an event occurred. The same thing happened a few months earlier. The peculiarity of the situation struck me funny. My attempts to console one of my four legged friends was marred with laughter.

“Are you okay?” I asked. “I didn’t mean to do that. I’m sorry.”

With giggles mixed in between every word, the sincerity offered appeared disingenuous. When I tried to hug Propane, he pulled back, unwilling to accept the gesture.

“I don’t think I like you anymore,” he replied. “You’re a big meanie.”

Propane walked across the room to his brother, expecting the warmth of camaraderie to heal his bruised feelings.

“Charcoal, daddy tried to decapitate me. At first, I thought maybe it was Halloween and he was gonna put my head over top of his to go trick or treating. And I guess I.would go with him as the Headless Horseman’s greyhound. But then I remembered it’s Valentine’s Day. Nobody gets dressed up for that.”

Sprawled out on the mattress, Charcoal remained motionless. He made no attempt to acknowledge, much less comfort his older brother.

“Didn’t you hear me?” Propane continued. “Daddy tried to kill me!”

Without lifting this body from the ground, Charcoal raised his head and replied, “Yeah? So?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“According to my math, with you out of the way, I’ll get half the life insurance and twice the treats. So I really don’t care.”

“Y’know what? I don’t think I like you either. You’re a big meanie too!”

Dissatisfied with the lack of empathy, Propane walked away in a huff. He left the room. Laying near the doorway, he positioned himself in order to keep one eye on each of us. Up until his recent passing, he never laid near the recliner again.

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