I keep telling myself that I’m not a morning person, but the universe seems to disagree with me. So here it is, oh dark thirty, and I’ve wrestled myself once again into my favorite beat-up jeans – seriously, Janet, lay off the pizza and beer! That’s me, Janet MacPhail, professional photographer and, judging by the mirror behind my bedroom door, fashion disaster. Then again, as dog fanciers are fond of saying, form follows function, and this is a functional ensemble. I’ve tucked my jeans into a pair of pink knee-high waterproof boots and my faded sweatshirt shows an Australian Shepherd over a line that says “Real dogs don’t have tails!” I don’t actually believe that. I like dogs with tails, and dogs without tails. Okay, I flat out love dogs. And cats. And every other animal in the world with the possible exception of the flea. But I won the thing in a raffle years ago, and it’s the right weight and ratty vintage for this morning’s activity. As soon as I clean the litterbox and feed Leo, my orange tabby, Jay and I will jump in the minivan and head for a nature preserve south of town to meet the others.
Jay is the most handsome guy in the world and the light of my life. Right now he’s gazing at me with love glistening like warm syrup in his eyes, so hang on a second, I have an irresistible urge to kiss him.
And a nose bump for Leo, who sounds like a motorbike the way he’s purring along.
I can’t talk long or we’ll be late, but walk with me to the van so I can put Jay in his crate. What? Didn’t I say? Jay’s my Australian Shepherd. Blue merle with white chest and stockings and stripe between his eyes and around his muzzle, and rich copper patches on his cheeks and eyebrows. Did I mention that he’s breathtaking? Brave, too. I learned that the hard way, but that’s another story.
We’re meeting friends for a training session. Tom Saunders, for one, and his black Labrador Retriever, Drake. Ever since I met Tom last May I’ve been getting tingles in places I’d forgotten about. But I learned a long time ago not to trust my hormones, so I’m trying to keep my brain in gear as I negotiate this forgotten terrain. Tom’s an anthropology professor, and I covet his eclectic collection of books and his culinary skills. To me, haute cuisine is peanut butter on sunflower-seed bread with honey and banana.
The people and dogs I’m meeting all compete in dog sports. You know, obedience, agility, herding, field training. This morning we’ll be tracking, meaning we’ll have our dogs follow each other by scent while we tag along holding the long lines attached to their harnesses. We do it for fun and to earn titles, although Jay put the training to good use a while back when a little boy went missing. This is the group’s first session together, to it should be interesting.
I’ve brought my camera, of course. Did I mention that I’m a professional photographer? It’s true. If you’ve ever picked up a dog magazine or calendar, you’ve probably seen some of my photos.
I have to admit, early morning is magical, isn’t it? The soft light, the slow pace, the cardinals and doves spreading the morning news. Just as well that I’m up and running early, too, because I need to see my mom. It’s been a couple of days since I’ve been to visit, and she’s having a few problems. Her age takes me by surprise sometimes because, well, my age does, too. Over fifty? Seriously? I feel like I’m twenty-five. Well, except for that crackle in my left knee from time to time.
Well, I’m the designated bagel lady this morning, so I’d better get going. You should drop by Dog Dayz one evening. That’s where we train our dogs, at least the indoor sports. A lot of us – certainly Tom and I – also spend lots of time roaming the dog-friendly outdoors of Fort Wayne and northern Indiana. We have lakes, small and Great, and forests, rivers, hills and ravines. Aside from the occasional homicide, it’s a great state to explore, especially with a dog or two by your side. Join me sometime!
Meet the author
Sheila Webster Boneham is the author of Drop Dead on Recall, the first book in her Animals in Focus mystery series, and seventeen nonfiction books about animals, including the highly regarded Rescue Matters! How to Find, Foster, and Rehome Companion Animals. Six of Sheila’s books have been named best in their categories by the Dog Writers Association of America and the Cat Writers Association, and several others have been finalists in the groups’ annual competitions. Sheila also writes narrative nonfiction and poetry, teaches writing workshops, and, yes, competes with her dogs. Learn more at www.sheilaboneham.com, or keep up with Sheila’s latest news on Facebook or on Twitter.
Books are available at retail and online booksellers.