10: Backyard Buddies

10: Backyard Buddies

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Dog

Backyard Buddies

Fun fact: All dogs have pink tongues, except for the Chow Chow and Shar-Pei, which have black or purplish tongues. Many dogs have black spots on their tongues, though.

Lacey, our female Yorkie, saw me opening the front door to check the mailbox and took that opportunity to slip out into the yard. She was usually very good about staying in the house, but she had an incentive to escape that day — our neighbor, Sarah, was in the front yard watching her son ride his new bike up and down the sidewalk while she fed her toddler.

Lacey was a mousey little dog who did not come into her own until she had a litter of puppies. She was a great mother and truly enjoyed taking care of her brood. She had three litters with our male, George Mutt, before we had her spayed. She had adored being a mama, but during her last pregnancy she had come down with milk fever and we decided it best not to breed her again. Her mother instincts still lingered, though. Every time she heard a puppy cry — even on television — she would search for it so she could “mother” that baby. Her maternal instinct went beyond puppies, too. She would mother all young things, from kittens to human babies. When she heard any distress call, Mama Lacey was there to comfort and quiet the little ones’ fears.

That day, Sarah’s baby, Kim, was teething and fussing as her mom attempted to feed her. When I opened the front door, Lacey heard the baby cry and was gone like a shot to help. Before I could stop her, Lacey had run next door to where Sarah and Kim were on a blanket on the ground. Lacey immediately stood on her hind feet and started licking Kim’s face. The child was startled at first and drew back. But I said, “It’s okay, she won’t hurt you. Those are just puppy kisses.” Kim relaxed, stopped fussing, and began to pet Lacey. Sarah was relieved — she said it was the first time that day Kim had settled down. When it was time to go, I literally had to pull Lacey away from Kim’s grasp to take her home.

After that incident, when both our dogs and Sarah and her kids were each in our fenced-in back yards, Lacey would always run to the fence, wag her tail and excitedly greet Kim, who always responded with a smile and an outstretched hand. If she could reach Lacey to pet her, Kim would. Sarah and I thought this bond between dog and baby was delightful. We were glad the two had found each other.

Spring had sprung, and Sarah and her husband built a play fort in the back yard for the kids to play in while they planted flowers in the flowerbeds. I noticed that when I was cooking in my kitchen and the kids were playing next door, Lacey would cry to go out. I’d let Lacey out in the back yard while I was finishing supper and I would hear the squeals of laughter from Kim next door when she caught a glimpse of Lacey. When the kids were playing, it got harder and harder to get Lacey to come back in the house.

One afternoon, Lacey did not come back at all when I called, and it was eerily quiet in the neighbor’s back yard. Wondering if something was amiss, I dried my hands and went into the yard to see what was happening. As I cleared the corner of the house and looked in the direction of our neighbors’ house, I witnessed what was going on just about the time Sarah looked up from her flowerbed to check on her suddenly silent toddler.

There, both clinging to the chain-link fence that separated them, were Lacey and Kim. They had each pulled up to the eye level of the other and were intent on joyfully touching tongues through the links of the fence. Sarah and I simultaneously started laughing and went to separate our “kids.”

~Janice R. Edwards

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