It’s not what you look like, when you’re doin’ what you’re doin’
It’s what you’re doin’ when you’re doin’ what you look like you’re doin’!
— “Express Yourself!” by Charles Wright
Kickie adored everything about her new “granddog,” Skylar Grey, except for the way she slept: on her back, front legs straight up in the air, back legs spread eagle. “She’s a little hussy,” Kickie would say as Sky snored obliviously.
I reminded Kickie that Jazzy often slept on her back — it’s a pit bull thing. “Studies have shown that dogs who sleep on their backs are the happiest and most secure dogs, willing to expose their most vulnerable body part — their soft underbelly — to potential predators,” I explained. “Well, there are no predators here,” Kickie said with a chuckle. “She’s just a little hussy.”
Lack of modesty aside, Skylar had passed a very important test on her first weekend trip to Grandma’s: She never chewed any of Kickie’s prized tchotchkes, and that was a feat considering the house was full of them. A few months before, when Kickie’s other stepdaughter Sara visited from Arizona, we counted 56 tassels. Kickie loves tassels. She puts them everywhere and on everything, whether they belong there or not. There are tassels hanging from mirrors, tassels hanging from drapes, tassels hanging from lamps, the ceiling, drawer pulls, photographs, and even other tchotchkes. Most of the tassels were at a safe height because Skylar was only four months old, about 25 pounds, and like many pit bulls she was a low rider — built like a sturdy little teapot, short and stout. But with 56 tassels, there was still plenty of low-hanging fruit.
The morning we were preparing to head back to San Francisco, I boasted to Kickie that Sky hadn’t gotten into a single thing. “That’s my good little blockhead,” Kickie said affectionately, patting Sky’s square head. “You’re Grandma’s little angel.”
Skylar followed me when I went to the kitchen to do the breakfast dishes, but she made a detour into the living room. I watched her snoozing in the sun through the window above the sink, which conveniently peered into the living room via a sliding glass door. “You are a little angel,” I said to myself, and turned to pack up her food, bowls and treats. After several trips to the car, I heard Kickie calling Skylar from the TV room. “Where’s my little blockhead?” she cooed in that high-pitched puppy voice. When I returned to the sink to dry the dishes, I noticed Sky was no longer in view. As I turned the corner into the living room, there she was — sitting on one hip, her green eyes wild and devilish, and a gold tassel swinging from her mouth.
“Where’s my little angel?” Kickie called again. “She’s right here with me,” I shouted, and then I turned to Skylar. “Give me that tassel,” I said under my breath through gritted teeth. Skylar went into the play bow: front legs stretched in front of her, butt wagging in the air. “This is not a game,” I said, but Skylar disagreed. She took off running around the living room, with me chasing her in tight circles. Small enough to get behind chairs, end tables, and sofas, Sky took every opportunity to pause where I couldn’t reach her and show off her prize, which may as well have been a diamond necklace as far as I was concerned. “Stay!” I said, pointing to where Sky was now sitting just a few feet away. I dashed out to the garage where I found a bag of her favorite chicken jerky. Nonchalantly, I reentered the living room where Skylar was sitting in the exact same spot, the tassel still swinging from her mouth in slow motion like a solid gold pendulum. “Here Sky,” I said, holding up the jerky. “I’ll trade you.” Skylar’s eyes grew beady and suspicious, but she raised her nose in the air to see if she could catch a whiff of what I felt was a more than fair exchange. “Do you want this, sweetie?” I asked, crouching in front of her and dangling the jerky just out of reach. She dropped the tassel and went for the jerky, which I held onto tightly until I had the tassel in my other hand. “Go see Grandma,” I said sternly.
As I surveyed the living room trying to figure out where Skylar got the tassel, I noticed a gold rope the exact color draped around a small wastebasket covered in beige cherub brocade. With a sigh of relief, I wiped the puppy slobber off and gently tied the gold tassel back in its rightful place.
When I went to get Sky from the TV room, she was already asleep in her favorite position: on her back, front legs straight up in the air, back legs spread eagle. “I know,” I said to Kickie, who was resting on the couch. “She’s a little hussy.” Kickie smiled, “Yes, but she’s also a little angel.” At that exact moment, Skylar stretched, yawned, and opened one hazel eye as if to wink at me. “Uh-huh,” I said, “an angel, indeed …”