Marley’s Ghost

I really do love dogs. Seriously.

When I jog in my neighborhood, I set the dogs off like trip wires to some subdivision security system. The little Scottie starts it off, going absolutely nuts when she sees me, screeching ceaseless barks, her nasty little paws bouncing off the asphalt like a dog version of Yosemite Sam. Before I know it, there’s a canine chorus reverberating through the neighborhood, culminating in the full-throated yelp of a large chocolate Lab galloping toward me with the apparent intent of making me his personal chew toy.

I once jogged right past a yellow Lab sprawled lazily on his master’s porch. It was straight out of Norman Rockwell, until he apparently decided I was some kind of interloper. Then it was straight out of Stephen King. The Lab took off after me with fangs bared until I tripped and collapsed in a heap in the middle of a busy road. He approached, sniffed, decided this heap of quaking humanity wasn’t a threat to anything, and trotted off. At the time, I could’ve sworn I heard his owner call him “Killer.”

Finally, there was the time I was jogging in a nearby park. I passed this large dog, who suddenly decided my rear end was some kind of irresistible doggy treat. Before I knew it, he’d bit into my rump, tearing through my sweats before letting go, as if realizing I wasn’t some juicy Milk-Bone biscuit after all.

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By the way, I absolutely love dogs, especially big ones like setters and Labs—yellow Labs in particular, having laughed and wept over a recent reading of Marley & Me. Within weeks of having read the story of “the world’s worst dog,” our new neighbors moved in next door. And, lo and behold, they’re the owners of a big, beautiful yellow Lab that matches Marley’s coat and size perfectly.

I was immediately drawn to him, if for no other reason than the first time he caught sight of me, his response was both gentle and friendly. This was the result, no doubt, of his still being new to the neighborhood, and the Delta Force of other dogs hadn’t yet briefed him as to the evident security threat I pose.

Figuring I might try a quick meet-and-greet before another dog got to him, I invited myself over to my neighbors’ backyard barbecue—inquiring only as to the whereabouts of their beautiful yellow Lab.

I learned several things immediately about Oliver—what a great, gentle name. You’re simply not going to get chased down or bit on the butt by an Oliver. Ollie, as he also goes by, is friendly to strangers and will immediately play a game of fetch with you.

I immersed myself in play with Oliver, eager to get my point across that he shouldn’t believe anything he hears about me as he gets to know the other dogs in the neighborhood.

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My new neighbors eventually realized that I had no intention of introducing myself to anyone else in the family beyond Oliver, so they took the initiative to make introductions all around. I think one of them might be Greg or something, but I wasn’t paying attention, as Oliver and I continued to get acquainted.

In what must have caused a few moments of pause, coming from someone who seemed indifferent to the human members of Oliver’s family, I blurted out how we’d love to dog-sit Oliver at the first opportunity. Greg (or something) and his wife (I think) immediately accepted the offer—which, in retrospect, I should probably wonder a little about.

Oh, I also found out that Killer is actually “Miller.” No way am I buying his threats anymore.

With Ollie’s scent upon him, Reid Champagne has noticed his jogs go a lot more quietly in the mornings now.

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