annabel and i stood at the edge of cranelegs pond.
she placed her front yellow paws forward until they barely touched the still, murky water.
meanwhile, i was looking for signs of that renegade giant bass i've seen terrorizing the pond.
i'm still not sure how it got there.
i suspect it was dropped off at the wrong pond by aliens after doing experiments on it, but that's a whole other story.
anyway, annabel slowly sat back, pushing her head down below her shoulders and nose out.
something had her attention.
i was wondering if it might be the scent of the two bears spotted further up haytown road just a few days prior.
that would be something, i mean, this is new jersey.
"i'd like doggy stairs for christmas. i've seen them on tv. they're carpeted."
i was a little startled, because when she usually talks to me, it's not so sudden like.
"you mean you don't want a stuffed woodchuck with a squeaker inside?"
"not really. don't get me wrong. i like those. that squirrel you got me last year took forever to destroy."
"yeah, it did."
"well don't get all proud of yourself. it took longer because my teeth are sore. they really hurt sometimes."
"geeh, i'll have the vet take a look at them next time."
"don't waste the trip on that. find out what's goin' on with my back legs, if you're gonna do anything."
"why? what's wrong with them?"
she craned her head to look at me and said, "they're stiff as boards. i'm always in pain. use to wear off as the day went on but now. now they always hurt. that's why the stairs. so i can climb into bed with you guys."
"why what?" she asked.
i said, "that's why you don't climb into bed with us any more. we just figured you were mad at us for some reason or maybe you needed your own space or something."
"well now you know dr. phil."
i asked, "well why didn't you say something sooner?
"too embarrassed, besides, complaining is not what i've been put on this planet to do."
i said, "yeah, that's for sure. you never complain. well ... except that one time."
"and what time was that?"
"the time we had comet come stay with us for a week."
she turned to stare out over the pond. "he is a terrier, cairn at that. and he was a pain in my butt, literally and figuratively. a week was asking way too much of me. don't get me wrong. he's a nice enough fella for a few hours but after a day or two? a real noodge!"
"he was a nice enough fella. he's dead now. old age. come to think of it, his back le—" i stopped myself from saying any more.
"his back legs what? got stiff too?"
suddenly i pointed to a swell of water along the surface, "hey! there he goes! the giant bass!"
she wasn't having any of it, "look. i'm eleven years old. i'm a lab. i'm gettin' on in years. what are you 58 or something? well that's like 8 in dog years to give you an idea of where i am in life."
she sniffed at the air again.
"the truth is i'm slowin' down bob."
"get outta here! what do ya say we get the old tennis ball out and play fetch?"
she turned her head towards me and tilted it like i was speaking in tongues.
"can we head back? my lower back is killing me, besides i smell bear and i'm in no mood to protect you right now."
i said, "wow! bear! gotta love nature."
she said, "yeah, what's the big deal? you humans break me up. "nature". "gotta love nature". everything is "nature" to you except yourselves. it's like you've forgotten that you are as much a part of this as we are. like you are something special. like god really created you in his image. what a crock. we laugh at you. every one knows god is a border collie. don't get me started."
she stopped, licked her butt a little, and then said, "look, i'm sorry. i'm just sore and need to get off my legs. so it's stairs for christmas okay? no friggin squeaky woodchuck."
i reached down and rubbed the inside of her ears.
she said, "awwww ... i love that. you guys are good for something."
and she smiled.
i said, "okay, stairs for christmas."
and we wandered back home before the bears could create a situation.
later that night, before we went to bed, i made some stairs at the foot of the bed using a small crate and big laundry basket.
i could tell that she was happy to join us again even though she didn't say so.
the feeling was mutual.
i slept real well too.