Our dog, Smiley Bates, is a bit of a charmer. In case ya never seen him, the reason he got his name is, any time ya look at him, his little beagle mouth always looks like he got a great big smile on his face. He looks like the cat who ate the canary, even though he’s a dog.
Anyways, because he’s always smilin’, he can get away with pretty much anything. I seen that dog chew up one of Minnie’s winter boots (which she got absolutely wild about), and not ten minutes later she was feedin’ him a piece of bacon – just because he went over and sat next to where she was standin’ at the stove and looked up and smiled at her. He’s a sneaky bugger, him.
Most dogs got such a short memory, every time you come home, they act right mental they’re so happy to see ya. Like you can run out to the store for ten minutes and when you come, the average dog is runnin’ in circles and jumpin’ around – so excited to see you it’s like they didn’t think ya were comin’ back.
With Smiley Bates, he somehow made it work the other way around. We’ll let him outside to go do his business, and he’s sort of a man about town, so he’ll go for a stroll down the road, or root around in the neighbour’s yard, or do whatever he can get himself into. He’ll usually stroll back a few hours later, or that night, or whatever, and when ya see him trottin’ up the driveway with that big smile on his face, ya don’t complain about how many times a day he goes in and out, ya run to the door to let him in.
Anyways, he comes and goes as he pleases, but he’s always, always back before the kids go to bed. Until the other night.
It was after 9, and gettin’ dark, and there was still no sign of him.
Usually he’s back for the tea, Minnie said, lookin’ out the window.
The whuh? I said.
Me and Minnie usually leave about a cup each in the teapot after supper and finish it off sometime in the night, watchin’ TV or somethin’. I usually take a mitt full of chocolate chip cookies or somethin’ and she usually has a couple of maple cookies, because they’re her favourite.
The tea, she said. He usually sits right on my slippers and I give him a chunk of my cookie.
By 10 o’clock Rosie was headin’ to bed and she went lookin’ for the dog to say good night and scratch his ears like she always does, but there was still no sign of him.
Now if you’re the father of a little girl, you can pretty much guess what happened next. It didn’t take five minutes of her worryin’ out loud about whether he was hit by a car and if he was all right and everything else, and there’s me, outside in my joggin’ pants and work boots lookin’ under back steps and whistlin’ and yellin’ for the little fella.
There was no sign of him, and Rosie was a little bit teary-eyed when she finally went up to bed. I gotta admit, I was worried I’d come across him in a ditch or somethin’, and it was a hard thing to imagine.
But sure enough, the next morning, me and Minnie are sittin’ there eatin’ our toast, listenin’ to the radio, and there’s Smiley Bates, scratchin’ at the back door. Minnie got up to let him in and he came bouncin’ through the back door with a spring in his step and his tail waggin’. It was like he he did it every day, like he was a travellin’ salesman just home from the road for a rest.
Of course, Little Bill was comin’ downstairs just as the dog came in, and since he’s a teenager now, ya know where his head went.
Out gettin’ some tail last night, were ya buddy? he says, and his mother smacked him on the arm and told him to watch his mouth.
The next night, same as usual, we let him outside after supper to do his business, and at bedtime there was still no sign of him. Sure enough, he shows up again the next morning like nothin’s goin’ on.
That night, Rosie said she was gonna try to follow him and see where he goes at night. Of course, Minnie shoots me that look that means – you’re not gonna let your 12-year-old daughter roam around in the night alone, are ya?
So there I am, second time in three nights, out in my joggin’ pants and work boots, workin’ the case like Magnum P.I.
We watched him out the window for a while – he was just sniffin’ around the backyard, did his business, chased a butterfly and tried to eat it, sniffed the trail of a cat back behind the barn. Then he squeezed his way between the two fence posts between our yard and Ol’ Fishcakes, who lives the next street over.
Long story short, me and Rosie go followin’ him over the hills and through the trees. If you ever seen one of them Family Circus cartoons that shows the dotted trail the kid took all the way through the neighbourhood, well that was us.
Eventually, he made his way to a backyard three streets over. He went right up to a pink dog house with “Princess” painted above the door. And when we got close enough, there was his girlfriend, a little white poodle mix of some kind, layin’ on her side with about six puppies all feedin’ away.
Holy cripes! I said. Little Bill was right!
About what? Rosie said.
Nevermind, I said.
Can you imagine the look on Ma’s face, Rosie said, when she finds out she’s a grandmother?