Banana Shake

I should be working. But who can resist two dogs playing tug o’ war with a banana? Helen loves her banana and has named it Anna. She keeps Anna close to her bed and often carries it from room to room. Harley’s not much of a toy guy anymore but this morning he was picking up every toy he could find.

Today is a good day for him. His active, playful days have become the exception rather than the rule so I left my laptop at the table and sat on the ottoman to watch the romping.

It started with Roger Rooster (RoRoo) cock-a-doodle-doing between Harley’s jaws. As he munched, Helen looked on with the pained look of a little sister unsure of what horrors her older brother had in store for her doll. Tiring of RoRoo, Harley unceremoniously spit him out, flicking his tongue like it had left a bad taste in his mouth. Helen hesitated, waiting to see if Harley was going back for RoRoo, then stealthily extracted the toy from between Harley’s feet.

At this point, I could see this was going to be a good long play session so I put Harley’s knee brace back on (he has a full ACL rupture). He waited patiently for me to secure the three straps and at the sound of the last one, he made a beeline for Anna Banana. Oh, it’s on now.

Anna isn’t just any banana. She’s a golf headcover. Every year, Daphne’s Headcovers graciously donates headcovers for Gabriel’s Angels fundraisers. This year, there were a few bananas in the selection. Pam Gaber, Gabriel’s Angels founder and best friend of Daphne’s founder Jane Spicer, declared the bananas “creepy” and “unsettling” and offered two of them to me for Helen and Harley. (In all fairness, it’s a little spooky to have a banana smiling at you with big eyes and a wide grin. Remember the ventriloquist’s doll from the movie Magic? Shudder….)

With the banana in his mouth, Harley worked his jaws up and down while wagging his tail slowly and daring Helen to come and get Anna. The subtle communication between them was a thing of beauty. And the dance began. Harley sauntered over to Helen and offered her the stem end. She slowly opened her crooked little Boxer mouth and bit down slowly, being sure to confirm that he really wanted to play with her. He kept the banana close to her face.

When she had a mouthful, he gave a small tug to indicate the game. Helen loves to play tug with him. Her eyes lit up with recognition and she gave a mighty tug in return. Unmoved by her tug, he slowly extended his neck and back and began to drag her across the room. She set her heels and tugged back, but found no purchase. She was on the dog bed, taking a magic carpet ride across the hardwood floor. Helen didn’t seem to mind. In fact, I think she likes the rides because this is where she often chooses to hunker down during a tug o’ war match.

After a fifteen-foot drag, Harley adjusted his grip, giving Helen a split second to grab and go. She sprinted out to the Arizona room, and turned to urge him to chase. No problem, he was out there in a split second. This time the tug game involved death shakes. Helen thrashed her head from side to side with incredible speed, her ears and jowls flapping, guttural groans and growls emanating from her deep chest. Harley held fast and waited for his chance to shake.

When it came, he moved more slowly but with amazing power. He lifted Anna and Helen off the floor with a few long sweeps of his head from left to right. Holding on tight, Helen made a run for the door, cuing Harley that the game was moving back inside. He gave up his grasp but followed her back to the dog bed inside.

She waited for him and offered Anna for another round. Tired, he took a light grip on the toy but resisted her urging to continue the game. He’d had enough for the morning. It was nap time. He hopped up on the couch and turned circles until he found the right spot.

Satisfied with his playtime and feeling the food coma of breakfast coming on, he settled in for a morning snooze. I found my spot right beside him and enjoyed the sounds of his slumber. Heavy sighs, flews fluttering, and breath whistling through his incredible nose.

Within seconds, Helen joined us on the couch. She flopped down on her hip and extended her strong legs forward. She was happy for a rest, but she was a spring, coiled and ready for play. But soon, her eyes got heavy and her ears relaxed. Her sleepy puppy face emerged. It was nap time. If only I could stay with them. I do love a good morning nap.

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