Jeremy Menning in Providence, Rhode Island

Dog and Pony Show

On a dreary Saturday with rain in the forecast and nowhere to go, Rhiana and I decided to practice dancing for our wedding. I queued up the music files in the computer, spun the volume control up, and guided my mouse to the "play" button."I think we should use this one," I told Rhiana. "Let's dance!"

I can't imagine what our dogs must have thought of us. It must be alarming for them to see their masters with bodies flailing about, going back and forth toward each other, and interlocking arms. It was obvious that both dogs were in a tizzy over the situation. They did not approve.

Letting us know what he thought, Buca scurried off the couch, approached cautiously, and let out a scrappy growl. Enraged, he spun around, tucked his tail down, and bolted to the other end of our basement living room. He found that there was little room to run, and he turned and raced back to us. The shiny black coat along his neck and back was standing on end. He retrieved toys out of the bluish plastic tote that is his toy box. He flung fuzz-less tennis balls and decaying "indestructible" toys about in an attempt to draw our attention.

Rhiana reached out her hand to let him know everything was okay.

It was too late. He had spun around and was headed for another lap around the basement.

At first Kayla thought we were playing. A dog's natural reaction to a playing situation is to get in "puppy play stance." (That's when the dog crouches down with their front legs, but their hind legs remain standing. It's how puppies tell other puppies that it is time to play.) Kayla tried the "stance" three or four times to let us know she wanted to be involved. When her attempts to play went unrequited, she became nervous as Buca had. She turned sideways and attempted to separate us by squeezing in between. She burrowed between us with her nose and threw all 65 pounds of her body into me. Realizing that we were unfazed, she started "plan B" for getting our attention -- jumping.

"Kayla!" I barked, commanding her audience. "No jumping!"

Her front paws stuck to the floor before she ran over to Buca, barking objectionably.

"Should we stop?" I asked Rhiana.

Laughing, she replied, "No, they'll get over it."

"I hope the reception isn't this chaotic!"

By this time the dogs had joined forces and were side by side, barking in unison.

"Are they barking to the music?" I joked.

Having enough of the situation, Buca scampered through another lap around the basement and then lurched into Kayla. Poor Kayla had been reprimanded for jumping and now was the target of a run-by-dogging. Confused and uncertain, she went back to barking at us and started growling at Buca.

"They're going to sleep well tonight, huh?" Rhiana pointed out to me.

"It would be hard for them not to. Maybe we should practice a few more songs?"

"This song goes on forever." Rhiana said after the fourth or fifth chorus. "How long is it?"

I danced over to the glowing flat screen that was displaying a list of media files. "It says here about two and a half minutes."

With her cheeks turning red, Rhiana said, "Two and a half minutes? It feels like we've been doing this forever. The dogs are losing their freaking minds!"

Clicking "pause," I concluded the dance. "Yes, let's stop."

The dogs were unsettled, though the music had stopped. Buca pranced back toward the couch to pick up a rubber ring. He continued moaning and whining. With her tail spinning in circles, Kayla stopped barking, raised her head up, and moved toward Rhiana.

"OHHHH, it's okay, Kayla," Rhiana said sitting down in one of our reading chairs. Kayla leaned in and continued wagging her tail as if she were cracking a whip.

"Buca, get over here!" I said corralling him into my lap while sitting in the creaky desk chair. He put his head down on my knee and let out a short grunt, as if to voice his final statement of disapproval.

I looked at Rhiana, who was consoling Kayla. Rhiana looked in my direction and smiled, "I guess they don't like the chicken dance."

I guess not.


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