If I walk towards the door, my two dogs are on high alert and ready.
If I put on my insulated coveralls, they start to dance with excitement.
If I dare to pick up my keys, they race back and forth between the door to outside and the garage. A ride is imminent—and they believe they must always go with me.
But the very best thing in their world is if I happen to say, “Want to go see friends?” Those are magic words. At that point, my yellow Lab Sofie will start to yip in a high pitched (rather ear-splitting) tone. Aspen the Berner immediately joins in, squeaking her agreement. It’s a three-minute drive from my house to my friend’s, and they will keep up the chorus the entire way, today and every other day.
By the time I park the car this morning, the two of them are quivering, shifting their weight from one foot to another as they prepare for their moment. I open the driver’s side door, and Aspen immediately squirms her way out the front door behind me. This just makes Sofie switch from yipping to actual barking, even though it probably takes me a whole three seconds to open her door.
There is no mistaking their sheer delight as they bound forward. They tear around to the back of the house, barking madly as they go. There, they stand impatiently in front of the sliding door, noses pressed against the glass. Within seconds three Irish Setters fly out, sliding on the ice-snow mix that covers our yards in such a treacherous fashion right now. Just then another Berner, this one a male, trots happily around the corner of the house.
The six of them try to decide what to do first. Should they jump up and start to wrestle? Greet the people? Run in a group? Split into pairs?
Sofie starts by making the rounds. She first heads towards the cow pasture in the front, then traipses across the now defunct garden and orchard in the side yard. Three of the others wander through the meadow that leads to the ice-covered pond. One stands near the people and soaks in extra love.
Before they are even settled in at all, a smaller yellow Lab confidently announces that he’s arrived. And within minutes, a Golden Retriever comes flying around the corner of the house, making the play group complete.
Five friends. Eight dogs.
Two hours of non-stop fun for all.
For one friend and I, this is pretty much the only contact we have with anyone outside of our own family group. It’s a lifeline of human contact, and I’m immensely grateful for it.
But there is one more positive of our doggie playdates, one that I have kind of taken for granted up until now and one that is perhaps more important. All of our canine companions are learning invaluable lessons of how to play nice and get along with others.