“It sounded like a howl of some kind. I don’t know where it came from. I’ve never heard one like that before.”
“There it is again. Sounds like a dog to me.”
Jackson hopped out of bed and slipped on his boxers and with David behind him stepped into the hall, only to find Jerrod already there.
“You heard it, too?” Jerrod nodded.
“It’s the dog. He has to be lonely after all the attention he got tonight, don’t you think?”
“Let’s go see, but what do we do?”
Jerrod shrugged his shoulders, and as they walked to the garage, they heard the howl again, and now that they were outside of the house, they could tell it had a certain wail to it. There was no doubt it was emanating from the garage. When they turned the light in the garage on, there was the dog, standing right in front of the door of his crate with his tail wagging furiously.
“Well, he’s happy to see us.”
“Yeah, but now what do we do?”
They were quiet, then David said, “I think Jerrod’s right. He’s lonely after all the attention he got. He likes people. Jerrod, how about this. You get him out of the crate, and then we’ll move the crate into the kitchen. We’ll give him some more attention tonight. Meaning you and me, so our working hero here can go get some sleep, and then we’ll put him in the crate and see if it works in the kitchen.”
Jerrod nodded and said, “Sounds like a good plan.”
Fifteen minutes later they turned out the lights and went back to bed. When they all woke the next morning, they appreciated that there had been no more howling, and they’d all slept through the night. Jackson was the only one who had to get up early, but they all had woken together, and David handed Jerrod the leash and said, “He needs a morning circuit around the back yard.”
By 10:00 AM, David and Jerrod had eaten and had loaded the dog into the Durango and headed up to the north end of Oak Bottoms Park to resume their neighborhood canvas for the dog’s owner. By noon they were getting hot and tired, and so was the dog. They’d had no luck. David’s assessment was simple: the dog must have been on the run from outside the Sellwood neighborhood, and their only option would be to put a Lost and Found ad in the paper.
“Do you think that makes any sense with what Angela told us yesterday?”
“No, I actually don’t,” David replied, “for the reasons she gave and the likelihood that he escaped from someone who wasn’t his real or original owner. I think we just have to say we’ve done all we reasonably can and call it good.”
“Now what?” Jerrod’s voice sounded a little strained as he said it.
“I know you’re attached to the dog already, and I like him a lot, too. That said, tomorrow I’m at work most of the day, and you know Jackson is 8:00 to 5:00 every day. On top of that, you go off to your second racing camp in less than three weeks, then back to PA. I don’t see how this is going to work out.”
They were home by then, parked the Durango in the driveway and came in through the back door. They both cleaned up and David said he’d make sandwiches for lunch. The dog went straight into his crate, turning to lay at the door with his paws over the sill, his head resting on them, as he watched their every move.
They sat down at the kitchen table and both looked at the dog and then each other. “He’s sure a good dog, isn’t he,” David said out loud, more as a statement than a question.
“Yeah, he seems happy. Like he’s found a home. I never had a dog as a kid ‘cause my parents wouldn’t let me. They just said it wouldn’t work. But I spent time each summer at my uncle’s place, my Dad’s brother, and he always had a couple of dogs, so I know a little bit. Like I knew to kneel down on the street yesterday because my uncle told me that the best vets do that when they first meet a dog, so they kind of meet them on their level to establish a good relationship. I also know enough to know when a dog’s happy. He’s happy.”
“You’re right, he is. Wouldn’t it be great if all of us humans could be happy like that? And, could be made that happy by such straight forward things as love, some food and a place to sleep?”
Jerrod just smiled wanly.
“You’re worried, aren’t you?”
The boy blinked, surprised that he was feeling the emotion he was, and hoping David didn’t sense it. “Yeah, because he’s a good dog. Eric and Kim said he’s a good dog and he’s happy here and they told me I have to fight for him. Fight to keep him, because if we take him to the shelter or the pound and he doesn’t get placed then he’ll get euthanized. That would be horrible.”
“It would, and it’s not going to happen. Can you trust me on that?”
Jerrod nodded, his eyes reddening.
“After lunch I’ll call the vet here in Sellwood and see if we can get a check-up this afternoon, Okay? I know if we take him to the shelter, we wouldn’t have to do that, but it just seems like the right thing to do.”
Jerrod heard that comment in a profound way, and was starting to try and figure out what it meant when the phone rang and David walked over to answer. The conversation made it obvious that it was Jackson, and David filled him in on no luck finding the owner and that they were now discussing next steps.
David was quiet for a couple of minutes, then he said, “Well, you calling mid-day to check on our progress kind of says you’re feeling the same way. Jerrod just shared with me that Eric and Kim told him the dog was happy here, and that he needed to fight to keep him. What do you think about that?”
Jerrod watched David listen to Jackson’s reply, his head nodding and his smile growing. Finally, he said, “Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. I’ll call the vet and see if we can get a check-up this afternoon.”
He nodded a couple times more as he listened, then smiled widely and said, “Me, too. You’re the best, Lover Boy.”
He hung up the phone and smiled at Jerrod as he picked up the phone book and looked up the vet’s number. It took a couple of minutes, but they were lucky and got an appointment for 3:30 PM. When David sat back down at the table, he smiled at Jerrod and said, “You’ve probably figured out that Jackson’s kind of feeling the same way, and somehow we’ll figure out how to make it work. Feeling better?”
“Yeah, and thanks. You and Jackson are the best.”
David smiled wryly, “Don’t get too carried away. We still don’t have a final decision. Let’s see what the vet says.”
Jerrod said softly, “Can I ask you a question?”
David caught his eye and replied, “Why does this feel like an interrogation question, like the few I’ve dropped on you?”
“It’s not interrogation, just something I’d like to know.”
David nodded, and Jerrod said softly, blushing slightly, “Why did you call Jackson ‘Lover Boy?’”
David grinned. “Oh that. That’s easy. I thought this was going to be a really tough question. The answer is because that’s what he is: the boy I love. He’s the boy I fell in love with the day I met him when he was seventeen, and I’ve just grown to love him more and more. It’s a term of endearment, but the reality is I was pretty clueless about love and sexuality till I met him, and then it was like a light switch got turned on. Does that answer your question?”
Jerrod smiled and paused like he was absorbing some new-found knowledge. “It does. It’s really neat. In fact, it’s beautiful. I bet he’s got a name for you, too, right?” He was looking just a little bit devious as he asked.
David paused, wondering if he should tell him, given the private nature of the names, but he also realized that Jerrod was sincere in asking and that something was going on within the young man. “Yeah, he calls me his ‘Sexy Man’.”
“Yeah, it’s true. Hard to believe about a forty-five year old man, isn’t it? Remember though, he was seventeen and I was twenty-five when he started calling me that, and he was very impressionable back then.”
Jerrod was quiet, deep in thought, and then said, “I think you’re both sexy. I think you’re both lover boys. You guys love each other so much it’s like off the charts. I mean, I’m just a kid and I can see that.”
David realized the significance of what Jerrod had just said and the realization that had occurred in his mind to make it possible, and just said, “Thanks for sharing that. It means a lot to me. Even in today’s society most people aren’t comfortable enough to make positive comments about gay relationships. He’s the love of my life. I don’t know what I’d do without him.”
David fell silent, pondering the implications of what he’d just said. Jerrod was careful not to interrupt him, and after a minute or so David looked at him and said, “We should clean up from lunch.”
Jerrod’s eye’s sparkled and he smiled and said, “Okay, but guess what?”
David looked blank and said, “What?”
Jerrod kept smiling and said softly, “Look under the table, but go slow and be quiet.”
David carefully leaned to the side and looked under the table, where he saw that the dog has stealthily left his crate and come over under the table and was laying on the floor with his chin over one of Jerrod’s feet.
As David sat back up, he said, “That’s cool. He likes people and he seems to like you a lot.”
The check up at the vet was uneventful, and the vet got off to a good start by dropping on his knee when he came into the exam room, and the dog took to him immediately. He checked out, and the vet told them he was a healthy dog with a good coat, teeth in good shape and that he’d give the standard rabies and parvo shots to be safe, but he’d probably gotten regular care until recently. When David told him that they were struggling to make a decision about keeping the dog or taking him to the shelter, the vet told them much the same that Angela had. Namely that he had a good disposition, was partially trained and liked people. He reminded them that many dogs didn’t have that mix of attributes and that lots of dogs that go to the shelter end up euthanized.
David asked, “What would you do?”
“If you want a dog and can afford a dog and have the place that can accommodate one, then you’ve got a really good dog here. I’d keep him. You could go out and pay a few hundred dollars each for a dozen Golden Retrievers and the odds are most of them wouldn’t be as good as this one.”
In the Durango on the way home David said, “We’ll have a family meeting about this tonight when Jackson gets home. We haven’t had to have too many over the years, but this requires a serious discussion.”
The discussion after dinner covered all the issues, Jackson working full time year-round, David likewise nine months out of the year, Jerrod only in Portland for a few more weeks, all the positive attributes of the dog they’d found, but the big question was about whether they could make it work so it was good and healthy for the dog. David and Jackson had been looking at each other, and then turned to Jerrod asking what he was thinking.
“I told you that Eric and Kim told me I had to fight to keep him. They both said they’d help and take care of him sometimes. They said he’s a happy dog, and he is. He’s happy here with us.”
“That’s true, and we can clearly see it, but you’re going to racing camp soon and then leaving.”
“What does that mean?”
“If my parents will let me, I’ll stay till the end of the summer and take care of him, so you guys don’t have to worry. I’ll talk to Angela and see if she’ll teach me stuff and help me train him. I’ll take care of him during the day when you guys are at work.”
Jackson reached out and put his hand on Jerrod’s hand and said, “You love him, don’t you?”
Jerrod nodded, swallowed hard and then almost choked on the sob that followed. “I do. He’s just so cool. He’s happy. He deserves it. I’ll take care of him, so you guys don’t have to worry. Is that okay?”
“Well, it’s a magnanimous offer,” David said, smiling at Jerrod, “and it gets us to the end of August. What happens then? After Labor Day you’re back in school in Philly, I’m back to full time, and then what?”
“By then he’ll be better trained, and he’ll know this is his home. He’s got his crate, the back yard is fenced, we can move the crate outside during the day, so he’s got his safe space out there. And you know how he lies at the top of the steps like he’s looking over the place. What did Will call it?”
“You mean surveying his kingdom?”
“Yeah, he already knows this is home. After I leave, if you walk him in the morning before you go to work and in the evening when you get home, I bet he’ll spend most of the days laying there surveying his kingdom. And, he’ll keep the house safe. Come on you guys, I know you want to do it. It’s the right thing to do. Eric and Kim are right, he’s happy and this is his home now. Please!”
David and Jackson had been watching and reading each other as Jerrod made his appeal. They could both see in each other’s eyes where this was going, watching all the objections crumble and their own years-long desire to have a dog coming into being. Finally, they gave each other that ‘Okay, we’re in!’ smile, the kind only people who know each other well can share and understand, and turned to Jerrod.
“Okay, we’ll do it. I’ll call your parents in the morning about you staying till the end of summer. But the deal is that you have to do your part. Are you clear on what you’re signing up for? You talked about skateboarding with Eric and Kim, and playing tennis and stuff. That’s not going to be so easy with a dog.”
“I know. But I meant every word, and I’ll make it work. I’ll do it. I’ll mow the lawn, too. Eric and Kim said they’d help, remember. I promise you it’ll work.”
David gave Jackson a final ‘are we good with this’ look, and Jackson grinned and nodded his head. “Okay, it’s a deal. We now have a dog. By the way, what’s the dog’s name. We can’t just keep calling him Dog.”
Jerrod broke into a huge grin and said, “Thanks, you guys. Trust me, it’ll be great. I have an idea on the name. But I don’t want to be too pushy because it’s your house and when I’m gone, he’ll be your dog.”
“That’s okay,” Jackson said, “Go on. Tell us.”
“Well, it’s the ‘surveying his kingdom’ stuff. We read Julius Caesar in English Lit last year, and I studied him in history, and ‘Caesar’ became almost synonymous with emperor. Calling him Caesar would sound kind of silly ‘cause we all know Julius Caesar, and calling him emperor would sound kind of weird, but what if we called him Kaiser? That’s the German word for Caesar and it’s a kind of cool name.”
David and Jackson glanced at each other and grinned back at Jerrod. “That is cool, and he fills the bill the way he lays out there surveying his kingdom. On the other hand, right now with his chin on your foot under the table he’s more like some kind of teddy bear.”
Jerrod just smiled back in glee, knowing he’d prevailed, and that Eric and Kim wouldn’t think less of him.
After they cleaned up the kitchen, David poured another glass of wine for himself and Jackson, handed Jerrod a soda and suggested they go into the living room and listen to some U2. “Bring Kaiser along. He needs to learn his name and the lay of the house.”
They heard Jerrod start familiarizing the dog with his new name, and when Jerrod came in a couple of minutes later, U2 was playing and David and Jackson were scrunched down at one end of the couch, their wine on the coffee table.
“I told him what his new name is. I’m guessing we need to kind of reinforce that somehow for the next few days.”
“That probably means using his name and giving him a treat when he responds, don’t you think?”
Jerrod nodded as he sat down at the other end of the couch.
“You know what all this means, don’t you?”
Jerrod looked up curiously.
“Tomorrow we have to go to the store to buy dog food and some dog treats, and a dog crate and bed, and we’ll call Angela and see if she’s up for helping you learn how to train Kaiser.”
Kaiser has been standing on the other side of the coffee table trying to figure out what to do and how to handle the new obstacle created by the furniture, and especially the coffee table. He knew where he wanted to be, and finally figured out he couldn’t go under the table, but realized he could step over Jerrod’s feet and get where he wanted: on the other side of the coffee table, on the carpet between Jerrod and Jackson’s feet.
They all saw Kaiser looking back and forth from one end of the coffee table to the other, and paused to see what would happen. Finally, he walked around the end where Jerrod was sitting, stepped over Jerrod’s feet and was between two sets of feet. He delicately turned around twice and laid down without pushing the coffee table away from the couch. As he did so he rested his chin on Jackson’s foot.
Jerrod was silently, but studiously, watching Kaiser to see what he’d do. When he rested his chin on Jackson’s foot, Jerrod looked up and grinned. Jackson smiled back.
Jerrod couldn’t resist, and said, “See, I told you he was happy here!”
Jackson simply said, “And, you know I’m done, don’t you? He’s totally got me now!”
The next morning David called Angela before he left for campus, and she happily agreed to spend some time with Jerrod and Kaiser a few days a week, giving Jerrod the basics of dog training. That evening he called the Burgoyne’s in Philly when he could be pretty certain they would both be home for the evening. He outlined how things had gone so far with the racing camp and the first few days of Jerrod staying with them, said a little about how he had appeared to be somewhat disconcerted when he arrived, but how the racing camp had helped settle him down and how well he now fit into the household, had met some new friends, but most importantly what had happened with the dog.
Jerrod’s parents were astounded that a dog was even part of the developments. David patiently explained how they found him, how he and Jackson had long wanted a dog but worried they wouldn’t be responsible owners both working full time, but they’d now found this terrific dog and couldn’t find the owner, and that their son had offered to spend the rest of the summer in Portland to train the dog and assure that it would work with them both working full time.
Julius sounded like he didn’t comprehend how something like this could even happen, while Cassie went on about how he didn’t know anything about dog training but that it was so sweet and touching. David explained the relationship with Angela and that she had agreed to teach Jerrod and help train the dog, and that what they both really needed to understand was that an entirely new opportunity had come Jerrod’s way and that he had risen to the occasion and offered to put himself on the line for the benefit of the dog, and also to help David and Jackson. He was taking the initiative and offering to do this. It was then that the Burgoyne’s seemed to understand that their son was being responsible in a new way and trying to reciprocate for the hospitality that had been extended to him. They finally agreed to change his return flights to a few days before the Labor Day weekend, so he’d be back in time to prepare for the new school year.
The next day began what turned out to be a Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning routine of Jerrod walking Kaiser over to Angela’s home for a joint training session. A lot of it was repetition, but that’s the key to successful training. Both of them were getting drilled about what it takes to be a good handler and a trained dog.
That night over dinner, after describing how they started on the basic training commands, Jerrod shared the most important thing he’d learned so far, the difference between punishment and correction. Both David and Jackson looked at him expectantly. “We need to know this, too, you know.”
Jerrod smiled. “Well, a correction is just that. Something you do so the dog understands that what just he did is not acceptable. Angela helped me understand that dogs don’t know right and wrong, but they can learn acceptable and unacceptable, and a correction just lets them know that what they’ve just done is unacceptable. Then you teach them the alternative, the acceptable behavior.”
“Okay,” Jackson said, “Go on, ‘cause I know there’s more.”
“Yeah, and it gets kind of psychological, I guess. She said that the whole thing with punishment isn’t really about the dog, it’s about the owner. Usually that they can’t accept their own inability to teach or correct or whatever, so they inflict pain on the animal to make themselves feel better.”
He was silent looking at both of them. David and Jackson said nothing, and then David finally said, “And?”
“And, that’s pretty pathetic, isn’t it? That instead of teaching the dog what’s really happening it’s that the dog’s being hurt so the owner can feel better about himself.”
There was another pause, then Jackson said, “That’s the way it was with my stepfather. He wasn’t just a control freak he was into inflicting pain to make himself feel better.”
“Are most owners, and like even most parents that way?”
“Not most,” David said, “at least in my experience. But a lot of them are, and often they don’t understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. Back to Angela’s point about dog training. They may not understand, and won’t accept, that they don’t have the ability or the patience or the empathy to do it. I think a lot of parents are like that, too. So, they end up inflicting punishment on their kids instead of corrections. A lot of parents, like mine, didn’t do either, and what they inflict instead is a kind of neglect, which is really a form of punishment, too.”
Jerrod swallowed hard, like he’d just had to take down a major lesson in life, and then said, “What I learned for sure is that I’m not doing punishment. What’s the point? If some correction works then why hurt him? Angela says for the obstinate ones she sometimes has to use a training collar that gives them a little shock, but even that’s a correction because it doesn’t hurt that bad. And you know what the most radical thing about it is?”
David and Jackson both shook their heads, encouraging him to go on. “She said the good thing about a training collar, and the trainer has a transmitter like a little walkie-talkie, is that the dog gets the correction and doesn’t know where it came from. In other words, after doing the wrong thing they get pinged so they know it’s not acceptable, but the ping isn’t associated with the owner. That’s different than punishment.”
“What do you mean,” Jackson asked?
“Well punishment would be the owner yelling at the dog or hitting the dog, like the dad hitting the kid, right? It’s one person hurting another person, and they both know it. They both know who’s doing it to whom. The cool thing with a training collar is that the dog just gets the message about this thing I just did isn’t acceptable, or I can go this far but no farther. That’s different than punishment where a person can get off on hurting another person or an animal.”
They were quiet, thinking about what Jerrod had just shared, and then David said, “That’s actually quite profound. You’re becoming quite the philosopher.”
“What? I’m just learning some basic stuff about training a dog. She thinks that Kaiser’s so willing to learn that a training collar won’t be needed.”
“Good, but it turns out a lot of what you learned transfers to human behavior, too, doesn’t it?”
Jerrod nodded and looked away.
Kaiser was still fed in his crate and tended to go there, to his safe place, in the down times. The main exception being when there was something specific that he was doing with Jerrod or David or Jackson, or when he could lay under the table next to or on the feet of one of his guys. They’d called Eric and Kim to let them know about the decision, and the pair were totally jazzed and said they’d call in a couple of days to see about getting together with Jerrod.
By the end of the week Kaiser and Jerrod had learned the basic training commands like Sit/Stay, Heel, Down, and it turned out he was a quick learner. He was comfortable enough with the new scene that there was little problem with Jerrod showing David and Jackson in the evening out in the back yard what he and Kaiser and Angela had worked on that morning. He’d drill them on heeling and doing sit/stays just like she did with him, and they all had a good time working at it. Kaiser seemed to have an insatiable appetite for learning and performing and working with his guys. It was working so well that when Eric called and asked when Jerrod could get together with him and Kim, they agreed to go skateboarding on Saturday since he could leave Kaiser with David and Jackson for a few hours.
Jerrod mowed the lawns early, and Sam picked him up in her van. Eric brought a couple of extra skateboards so Jerrod could choose since he didn’t have his own, and they were dropped off at the Burnside Skatepark. Sam stayed and watched them get started, then left to do some shopping. They all knew she’d be back within two hours and they’d stop for lunch on the way home. That meant hitting Burgerville on the way back to Sellwood, and besides a killer burger, Jerrod got his first taste of Walla Walla onion rings and a blackberry milk shake.
They’d arranged that the next day they’d meet at the municipal tennis court. Eric and Kim wanted Jerrod to meet their friend Roger and had set up a doubles match. They were signed up for 10:00 AM, and Jerrod asked if he could meet them at the courts and bring Kaiser. He got an enthusiastic response and they agreed after tennis they’d all take the dog for a walk in one of the city parks and then have some lunch. “Don’t forget to bring some money for lunch, man,” Eric snickered at him, “I guess we’ll have to feed Kaiser some human food!”
Jackson had given Jerrod directions and he found Eric, Kim and their friend Roger at the courts when he got there, just a minute late. Eric and Kim hadn’t seen the dog for almost a week and demanded the complete update, and told Jerrod he was ‘the man’ for making sure they’d kept the dog and that he got such a cool name. Jerrod blushed, saying he didn’t do that much, but Eric and Kim weren’t buying it. Roger was medium height with longish blonde hair and blue eyes. That made him a contrast to Kim, who though he had blonde hair and blue eyes, wore his hair short in a kind of flat top and had a sturdier build. Jerrod found himself staring at Roger’s blue eyes, then had to look away. They all talked for a few minutes about how Jerrod was now staying for the whole summer and they’d be able to do tons of fun stuff, then the court opened up and they went to play.
They were lucky that the layout of the courts included trees on the east side of the facility and that provided a shady area where they could tie Kaiser up. He seemed happy just to be with them and watching them play. Jerrod was pleased to learn that he was the better tennis player and realized that being on his high school team had helped his game more than he’d previously understood. He also made sure he didn’t show off and didn’t try and dominate the game. Doubles, by definition, is more of a team sport, but a showoff can still spoil it for everyone.
They played for an hour, stopping between sets to pet and talk to Kaiser, and then called it quits to turn the court over to the next people. They loaded the rackets and balls in Eric’s bag and headed out to walk Kaiser in the park. On the walk to the park Roger commented on the quality of Jerrod’s tennis, and Jerrod let them know he was on his high school team and only just realized how much that had helped his game improve. “Maybe you can help us improve,” Roger asked innocently, smiling at Jerrod. Jerrod found himself almost blushing but said he’d be up for that. Eric and Kim were watching, all smiles.
They walked in the park for a while and then Eric wanted to see what they’d learned in training, so Jerrod showed them the basics they’d now mastered. They all tried the short leash walk and were amazed that he was so good at Sit/Stay, and finally Jerrod said, “Want to see something we tried for the first time yesterday? I don’t know if it’ll work, but we can try.”
They were enthusiastic, so Jerrod said, “You guys stay here, and I’ll walk him down there a ways. Then I’ll tell him Sit/Stay and walk back to you guys. Yesterday he stayed on the second try.” He walked Kaiser about thirty feet away, turned them both facing back at the other boys, then gave him the command. Jerrod then unsnapped the leash and the others could see him say “Stay,” and back away one step from Kaiser. Kaiser remained in place, and Jerrod raised his hand to chest level, holding his palm outward toward the dog and said “Stay” again. He then backed up another ten steps, maintaining eye contact with the dog and repeated the command and the upraised palm. Then he backed up the rest of the way to the other boys, and when he got to them, he held his upraised palm up one more time.
“Wow, that’s cool,” Eric said, “how long will he hold?”
“I don’t know, but I don’t want to wait too long and have him get nervous. I’ll call him and give him praise and stuff, and then let’s all give him a dose of love, okay?”
Everyone agreed, and Jerrod loudly called, “Kaiser, Come!” The dog took off like a shot, racing to them full tilt. When he got to Jerrod he was panting, but Jerrod made him sit, then knelt down and praised him and gave him a pat on the head. Seconds later the three other boys were down next to the dog, too, petting and stroking him, and Kaiser was ecstatic with the attention. He ended up on his back with his belly being rubbed, and his butt was rocking back and forth and his tail whipping like crazy.
When things settled down, they walked a couple of blocks to Wonder Burger, a place that was supposed to have outrageous milk shakes. They ordered through the window and sat at a table outside. Jerrod slipped Kaiser part of his burger patty, and Roger grinned. “Is that allowed?”
“Well, he’s new enough we haven’t really established the diet do’s and don’ts, but the dog trainer who’s helping me keeps saying be careful with the number of treats and especially the people food.”
Roger was still looking at him and said, “I’m impressed how serious you are about this.”
Jerrod blushed and said, “Well, we found a good dog, and these guys told me we had to keep him and I had to fight to keep him, and I did. It wasn’t hard with David and Jackson, though, they wanted him, too. But I made the deal that I’d stay till the end of the summer and train him and take care of him, so that’s my program. I liked the skateboarding yesterday, and playing tennis with you guys today, but I’ve also got to mow the lawn and help around the house, so we’ve got to work around that stuff and Kaiser. Is that okay with you guys?”
Eric and Kim were grinning, and Kim quickly replied, “Are you kidding? That’ll be easy, and it’s almost like we’re part owners of something. I was serious when I said I’d help with him if you need me to. I talked to my Dad and he said it was okay. You did, too, right Eric?”
He nodded and said, “Yeah, Mom and Dad were fine with it. They said they’d even go for a sleepover where we could camp in the backyard with Kaiser. What do you think about that?”
“That’d be very cool.”
Eric looked at Roger, “You want to come, too? If we can set it up? Dad’s got a four-man tent we could set up, and there’d be room for us and Kaiser.”
Roger nodded as he smiled, and his eyes twinkled in the sunlight. Jerrod was watching them, appreciating their beauty and how they seemed to sparkle. He took a deep breath when they turned from Eric to meet his, and the smile was still on his lips and now seemed to be directed at him. He smiled back, feeling a little disconcerted.
Jerrod continued the Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning training session with Angela, and by the end of the second week he and the dog were quite confident in all the basics. Angela was impressed with how fast Kaiser learned and how much he seemed to want to please. She said they’d have to take a break for a few weeks because she had a few dog shows coming up and it would be good for Kaiser to just have some regular fun time that was more informal. She reminded Jerrod that being a Retriever, fetching was a natural, but he should start with some structure, so he learned that when he was asked to fetch something, he started from a sit/stay, went and retrieved and brought back the object and dropped it with the command Give, rather than running around playing keep away.
A break from the training opened up time for Jerrod to do more with Eric and Kim. They went skateboarding on the next Saturday again, and Roger came along even though he said he was a pretty poor boarder. He was, but they were all able to laugh about it since Jerrod was only passable since he skied, not because he spent lots of time boarding. Eric was really good, and Kim had become quite proficient as well. They could handle most of the banked turns, jumps and rails that Jerrod and Roger were still struggling with.
When it came to tennis the next day, though, the tables were turned. Roger had played more tennis and had taken lessons, and that made him more proficient than Eric and Kim. They all agreed it would be unfair for Jerrod and Roger to always play against Eric and Kim, and pretty much agreed that the goal was to have fun and help everyone improve their game, so Roger and Jerrod would be on opposing sides and alternate with Eric and Kim. It seemed to work fine.
On the walk in the park after the game, Jerrod asked the boys if they wanted to see the latest thing Kaiser had learned. They were enthusiastic, of course. He walked Kaiser out farther than last weekend, between seventy-five and a hundred feet and made him sit stay. This time he stepped back one pace, looked at Kaiser and said “Stay,” with the upraised palm. Then he turned and walked back to his friends, not once looking back at Kaiser.
They were agog when Jerrod joined them, and he said, “You guys go hide behind one of these trees.” They did, and Jerrod slipped a dog whistle out of his pocket. As he stepped behind a tree, he took a quick glance, and could see Kaiser still in his Stay position, but watching what the boys had been doing. Jerrod stepped behind the tree to be out of sight, counted to ten and then gave the whistle two long, hard blows.
Thirty seconds later Kaiser came bounding around the tree and jumped up on him. The other boys came out from behind their trees and clustered around, all praising Kaiser. Jerrod had brought training treats this time and gave Kaiser one. When things quieted down, Roger said, “I was watching what Kaiser was doing, and he didn’t flinch. He just sat there, watching you. And when you went behind the tree, it was like he was locked in like a laser. It was amazing.”
Jerrod grinned. “Cool, huh? Angela really worked with us this week on getting him solid in his stay. They can get nervous when their owner gets too far away or out of sight. I’m hoping we can get to the point where we can play hide and seek. You know, like completely out of sight, hide behind bushes, climb a tree, whatever, and see if he can find us. That’s be fun, huh?”
The boys just grinned. After they sat down, waiting for their order at Wonder Burger, Eric said, “My parents are cool with a sleepover next Saturday night. Are you guys still on?”
They agreed that they’d need to check with their parents, and Jerrod said David and Jackson had already told him they thought it was a fun idea and had even talked to Will and Sam about it. “It’s good timing, too, ‘cause the Monday after I’m back up to Timberline for the second week of racing camp.”
Wednesday night, Eric called and said they were going skateboarding at a new skatepark he’d heard about over in Beaverton. “Yeah, I know, it’s long way), but my Mom wants to go shopping at Washington Square Mall, and this skate park is only a few blocks away, so she’ll drop us off. Want to go?”
“Well, yeah. Thanks for asking me.”
“No worries. Kim can’t come tomorrow ‘cause he’s got work--he does a couple of days a week at the local Y. Roger is booked, too. Are you cool with that, just you and me?”
Jerrod found himself saying, “Eric, you’re kidding, right? You’ve become a great friend even though we’ve only known each other a few weeks. I think it’s very cool that you’re asking me. “
“So, here’s the catch. The weather’s hot now, so it probably won’t work for Kaiser. Lucky for us it’s on Thursday. Doesn’t David have most Tuesdays and Thursdays off, or at least he doesn’t have to be on campus? Can he take care of Kaiser?”
Jerrod said he’d check and be right back, and he came back on the line elated that David said it would be no problem. “He said go for it, and he’ll walk Kaiser down to Oak Bottoms Park and do some one on one with him. He and Jackson are really getting into that dog.”
They chatted merrily with Sam and Susan on the drive over, and when she dropped them off Susan told the boys she’d be back in no more than two hours. They paid their fee and skated for an hour before stopping for a soda in the shade.
As they were sipping them, Jerrod caught Eric’s eye and said, “Can I ask you something about Roger?”
Eric grinned. “Yeah, you mean like is he gay?”
Jerrod stiffened, feeling a blush start, and Eric said, “Chill man, okay? Like you have to ask that question when he hangs out with me and Kim? Yes, he’s gay. Do you like him?”
“Well, yeah, I mean…I’ve never had a…I don’t know...”
“Dude, are you saying you’ve never had a boyfriend?”
Jerrod looked glum and said, “Yeah, and I’m not sure, and you know.”
“Well, Roger likes you. In fact, he thinks you’re the best thing since sliced bread!”
It took Jerrod a few seconds to process the implication of that statement. “Seriously?”
“Yeah, seriously, dude. Kim and me have been trying to get you two together for weeks now. You’re both so timid.”
“Well, you know, first time and all.”
“Jerrod, you’re cute and you’re fun to be with. I also think you’re gay, or at least bi. Roger’s cute and fun to be with, don’t you think? He’s gay, and he likes you a lot. You get to take it from here. Let’s get back on the boards, ‘cause Mom will be here within half an hour.”
He hugged Jerrod as they walked to the garbage cans to drop the drink cups and said, “Just be yourself, man. I got lucky when I met Kim, and we got to kiss the first night?”
“Oh yeah! And my Mom walked in on us too! I’ll tell you about that sometime, unless you want to ask her yourself.”
“Are you kidding? Like I’d do that. Let’s roll.”