It must be scary for a dog, being loaded into the back seat of a car and going with unfamiliar people to an unknown place. Will there be food, water, a place to sleep? Is this my new pack? Will they be kind?
Where is Dr. Dolittle when you need him?
We let Greta sniff her way through the first floor of the house, taking her time, no pressure. There were odors of cat, human, other human, a bit of leftover scrambled egg from breakfast. There may have been faint traces of Angie still clinging to the dining room rug that had been her favorite napping spot.
We had sequestered Patches temporarily in a back bedroom, but Greta soon figured out the cat’s location. She stuck her nose as far under the door as it would go and pawed at the wood. We put the leash on the dog, then slowly opened the door.
Greta charged, dragging me into the room behind her and barking at full volume. The cat sized up the situation in less than two seconds, and executed a daring leap from the double bed to the top bunk bed. Her aim was off by a fraction of an inch. For a moment, she hung from the edge of the bunk, scrambling to pull herself up, her tail a tantalizing few inches from the dog. Greta beat the air with her tail, barking wildly.
The cat pulled herself up onto the bunk. Greta stood and looked up at the cat with her “girls just want to have fun” expression, ears forward, tail waving. Patches glowered at all of us.
Ron and I laughed, for the first time in too long.
We closed the bedroom door to leave Patches undisturbed for a time, and resumed Greta’s house tour. At the top of the basement stairway, Greta stopped. I put one paw on the top step, but she pulled it back, uncertain.
I ran down to the foot of the stairs and called her. “Come on, Greta. You can do it.”
She stood staring at the strange wooden things. How did those things work, anyway?
Finally, I took her to the outside basement stairs, which were not as steep. I put her front paws on the first step. She leaned down, her legs trembling. Ron stood at the foot of the stairs, calling her. “Come on, Greta. It will be all right.”
I tugged on the leash. She hesitated. I tugged again, and she put one front paw tentatively on the next step. I did not lift her other paw because she was putting weight on it. But I stepped down to show her, and tugged just a little on the leash. She put the other paw down on the next step, and, once committed, all the paws followed each other to the bottom of the stairs. After she mastered going down, going up wasn’t even a challenge. She loped to the top of the stairs and stood looking back down at us, a kid who had just soloed without the training wheels.