Petra crouches, bunched muscles showing through her breeze-rippled fur. Milo bounces impatiently, unable to contain his excitement for even a moment, though he does land in a sitting position each time he hits the ground. Rowan leans forward, front feet dancing in place, glances at me, then fixes his gaze forward, through the gate. Each is awaiting the magic moment when he or she is released to rocket forward.
Petra first, with Milo baying behind her, shoots out the gate and up the hill. Rowan tears after them, short staccato barks bursting from his throat.
But then... silence....
Petra stops, looks back at the house, then jogs back to lie outside the gate, Jolly Ball in her mouth, staring at the door. Milo trots back and forth looking at the door, then wanders off to clean up deer leavings from the grass. Rowan stops mid-flight with one front paw up, staring at the door for a long minute, then sits by the gate and stares at the door. Neither Petra nor Rowan moves or even glances away.
Then, I open the door. Their heads ratchet up and their stares increase in intensity.
I step out, and suddenly they burst into motion, Petra streaking up the hill, Milo instantly abandoning deer droppings to fall in behind her, blazing her trail with happy baying, Rowan again taking up the rear, punctuating the air with his sharp barks.
This time I walk in the yard, and the dogs swoop up and down, around shrubs and trees, circling the house, always keeping me in sight, playing tirelessly for much of my walk.
I don’t understand why, but somehow I am an essential ingredient for their play, their joy, though only a spectator. As I walk I ponder, and I wonder if there are other areas of life in which I might be essential for someone’s joy, even if not directly involved.