Dogs. I’ve always loved them. Although the jury may be out right now on getting another once the two we have left are gone, with our track record it’s likely there will continue to be canines in our lives.
Back in 1984 I bought my first house. It was scary and exciting to own my own place, so I decided I should add a housemate. Enter Mac, a somewhat off-kilter cairn terrier who more than lived up to the legendary terrier temperament.
Mac was a pet store puppy mill purchase (yes, today I KNOW better, but back then? Not so much). He required a variety of household adjustments. A fence to keep him safe. A secure place to store shoes. A harness instead of a collar. A deck (OK, that one was for me). A new, heavy and fast-closing front screened door. And a permanent doggie door (oh, well, that was probably for me, too).
He was a bull-headed, irascible, lovable, funny little guy. The groomer would send him home with a dapper neckerchief, except for the time she’d decked him out in a tough-guy faux leather biker jacket and cap. “More true to type,” she said.
Mac was nothing if not loyal and protective of his turf, which consisted of the house and yard and pretty much his full view of the street. But that was only when he was inside the house. If he managed to zoom out the door before the leash got attached, he could care less if an army of Orcs threatened; he was free and all thoughts of protection fled with him. Freedom was fleeting, of course, because regular walks had become his downfall. Since we regularly traipsed around the block, Mac only knew one route to freedom … around the block. All I needed to do was slip out the back door, cut over to the next street and walk to meet him as he rounded the corner. You gotta love habits.
One of his more endearing rituals – and I use that term loosely – was his mail addiction. I think Mailman Max even agreed.
It went a little like this.
10 a.m. on the dot. Mac the Dog jumps on the sofa and clambers up to the back where he has a full view out the picture window. He lies at attention, eyes riveted on the street to the right of the house.
10:15 a.m., not always on the dot. Mailman Max parks his little white mail truck just up from the house on the right.
10:15 a.m., or whenever the truck parks. Mac goes ballistic – the kind of ballistic that entails loud, continuous, obnoxious barking. Outside, Mailman Max digs through his bag of goodies, crosses the street and begins delivering the mail to the neighbors on the far side, unconcernedly oblivious to Mac’s haranguing.
10:17 a.m., or thereabouts. Mailman Max disappears from sight as he continues down the street. Mac switches his view to the left and calmly sits atop the back of the sofa. He literally cranes his neck to peer down our side of the street. He waits. As long as it takes.
10:30 a.m., or as long as it takes. Mailman Max reappears six houses down on our side of the street and Mac moves into hyperdrive. He flings himself off the couch, slams against the door, hurtles back onto the couch in a single leap only to repeat, and repeat, and repeat. Unruffled, Mailman Max simply walks up the steps onto the porch, slips the mail through the slot, utters a cheery, “hey there, Mac!” and then returns to his truck. Quiet now, Mac glares out the window. He waits for “the sign.”
10:32 a.m. Mailman Max hits the gas, and Mac enters the third leg of his bizarre relay. Down he flies to the floor, four stubby legs scrabbling across the wood through the dining room and into the kitchen. Flap! Out the doggie door, down the deck steps to the yard. He runs the fence line and continues his verbal assault as Mailman Max passes by in the side alley. With a quick honk and a wave, Mailman Max disappears from view, leaving Mac standing with one paw on the fence until it’s obvious that little white truck is gone.
10:35 a.m. Mac patrols the perimeter, lifts a leg, then wanders back inside for a thirsty drink of water. He heads back to the couch for a much-needed afternoon nap. His work is done.
For the most part, the Max/Mac ritual was harmless, except for the time I was home with the door open, and Mac hit the storm door, shattering the glass. Just as he gathered his muscles and jumped again, I managed to grab him by the scruff of his neck to keep him aloft inches above jagged shards of glass. I looked up at Mailman Max, oddly pleased to see him on the other side of the shattered door, reaching for his friendly nemesis, too. That night Dad installed plexiglass and reinforcements to the door to protect his grand-dog.
Their ritual was never personal, and Mailman Max knew that. If Mac and I were out walking during the mail run, Mac would simply wag his tail and offer his head to be petted. Mailman Max always obliged.
One Christmas, not long before Mac gave in to old age, we gave Mailman Max a gift certificate. The best part, he told me later, wasn’t the gift, it was the card – a photo of Mac on the back of the couch (with his two new buddies), waiting patiently for his friend. Our poem pretty adroitly captured the essence of the ritual they’d developed over the years – something Mac had by then handed down to his younger pals.
Watching for the Mailman
Watching for the mailman is what we love to do!
We gather every morning; we wait clear up to 2.
And though he parks his funny truck across the street and down some,
He can’t fool us; we know he’s there. Our mailman Max has come!
Oh, joy! Oh, rapture! What delight! Our mailman Max is here!
We’ll bark and jump and run around; we’ll fill his heart with fear.
And he’ll think twice – or even more – before he gets too near.
’cause we protect our house, our toys, and all that we hold dear!
Oh, mailman Max! Oh, mailman Max! We love you, yes, we do.
You fill our days with expectation; you give us purpose, true.
We have just one request, but Santa said we must ask you:
Could you deliver mail to us on every Sunday, too?
You know something? I always felt bad for Mac on federal holidays and Sundays when there was no mail service. I still wonder if Mailman Max felt the same.