Spud has always liked Saturdays. There’s a different feeling in the house on this day, to any other day of the week. Weekdays are rushed. His humans wake up early, have breakfast, shower and leave the house early. They normally feed him in the mornings, but they sometimes forget. He understands though, they’re busy and important, as most bipeds are, and rush off to wherever it is they go during the day.
Saturdays are different because everyone wakes up happy. His big humans sleep in and the little humans wake up early and watch TV in the living room. Spud likes to watch TV with the little humans, when they let him inside the house. In fact, Spud likes to do just about anything with his humans: he simply likes to be around them. As a mixed breed dog, he doesn’t really identify with any kind of dog as “family”, so he is pleased to be considered part of someone´s pack, even if they only have two legs and don’t bark very well. Hey, they don’t need to bark at all – that’s the beauty of family in Spud’s opinion!
Spud, named after the humble potato, chose his own name. In his family, they call him, “Dog”. But given Spud’s unrivaled passion and respect for all things derived from the potato, he decided to call himself after the versatile tuber. It would be nothing short of dishonest if Spud did not also disclose the fact that he actually bears a striking resemblance to the potato as well. He thinks this is due to the fact that his mum was a mix of many kinds of dogs and his dad was a different kind of mix of many dogs too. This left Spud with a yellowish fur covering his small to medium sized frame. In his mind, Spud is firmly in the medium category and he knows that many people think of him as too big for small or too small for big. That’s OK by him – potatoes come in all sizes! He also lacks the clear-cut features and definition that many purebred dogs have, his face comprised of a non-descript snout sitting just a little too close under his light brown eyes and cheeks just a little too round. No strong jawline for him! To top it off, his slightly misshapen head is framed by two ridiculously large ears, one of which falls forward, as if in constant salute to the world. He doesn’t mind though. All the better to hear when they shout out for their “Dog”, as far as he is concerned.
Saturday is also a great day because his humans often go to the park. And they even take Spud with them! He loves the park. He runs and jumps and barks – just to remind everyone he is a dog, lest they forget. He also meets other dogs, many of whom have those clear-cut features and definition that he lacks. But he doesn’t mind. He knows his family loves him, even though he isn’t a German shepherd or a Labrador. You can’t be all things to all people, as they say. Or was it all things to all dogs? He can’t really remember. He sometimes gets his expressions confused. He is a canine, after all.
He loves everything about Saturdays. The preparation at home, the collection of the soccer balls and blankets they take with them and the short drive to the park in the car. Spud doesn’t get car sick, like some dogs. He just sits in the back and tries to contain his excitement as much as possible. Sometimes he can’t and he lets out a little yip or two, to show his humans how happy he is. But mostly, he tries to be quiet. He knows that his family are not “barkers” and they don’t like when he reminds them that he is.
This Saturday is no different to the rest. Keen to show what a well-behaved dog he is, Spud sits patiently by the front door, watching everything. He doesn’t miss a thing. The little humans are old enough to dress themselves now and are ready and watching TV until the big humans tell them it’s time to leave. After what seems like an eternity to little/medium sized Spud, the big humans yell out they are leaving and walk towards the door. Spud stands up, not to be left behind and follows the little humans out the door. He doesn’t have a leash or collar like other dogs because he behaves so well.
They climb into the car and they are off. Spud loves this part. He is just big enough to see out the backseat window when sitting in the car. (Clearly not a small dog. Small dogs can’t see out the windows, everyone knows that.) He watches intently, sitting next to his two little humans. They are playing together with an iPAD and are not paying much attention to Spud. Personally, he doesn´t understand what all the big fuss is with these iPADs. Maybe it would be different if he had an opposable thumb. Instead, he looks out the side window. He watches the familiar landscape turn from small roads to main roads. He watches as main roads turn to highways and then after a long time, as highways turn to main roads and main roads turn to small roads again. But Spud doesn´t recognise this. He can´t see the park anywhere and he certainly hasn´t been here before. He prides himself on his uncanny ability to recognise his surroundings, but Spud doesn´t recognise any of this. He feels excited. They must be going to a new park. Better for him! New dogs to greet and new smells to smell! He might even show off some new jumping moves, if his humans are watching.
Spud keeps watching until they drive up and stop the car, next to a small plaza. Doesn´t look like much, he thinks, but hey, who is he to complain? It´s a day out with his pack! Any dog would be lucky to have what he has. Spud yips in excitement and looks out at a small fountain nearby that he plans to explore. “Control yourself, mutt!” he thinks to himself. All good things come to mutts who wait, as they always say. He´s got that one right, he knows it.
He watches intently as his big human, the male one, gets out of the car and opens the door closest to Spud first. As a canine, he has an in-depth understanding of the complexities of hierarchy and normally Spud is the last to leave the car, behind his little humans. But not today. He lets out an extra yip of excitement when he realises his humans are letting him out first to check the plaza: secure the perimeter, check for big (or medium/ big) dogs who don´t like humans or small/medium dogs. Maybe this is why they came to a different place, Spud thinks. So they can show Spud how much they trust in his ability to protect them. He leaps out of the car and turns back to look at his little humans. They are still engrossed in the iPAD. That´s ok, he thinks. They won´t have to see any of the scary things he has to fight off in order to secure the plaza for them. He casts a quick glance around him and sees that his humans are the only ones here. Better still, they are his favourite humans anyway. Actually, they are his only humans, but he never really thinks about that. Spud is a positive dog. “Focus, mutt!” he says to himself. Your humans are counting on you, don´t let them down. Trying to look confident, he chances one last glance at his big human who is still holding the door open, and ambles off towards the fountain. Makes sense, he reasons to himself. All predators need to drink. Important to clear the drinking area first. He walks slowly, careful not to miss anything that could pose a danger to his humans. He walks the 20 metres or so towards the fountain, so focused on the task at hand that he doesn´t notice the sound of the car doors closing behind him. He doesn´t notice the sound of his big human getting into the car and driving away either. Without Spud. You could say he was too focussed for his own good.
Imagine his surprise when he gets to the fountain, practically crawling along the ground as he imitates his ancestors, the wolves, only to turn around and see that he can´t see the pack car. He can´t see his humans either. He raises himself to his full height and looks from side to side, his misshapen head cocked to the side quizzically. A new game, he realises! Another yip of excitement. Spud loves games. He inherited his sharp wit and quick intellect from his mongrel ancestors and while he might not be you would call a “fine looking dog”, he certainly is smart. After a couple of furtive looks around the plaza, Spud decides to sit and wait. Always let the other players reveal their true intentions, he knows.
He sits on his haunches, right ear flapped over and waits patiently. He waits for a while. Smart he might be, but good with time he is not. After what feels like a long time, Spud walks over to the road. He looks up and down, he looks both ways. He doesn´t recognise anything. He doesn´t see anyone either. He sits down on the side of the road so he can keep watch. He doesn´t like this game much. Or maybe he just doesn´t understand, he chides himself. “Silly mutt!” he thinks. Maybe if you were a German shepherd or a Labrador, you would understand this game. Spud keeps waiting and leaps to his feet when he hears the pack car coming. Excited to see how the game unfolds, he watches. But the car that drives by doesn’t belong to his pack. And his humans aren´t the ones travelling inside either. He sits back down and watches in the same direction, certain that his humans will be in the next car. He waits for a long time. He looks from side to side, careful not to miss anything. His oversized ears prickle at the sound of an oncoming car and Spud is on his feet again, ready to greet his humans. Enough of this game he thinks, I just want to go home. Besides, it´s getting dark outside and Spud knows that dark unfamiliar plazas are not the best place for small/medium sized mutts at nights. He knows this from his walks in the nearby plazas at night, when he has gone for a walk with his big human to the store. As confident a mutt as he is, Spud always felt a little scared by all the dogs in the plaza. They weren´t with their humans and most of them were bigger than him. He didn´t like the way they watched him either, like they could eat him in one bite if they wanted to. All this thinking of bigger dogs makes Spud a little nervous. So much for protecting his family, he thinks. Maybe that’s why they left, a voice inside his head says to him.
He lies in wait, listening earnestly for the sound of his car, but it doesn’t come. It’s getting colder out here and he curls into a ball. He makes sure he can still see the street though, because he wants to see as his humans drive up to him. Each time a car drives up, he raises his head quickly, assessing size, shape and speed. None of them are familiar, none of them stop. And none of them have his humans inside. Spud rests his head on the ground slowly and reminds himself to be patient. All good things come to mutts who wait, he tells himself as he curls up tighter.