It was dark when I got home and Duncan was slow to rouse and greet me. He and Olive had curled up against my pillow and were fast asleep when I opened the door and slipped in. Pip mewed at me from the windowsill in the office, where he'd perched to watch the dogs and their people go by. Winnie was sitting on the edge of Duncan's food shelf, her face thrust deep into his big yellow bowl lapping at the water and sending big drops of it raining down on the carpet.
I stepped down the hall to the bedroom and found Olive and Roo asleep. Olive jumped up at my arrival and began hugging me and nuzzling her chin against my cheek as she does when I come home, but Dunc rolled over, groaned and pulled his paw over his eyes. I pressed my ear to his cheek, gave him a kiss and whispered, "Is it time for a walk?" He stirred a little but seemed reluctant to move, perhaps thinking I was just a dream, that he'd wake and discover it was still bright morning and I'd only just slipped out the door. He laid in bed and watched me change clothes through sleepy eyes. Once I'd donned my coat, though, slipped his new green bean treats into my pocket and was rattling the leash he jumped up and scampered toward me as if I'd only just walked in. He grabbed the leash in his mouth and pulled me around the apartment, his back half shimmying and swaying, the chirp alive and well in his throat.
Usually he settles down by the time we reach the bottom of the stairs and step out into the parking lot. Last night, though, he whined and chirped all the way down the sidewalk to the street, pausing only long enough to pee before resuming it all over again. We crossed the first four lanes of Bowles then stopped under the trees on the wide grassy median to wait for the eastbound traffic to pass. Duncan sat right on top of my foot, his weight warm and soft, watching me, waiting for me to give to all-clear. Traffic was heavy, though, and the wait was longer than I expected. Duncan must have thought he needed to earn a trip to the park so he immediately went through his routine: he barked, he sat up pretty then threw himself down onto his belly, jumped up, gave me a high five and when that didn't work gave me ten. He barked out "I love you" a few times, tossed himself onto his belly again, rolled onto his side, tried to say the blessing like he does every night, then gave me five more. And I just watched. No commands, no rewards. I was an audience for his long performance. When I glanced up, laughing and smiling at him, I looked right into the face of a small family whose car had been stopped at the light. Two small faces were planted against the back window and the driver, their mother, was beaming ear to ear. They honked and waved and drove on once the light changed, three pairs of hands applauding at his routine.