There is not a moment I am outside with Duncan when I am not carrying a handful of treats, from the pumpkin or apple graham crackers that are quite popular––not just among the dogs we know, but with the humans as well, myself included––to the crunchy liver-flavored bones and the softer turkey ones with the jellied pumpkin stripes. My hands are treat-scented and flavored and Duncan and the cats are forever thrusting their noses into them in hopes of sneaking one. My friends have often joked that if I died alone in my apartment I'd be discovered with my fingers gnawed to the bone while the four-leggers looked on innocently but with full bellies.
Tonight on our walk Duncan plopped down in a sunny patch of grass while I hovered over him, impatient to get home and start dinner. I tugged on the leash once or twice but he wouldn't budge, so I did what anyone would do: I played dead. I fell beside him, eyes mostly closed, tongue lolling out of my mouth, arms and legs limp while I held my breath. He studied me a long moment then turned his attention to my cupped palm and the goodies hidden behind my fingers. Through half-closed eyes I watched him look first at me, then to my hand then back to me as though deciding what whether or not to rescue me or to go for the goods. I could see him weighing his options. After standing up and sniffing my face and nudging me with his paw to confirm my sudden demise he went straight for the hand, nudging it open to reveal the goodies for which he'd been hoping. He looked at me once more, turned to my hand and in one quick, fluid motion, dove for it, slurped up the treats, licked his lips then turned to the pocket where I keep a big fat bag of the things. He nosed it once or twice then laid down, curling himself around my head, licked my face, placed a paw on my chest and whined.
And that was it. I was up, kissing his face, hugging him, laughing and reaching into my pocket for more goodies. I got another lick and then he was up, running circles of delight around me.
He does care for me! Or maybe he cares that I'm still around to dispense even more treats. I'd like to believe it's the former option.