Sam is on my shitlist.
“Damn it, Sam! Get over here!” I yell, fighting to be heard above the clunk and grind of a lawn aerator.
It’s a warm early spring afternoon. One of the members of the crew we had hired to aerate our yard, the mess that it is, is walking behind a loud, hefty machine made to produce Magic Marker size holes in the ground. I’m told those holes help give oxygen to the roots and promote growth. We’ll see about that. Right now, this doesn’t matter. What matters is Sam. She is dancing around the man who operates the engine. Back and forth. Back and forth. She jumps and barks, and performs doggie pirouettes in between yelps.
“Sam! No one wants to play!”
The man appears to be ignoring her. But I am not.
“Damn it, Sam!”
Sam disregards me like a defiant child. For a moment, she stares at me, still as a photographic image. She looks at the man. She looks at the moaning machine. She looks at me, again. And it’s quickly back to her dance.
“Son of a bitch!”
I don’t often get mad at Sam. Sometimes she plays a game where she stands at the door apparently wanting to come in the house from the backyard. But when I open the door, she runs. It’s annoying. And I think she knows it. Pleasures in it, somehow. But this? This aeration tango? This is new.
After nearly a half hour of chasing Sam, growling at her, coaxing her, pleading with her, switching between being irate and feigning disinterest, she gives up, but only after the worker slides his machine into the back of a white pickup truck, smiles at me, and waves goodbye.
“I am so mad at you!” I grab Sam by the collar. Opening the house door, I yank her inside. “Don’t even look at me,” I say. Sam stands in the kitchen, her tongue long and slippery, dripping drool. Exhausted. She lowers her eyes.
For the next hour, I snub her. Don’t acknowledge her. It’s a dumb thing I’m doing. I know it. Would I act this way if I were mad at my sons, my wife—ignore them? Still, anger has the best of me.
On a walk earlier in the day, Sam and I spent some time near a playground in the neighborhood. There’s a sign posted in the grass nearby advertising summer pool passes for the season. Sam stood next to it as if to ask if I would sign her up. I joked with her. “The tug of summer is strong, isn’t it?” I think of this while I sit in a living room chair, simmering with ire. Sam is stretched out on the hardwood, sleeping. It pisses me off that she appears so content. Pool pass, I think. You don’t deserve a damn pool pass.
Later than evening, Leslie confronts Sam.
“Do you know how mad he is at you?’ she whispers. She bends to Sam’s level and looks her in the eye. “You need to apologize.”
Leslie then walks Sam to me and has her sit before the chair. “Sam wants to say something to you,” Leslie says.
“Oh really?” I ask.
“We had a talk,” Leslie says, “and Sam knows she was wrong. She is ready to say she’s sorry.”
I’m not really mad anymore. Haven’t been for a while. I try not to laugh, realizing how goofy this exchange has now become, the two of us talking to a dog like this. Still, I look at Sam. “What do you have to say for yourself?”
Sam’s eyes focus on the floor. She looks up at me for a second, and then away again.
“She’s sorry,” Leslie says, smiling.
“You made me crazy today, girl,” I say and pat her on the head. Sam then crawls up in the adjacent chair, rests her head on its arm, and gazes out the bay window as if everything is, and always has been, right with the world.
Time passes and after Sam is fed for the night, she makes her way to the basement. That usually means she’s rummaging around in the laundry room for socks or underwear to bring to us. It’s a quirky thing she does. I’ve written about it before. She’s relentless with this practice. But this time, it is not a Gold Toe or a pair of Hanes. In Sam’s mouth is a box of one dozen Titleist golf balls, the entire blue box, tight between her teeth.
“Thinking about nine holes?” I ask as she stands before me.
And now I know. The pool pass, and the golf balls, and the chasing after the aerator, a machine that signifies yard care in the new, warmer season. Sam is only pining for summer. She, like all of us, is done with the cold and the snow, done with weather that keeps her from going outside and sometimes from a walk. She is like a kid waiting for the last day of school.
The next morning, Sam and I step outside early. You might call it a makeup walk. There’s a cool breeze, but you can tell it’s going to be a warm day for early May. I smell cut grass and tulips are blooming. We head for the coffee shop a half-a-mile away near the train station, and I buy a cappuccino to go and a blueberry muffin, and I sit on a bench next to the tracks, feeding Sam bite size treats, and I tell her I, too, am sorry.