The Journey of Phillip, the Forgotten, to Phillip, the Fabulous, in 30 Days
Tenth in a Series
December 25, 2015
Joy to the World
It was the crack of dawn, and the dogs sounded the bark alarm that morning was upon us. Not just any morning, but Christmas morning! Children and dogs seem to know instinctively that this is a special day to rise early and wake the overtired adults. Even though it most likely that Phillip had not celebrated Christmas before now, he was learning the playful behavior of an excited child anxious to start the festivities from his friends and foster siblings.
Gracie Bird started the assault with the sound of the alarm clock buzzing. “Bzzz,” she trilled. “Merry Christmas! Ho, Ho, Ho!” She continued. Even the bird knew this day was special. Loki was dashing up the stairs to join Jeff Smith in the bed for a morning snuggle, and I heard Thor’s yipping from the area formerly known as my pillow. “It’s only for a week,” I reminded myself. Weasley was shaking the floor with his rhythmic bounce dancing to the dog party on our bed. Once again having slept in the guest room, I tiptoed down the hall to see what was happening. I peeked in the door hoping that I would not be noticed. There was the sound of that full belly chuckle coming from under a pillow being held over the face of a man protecting himself from the merriment of the game. Tails were wagging and paws were prancing as blankets flew from the bed as if nothing else mattered.
I slowly pulled the door shut and began my way downstairs. Gracie Bird said, “Where’s Phillip?” She had only recently added the phrase, “Where’s Phillip,” to her vocabulary. Gracie Bird could speak “Dog” as well as English and she acted as an interpreter for them at times. I think she knew that Phillip needed to join the fun, and she was communicating his desires to us.
Phillip was wiggling his body to the beat of his tail. He was so happy to see me and wanted nothing more than to start this Christmas off with a display of “Joy to the World.” When I petted him, he acted like it was the most wonderful touch he had ever experienced in his life. He offered me his other side and then pawed my hand to continue. Our lovefest was interrupted by the bedroom door flinging open as Paul was escorted by his body guards who surrounding him with their loving protection as they bumped and shoved their way downstairs.
The group rushed outside for their morning ritual sniffing the fresh air as if it had never smelled as good. For Phillip, the wonder and happiness shared by all was infectious, and he was instilled with the Christmas spirit. Paul readied the gifts as I got the camera.
Once back inside, Paul asked each dog to sit as it’s time came to receive their gift. “Weasley Poole,” he called, “Here is your Slim Jim treat from your stocking. Sit!” Weasley obediently sat as I unwrapped and handed the treat to the canine with the industrial strength drool. The others watched with patience and excitement knowing that they too would get a Slim Jim jerky when their name was called and a sit preformed. “Loki, Sit!.” Paul commanded Loki. Loki sat and politely took the Slim Jim treat from Paul and placed it on the floor. He looked at Paul and then the Slim Jim jerky as if to say, “Thanks, but no thanks!” and walked away from it. “What in the world! He doesn’t like Slim Jim’s,” Paul exclaimed. “You know that Loki’s body is a temple,” I reminded Paul, “Loki only eats food without corn, wheat, byproducts, and preservatives. You raised him!” Paul once again bellowed his deep laughter.
Phillip watched, but didn’t make the connection between the command and the treat. I could see his puzzlement as he turned his head from side to side. He had learned so much from the other animals while watching their behavior and our interaction with them, but we had not begun teaching him commands. Frankly, our focus had been just getting through the hectic holiday schedule and caring for the extra beings sharing our space.
“Phillip,” Paul said, holding the Slim Jim treat and moving it slightly over the dog’s nose and back over the top of his head. Phillip backed up and his bottom nearly hit the ground, but the other dogs were moving closer to his treat distracting the boy’s attention from his training. Paul slipped Phillip the treat knowing he really needed some time alone to understand the sit command.
The procedure was repeated for each yummy cookie, the dental stick, and finally the bully stick. Each canine got a stuffed squeaky toy to go along with the treats. Jeff Smith was partial to stuffed ducks. He proudly squeaked the tummy of his new baby with his tail swaying. Weasley mouthed a ball as Thor brought his rope toy over to his best friend Phillip for a game of “tug of war.” “Take it outside, boys,” I said directing the chaos out of the house and into the yard. Phillip looked back at me over his shoulder deeply thinking about the scenario. He still had not gotten the hang of the sit command, but you could see that his mind was working. Phillip wanted to please us so very badly, and did not want to be a disappointment.
As Phillip and Thor took opposite ends of the rope toy and pulled with all their might, Paul brought out birdseed and suet to fill the bird feeder buffet. Loki kept watch for the fat squirrel so Paul was good to go. Phillip came up to the feeder and did a sit. “Good Boy!” I heard Paul exclaim as Phillip sat. Paul gave him the only treat available which was a small crumble of suet. “Phillip, Sit!” Paul tried the command again. He sat. It was at that moment Phillip had made the connection. You could see his eyes light up as the switch of understanding our communication had been turned to the on position. “Ellen, He can sit! He can sit!!” Paul shouted toward me. Tears were streaming down his face by the time I reached the pair to give my congratulations. Phillip looked at me proudly. He knew he was worthy. “I think he knows he did good!” Paul said. “Why of course he knows! He has good eyes!” I said looking down at the pooch and seeing the spark behind his eyes glowing brighter than before. This dog had just given his foster parents a gift, the only way he knew how, and it was the best gift in the world.