By Jenny Kalahar
“It’s not fair.”
“I know. It feels like the summer just started, and now we already have to get on the bus and go back to school.”
Rink and Becky stood with their people at the bus stop, complaining to each other in the early morning sunshine. A group of children in colorful clothing, each carrying a backpack, crossed the street at the corner, led by a crossing guard.
“Look at those kids,” said Becky, a black Lab. She sat and made herself comfortable. “They get to go to a real school. Nobody there tells them what to do. They don’t have to run around in circles on command, or sit when they don’t want to sit.” He groaned.
Rink, a red Greyhound, sat, too. He glanced up the street and down, looking for the bus that should have reached them already.
Above their heads, their people talked about kibble brands, the price of fruit, and what they had done over the summer. “They talk like it’s over or something!”
Becky rolled her eyes. “It is, kind of. Seems like every year we have to go back to school earlier than the last. I mean … why do I even have to go at all? It’s not like I’m ever gonna use this stuff in the real world.”
Rink laughed so hard that he tinkled a little. And that made Becky laugh, too. She rolled joyfully over onto her side, her long, pink tongue lolling out.
“Oh, look!” one of the people said. “Becky’s practicing rolling over. Isn’t that cute?”
Becky sobered and sat up, and then giggled again. “Practicing! As if.”
The short yellow bus slowly turned the corner a block away.
“I’m having flashbacks, Beck!” cried Rink, backing up as far as his leash would allow. “I don’t know if I can go this year. Remember the Chihuahua? The little brown dude with attitude? What if he’s back? Oh, pizzlesticks! What if he’s back?”
“He won’t be. Remember? He graduated with honors. Got a ribbon and everything. Strutted around like he just made quarterback.”
Rink stopped tugging. “Oh, yeah. Whew! Okay, then.” He sat as the bus approached. “But what … no. It’s too horrible to imagine.”
“What if there’s more than one Chihuahua this year? Like, what if there are more of them?”
Becky stood just as the bus pulled to a stop. The hinged door hissed open. “Quit worrying. We’ll go today. If we don’t like it, well … we’ll do every single trick and command perfectly. That way we’ll graduate in one day and be done with it. Does that sound like a plan?”
Rink dug his paws into the sidewalk, refusing to board. “What did you just say?”
“If we don’t like it this year, we’ll just pass all of the tests right off the bat and be out of there by the end of the day,” Becky clarified as she hopped up the black rubber-coated steps and then strode down the center aisle past several other dogs.
Rink followed, tugging his person awkwardly behind him.
As their people buckled Becky and Rink into their seats, Rink moaned and moaned until Becky stretched her neck forward to ask over the back of Rink’s seat, “Why are you crying now?”
“You mean …” sob, “that we could have …” sniffle, “quit obedience school anytime we wanted to? Why didn’t you ever tell me that before?”
Becky shifted this way and that, settled against her person, stared out the window at the passing trees, buildings, and parked cars, and then said, “It gets my person out of the house once a week. She talks to lovely dog people instead of to only whoever might take her money at the grocery store or post office. She exercises with me instead of just sitting around the house waiting for visitors who never come. I’m … socializing her, you might say.”
“Oh,” said Rink calmly. He looked up into the wrinkled, soft, and kind face of his own person, and then gave the man’s hand a gentle lick.
Before they knew it, the bus stopped moving and that hinged door hissed open again. After the dogs were unbelted and had made their way down the bus steps, Rink pulled her person over close to Becky. Standing in front of the obedience school entranceway, the friends looked around at all of the elderly dog people waiting for the school to open for the day. Every one of them was smiling. They were petting their canine companions, chatting, laughing, or showing off some new trick that their dog had learned over the summer. Even the leaves in the trees over their heads seemed to flutter with happiness.
“I think you’re the smartest dog here,” said Rink, nuzzling Becky behind her black ear. “But you know what we’ll have to do if we want to keep our people coming here every week, don’t you?”
Becky winked. “Yep. We’ll have to do everything wrong, every single time.”
“No! We’ll have to get a few things right once in a while. We don’t want our people to get suspicious.”
Becky laughed and bumped her hip against Rink’s playfully. “Now who’s the smartest dog in the school?”
Jenny Kalahar, her husband Patrick, and their pets live in Indiana where she sells used and rare books and writes novels and poetry. She is the author of a fantasy novel about teens stuck with the worst-ever magical power, This Peculiar Magic. Her two novels about fostering cats are Shelve Under C: A Tale of Used Books and Cats, and The Find of a Lifetime. Her collection of nostalgic and humorous poetry is One Mile North of Normal and Other Poems. For more, visit her blog.
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