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Gill will be pleased to know that, in her absence, things here have taken an even more bizarre turn. A recent family dinner ended on a high note. High in the sense that one of four dogs joining us had tossed a stuffed toy hedgehog, butt end up, in the communal water bowl. The four mutts studied the spectacle. This upended rodent said it all and summed up the evening in style.

“Okay, who’s responsible for this?” I queried, trying not to laugh. Four stunned faces glared at me. Not a snitch among them.

I try to set a nice table when I have guests. For this meal, I lit a fire in the adjoining living room. Snacks were set out, wine was poured. A civilized evening with friends and family. And then the dogs showed up. We did a ‘leg count’…humans, 16 legs; dogs, also 16 legs (including two canine legs that don’t work very well). Not great odds.

Decorating was simple: dog blanket in one corner, slimy rubber ‘thing’ (we don’t know what it is but it’s a favourite possession), toys strewn around the rooms in no particular order. A few pine cone chips on the traffic path (the puppy is teething and loves something with a good crunch), old sheets draping the couches in case a pooch nap was in order. Each dog has an assigned couch — with the main living room one dedicated to The Pig (L’il Sis’ beagle). Pillows were propped up at one end, waiting for her to rearrange them to best display her woebegone expression when she realized she wasn’t the star of the show. Competition from not one but THREE other canines? Please!

A cracker covered with pate accidentally dropped on the floor. One hound dove and devoured it before the others knew the tidbit was prey, a sitting duck if you will. As we humans enjoyed our pre-dinner chat, the Coonhound crept into the kitchen to peruse the unattended food situation. His snout is at counter level but he no longer has the ability to jump up to snare samples. It is sad to watch him — so near, yet so far, he seems to be thinking. Gone are the days when he can snatch and eat an entire apple pie or snag a turkey leg at will.

Crazy D’s puppy lay contentedly in the corner chewing on a new bone — we expected it to last and keep him occupied through the meal, thus he’d not be running in circles around the room. Gone in half-an-hour. Puppy trotted in, eager to play or eat people food…he cared not which.

As I took the meal out of the oven, I felt four furry bodies directly behind me. It was obvious they were hoping for a horrid accident that would see the meal splattered on the floor like roadkill.  Vultures around a carcass. “Sorry to disappoint, guys,” I said. And then to placate the beasts, I handed them each a morsel. It was that or my leg.

We (the humans) adjourned to the table for our meal. Our seats were close together, to the annoyance of The Coonhound. He is accustomed to wedging himself next to the most promising ‘soft touch’, usually Gill (aka the weakest gazelle). But there wasn’t sufficient space between chairs for him to ply his begging trade.

The other large hound, the only well-behaved mutt in the house, quietly ‘worked the room’, moving from person to person, placing her soft chin on everyone’s lap, gazing into human eyes, seemingly collecting new ‘pack members’ as she went. “Will you love me?” she appeared to be pleading. She figured that, with me in her imaginary back pocket (as sometime caregiver and new BFF), by extension, any humans in my house are also hers. I know people like that — people who attract and gather others to them wherever they go, but Jewel the Vizsla is a true pro at the art of seduction.

Gill had made me promise, since she couldn’t be here, to “make sure Coonie gets some treats from me.”  No worries on that front. He left with his personal doggie bag of leftover salmon bits, some rice and veggies, turkey livers sauteed specially for him and some beef nubbins from a glorious roast past. My only concern was that there would be enough space in HIS fridge for the treat bags. For those of you unaware of his living situation, he stays with Other Brother and his Italian parents. The fridge beside his basement retreat is normally stuffed with wheels of cheese and slabs of Italian deli meats. Not every hound can boast immediate access to such amenities.

As the human guests departed, the canine ones literally dragged their feet. Not wanting to leave the source of all deliciousness, my kitchen, they all convened there for one last sniff and search mission. In the end, they had to be dragged by their leashes to the waiting car. I like to think reluctance of one’s guests to leave is a sign of a great, successful evening…even when the guests are dogs.