Half asleep, must have been 3 or 4 a.m., when I awoke to the sound of our screen door suddenly door sliding open.
Now, normally, a door opening at that hour would probably prompt someone to leap up wide-eyed and reach for a weapon in case they have to battle an intruder.
I am calm, cool and reluctant to move, but still, I know I have to hurry. No fears that someone unwelcome has entered our home. Not that I’m courageous. It’s because I know who opened that screen door. No one was breaking in. It was someone sneaking out for a neighborhood walkabout: our dog, Ipo.
She has mastered the art of poking the screen door on one end until it slides open just enough to put her paw in the gap and give it a quick push so she can fit through. Then, off she goes, meandering down the driveway in the dark, usually hopping over and through some vines to venture down a hillside to the street.
Because it’s dark and my eyesight isn’t so good in the dark, I can’t really see Ipo. There’s just a bunch of blurry images out there. But I know she’s there. She’s too old, 11 or 12, to run quickly away and be gone. So I have to bluff her into coming back. I have to convince her she’s been spotted.
“Ipo, I see you. C’mon, you have to get back here.”
I wait a minute. Nothing. She’s trying to wait me out, see if I’ll go back in and go to sleep. She’s probably standing still, watching. Then, she can be on her way.
I have to find her.
So now I have to walk farther out, to the top of the driveway where I can take a better look. And, of course, I’m stepping on rocks and stumbling around and am muttering to myself like the crazy old man I am.
“Ipo, come on now, get back here. Where do you think you’re going?”
No response. Damn that dog. She’s smart.
While no neighbors are awake, their dogs are now, and they’re barking in my direction. So I try whispering loud enough for Ipo to hear me, but quietly so Bruno and Luna will think I’ve gone back into our house. It’s not working and they’re barking more, they know something’s up, and I’m afraid lights are going to start coming on in their owner’s house.
“Ipo!” I say slightly above the level of a whisper. “You come here now!”
Finally, she emerges from the shadows at the end of the driveway, slowly moving toward me. Ha! Her great escape has been thwarted.
“Good girl, Ipo. C’mon, let’s go back inside. I’ll get you a treat.”
Yes, I reward her with a treat for returning because she didn’t really cause much trouble. And she’s too old to get mad at. She’s slowed quite a bit since we got her about two years ago. She doesn’t run down to meet me in the street anymore, when I’m finishing my runs. Instead, she just rests in the yard, watches and wags her tail a few times. She rarely races around in excited circles like she used to when I came home from work or a run. She doesn’t care for too many walks around the neighborhood these days, either, and she much prefers a car ride to Kalapaki Beach, her favorite place, if there is to be any walking.
At the beach, her spirit rises. At the beach, she is young again. Here, she runs. She sprints. The other day, since only a few people were around, my wife and I let her off the leash and we raced up and down a section of the beach. Her ears flew, her tongue hung out, her eyes gleamed. Ah, Ipo was delighted as she played and splashed through the waves and dashed around, daring me to try and catch her, which I did, but couldn’t. The beach breathes new life into her old body. Later, she collapses in the sand, seemingly spent, then bounds away ready for more games.
Back home, she plops down in her spot under some trees, next to the fence, in the shade.
“Here Ipo. You want a treat?” I say from the lanai.
She stares at me.
Not that she doesn’t want it. She does. But she also knows I’ll bring it to her, which I do. She chews and swallows and soon closes her eyes and sleeps.
In our time on Kauai, Ipo has become a good friend and member of our family. She often makes us laugh as she howls and growls and hops around to make it clear she wants some of my dinner, too. And of course, she’ll get it. After all, she is patient and loyal and loving and we are blessed to have her in our home.
So if she wants to push the screen door open in the middle of the night and make me track her down in the dark, I can’t get mad,
But I can get her a treat.
Bill Buley is editor of The Garden Island newspaper. He can be reached at email@example.com