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"Roll Over, Play Dead!"

"Sit; shake hands; roll over; talk to me;" the commands seemed endless as Ms. Ellie Bradshaw's little dog, Kirby, went through all of his tricks flawlessly that day. It was an unseasonably hot day in July, and Ms. Bradshaw and Kirby were holding court with a small group of ladies on the large side porch at Faded Glory Farm.

Finally, Kirby, her faithful Jack Russell Terrier, still panting from his efforts, joined me in the shade of Isabel's Japanese Maple and sprawled out on the deck to rest with his tongue lolling from the side of his mouth. He had a look that said, "Thank God, that's over!" The ladies were now listening to Ms. Ellie expound on how much enjoyment old Kirby gets out of performing. "He's such a ham!"

Isabel's face was expressionless as she retrieved her cold, frosted pitcher of lemonade from a nearby wicker table and refreshed the glasses all around. I could tell from her body language that Isabel wasn't in the least bit entertained.

"How many times has Kirby had to perform that tired repertoire of tricks?" I wondered. "Wouldn't it be interesting to see Ms. Bradshaw doing those tricks wearing a hot fur coat and a little red collar," I mused to myself; "especially on such a nice hot day."

I realized at that moment just how grateful I am that Isabel has never required those shenanigans of me. Because Spook doesn't have a brain, he actually LOVES to perform for Isabel's guests, but I would go crazy if she required me to perform every week like Spook does. Isabel and I have always enjoyed a relationship based on mutual respect and quiet dignity. After all, she is the mistress of the house, and I am the alpha canine of the house - pure and simple. I am expected to guard Isabel, our staff, and guests against unspoken dangers that might lurk on the other side of the big oak front door and protect the likes of smaller animals and little children who might be at-large on the property from time to time.

Yes, sometimes I get carried away and chase the guys from Fedex and UPS when they arrive and don't appear to know where they are going, but I really never cause them any physical harm. They just get flustered and run around like hens. Nobody at their terminal ever seems to "brief" the substitute drivers, and my presence usually comes as a complete shock. I am also careful never to harm the Jehovah's Witnesses, or Isabel's minister, Rev. Calvin Payne. They are really nice people, but I do enjoy watching them scurry a bit when they come to visit. It lends some excitement to an otherwise boring summer afternoon. But, I digress.

A few months ago we had an older gentleman (and repeat guest) named Wendall Brock visit from Gainesville for the weekend with his hunting dog, Tim. Tim is a 12 year old Springer Spaniel who had evidently hunted with Mr. Brock for many years. Even though they no longer hunt, Mr. Brock doesn't seem to let Tim forget his training. One sweltering afternoon when Tim and Mr. Brock were relaxing together on our porch, Mr. Brock volunteered to have Tim demonstrate the great restraint and discipline that had been instilled in him many years earlier.

In front of a small group of middle-aged men and their wives, Wendall disturbed Tim in the middle of a sound sleep and called him over to his chair. Tim got up, shook, and obediently waddled over and stood quietly while Mr. Brock placed a fresh dog biscuit on the top of Tim's snout. Whereas I'd have snatched and consumed that 'sucker' in a New York second, Tim patiently balanced the treat on his nose for almost a minute and waited obediently until given the command, "Okay!" whereupon Tim tipped his head and rolled the biscuit to one side, flipped it into the air, and caught it in mid air before it could hit the floor.

As the small group laughed and applauded, Tim returned to our shady spot on the porch, circled twice, and prepared to lie down for his nap. Tim, who is plagued by arthritis, winced a bit as he curled up on the deck, but within minutes, he was sound asleep.

Before he was furloughed, Wendall Brock had been a flight Captain for Eastern Airlines. Wouldn't it be interesting, I thought, if Eastern called him in every six months or so and asked him to pilot a round-trip flight into Memphis, "just for the fun of it!" I think that Captain Brock would take a dim view of that escapade! Clearly, there's no rest for the weary!"

I don't mean to sound like a curmudgeon, but my point is "enough is enough, already!" We all have skills - or tricks - that guarantee our livelihoods and endear us to our employers, but everyone should eventually get a chance to relax after our life's work is finished. I believe you folks call it retirement. Interrupt this, and 'insult is added to injury,' especially when you're on vacation.

Vacations are supposed to be fun. Isabel and Micah say that's what life is supposedly all about up here at Faded Glory Farm. Y'all come, but leave your tricks at home!

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