Just one lick, he thought.
The dog sat in the corner of the room staring at the popsicle in his person's hand. The man was lying down with his eyes closed, and his hand had relaxed around the stick of the slowly melting treat, dribbling its sweet nectar onto the floor. He wouldn’t notice just one lick. The dog padded over with great stealth.
Eyes still closed. Just one lick.
Buddy kept his nose to the ground until the vibrant smell brought his face up to the man’s hand. He sniffed for a moment before giving it a gentle pass with his tongue, soaking in the cold and immersing himself in its rich and vigorous aroma. Just one lick, then he hurried away, back to his bed in the corner. The man remained unmoving, not bothered at all by the dog’s secret mission. Buddy was still a good boy.
He thought his name was Buddy, at least, but he wasn’t sure. Whenever a human called that name he was guaranteed to receive a snack or some gentle hand pats. But his name could just as well be Good Boy or Yes or Treat, for those words were also accompanied by lighthearted smiles and plenty of affection. His name was definitely not Bad or No, however, as humans were always angry when saying those words. Buddy felt happy all the time, so he was sure his name had to be a happy word.
Now he was thirsty. The dog stepped out of his bed and walked into the kitchen, where he usually found his bowls. Both were empty. He lapped at the inside of one just to be sure, but all he tasted was the shiny metal at the bottom. He trotted back to the living room and sat next to his person, still lying with his eyes closed, slightly less popsicle in hand. Not wanting to be rude and wake him, Buddy left and walked into the bathroom.
A few drinks. He won’t notice.
The dog lapped up the toilet water until he no longer felt a thirst. Humans usually called him Bad Dog when he drank from the toilet, but he snuck in a few sips when he knew his person wasn’t looking. The water in the white bowl tasted much better than the water in the silver bowls anyway, so it was worth a few scoldings now and then.
Feeling tired, he thought.
The dog scurried back into the living room and plopped down onto his new bed. It was more comfortable than his last bed, but it didn’t have all the good smells. The old bed reminded him of mown grass and hidden biscuits and comfort, while this one only smelled of the store that his person had bought it from. He marked his old bed to let everyone know that it was his, but he knew his person would get mad if he tried to do the same thing to the new one. Buddy made a note to hide his next few treats under the top cushion.
Buddy used to have two people—a man and a woman—and the woman had given him the first bed a long time ago. She called it a “birthday present,” or something. It was huge and soft and smelled of places he’d never been before. Over time he added his own smells and grew to love it. He felt safe and comfortable in that bed. But then it started to shrink, and soon it was so small that Buddy had to lay down with his head hanging off the side. He thought it was more comfortable that way, but his current person, the man, insisted that it was time for a new one.
The dog sat in the corner and thought of the woman who smelled of flowers and fruits, and who he hadn’t seen in a long time. One day she fell in the bathroom and started crying. Buddy gave her as many licks as he could to help her feel better, but it didn’t work. Some strange men that smelled of chemicals and plastics came in and took her away.
She was usually quick to yell at Buddy whenever he put his paws up on the counter, or if he came inside the house with mud on his fur, but he missed her still. He closed his eyes and dreamt of the woman’s smell, then of new smells, and then of rabbits jumping through tall grass. He dreamt of his leash and his favorite tree, and of the popsicle that the man in front of him was holding, and how he had stolen just one lick without the man noticing.
The fragrant treat caught Buddy’s nose, and he stirred awake. His person was still resting, and there was even less popsicle attached to the stick. Most of it had melted away and become a pool on the floor beneath his hand.
The man was tired all the time and it was not unusual that he fall asleep in strange places—especially after the woman was taken away by the weird-smelling men. Buddy often caught the man asleep at the kitchen table or on his loyal leather recliner, but never on the floor of the living room like this. The man would have a fit when he woke up from his nap and saw the mess he’d left on the floor.
I can help. Clean up time, thought the dog.
Buddy got up from his bed with a big stretch and ambled over to the puddle. He happily lapped up the perfumed liquid until not a single drop was left, nudging the man’s hand out of the way to clean under it. Pure bliss.
Licking the leftovers from his nose and lips, the dog padded back to his bed and passed out again, this time dreaming of a filled water bowl and squirrels in the back yard.
When he woke, the popsicle was gone from the man’s hand and the stick lay in the puddle on the floor. Buddy loosened up, walked over to it, and cleaned up what was left of the sugary delight.
He checked the bowls in the kitchen and found them empty, so he went to the bathroom and drank from the toilet. Buddy’s stomach rumbled. The melted treat only excited his appetite, and his person hadn’t fed him since before he dozed off, popsicle in hand. He padded back into the living room and gave a small whine—usually enough to wake the sleeping man, but not this time. Buddy grabbed the popsicle stick off the floor and retreated to his corner, tucking the sweet-smelling wood under the top cushion of his new bed.