The teletype started tapping at 9:00 p.m. The lights in the house were off. We were awash in gloom. But it was ChicagoNow. “Write about something you hate to rely on, but couldn’t live without,” he says. I started writing. Late. But I started. Somewhere I changed the “t” to a “v.” It was dark. The only sound was the labored buzz of the air conditioning. But that won’t help me read no better, see. Here’s something I have to rely on. And couldn’t live without.
If we didn’t rely on chicken, we’d never get back in the house. We would be outside and we would never be allowed inside. We’d be outside from January to January frozen for lack of chicken. Or we’d be inside and never go outside, which I could live with.
Here’s what we heard from our dog trainer. “Give your dog a treat when she ‘goes potty’ outside and she will learn to go outside.”
Here’s what our puppy heard. “Refuse to go outside unless they give you a treat. Do not agree to anything unless they have a treat. Trust me.”
Our dog will not advance to the front door to go outside to go potty unless we offer chicken. We have to offer chicken at the door. Here’s how you do it: put it on the floor and step back. Then she will come to the door. Once we’re outside, we’ll need to supply chicken before she’ll step onto the grass. Then she will step on the grass.
I’m often in a hurry to go back inside. Especially at night, especially since we interrupted an armed carjacking across the street last summer and especially since our neighbors’ house was ransacked while they were asleep upstairs. Someone’s in a big hurry to get back inside and it’s not the one who just peed on the grass.
There’s just one more requirement.
We must out loud promise that there will be a piece of chicken waiting in the kitchen. There’s no agreement to go back inside unless we say the magic word. It’s not “please” or “let’s go” or “ACKKKK! I’m afraid of nighttime!” No. It’s “Chickeeeee! Chickee. CHICKEE!!!” Then we’ll go inside, never mind the car creeping down the block with the headlights off. I wonder if they have chicken. I’m not waiting to find out.
Sometimes people look at me askance. “You’re spoiling her.” It’s literally my pet peeve. Why shouldn’t we spoil our dogs? Who cares if she thinks I’m Colonel Sanders? It’s so easy to make them happy, why the heck not. I love that we have to rely on chicken. It’s a small way to say thank you to the little creature who’ll wake from the deepest nap to protect us. To the one who feels she’s done her job only once the UPS truck peels out in a cloud of gravel and terror. To the girl who’s the reason the mice will never come down from the attic. To the one who follows me around the house for kisses, no matter if I haven’t washed my hair in … well, never mind. I rely on it.