It’s Christmas Eve morning. I am reading in my red chair, watching Frank try to escape from the shower. Evan stands under a stream of water in his swimming trucks, sighing and scrubbing strawberry scented dog shampoo into Frank’s jet-black coat. “Good boy,” he says, then “Frank! Frank. Sit down.” They go back and forth like this, like friends who are comfortable enough to bicker. Frank never barks, he just turns around and around, hoping to spot a way out, while Evan tries to dump at least half a bottle of shampoo onto a mass of fur in motion.
When Evan turns to grab more soap, Frank takes his chance, pushing the shower door open with his head. Soon, he is in the living room, sopping wet and smelling like freedom. He smiles at me in that way only dogs can smile. But his ears drop suddenly at the sound of Evan’s stern voice, calling him back. He returns slowly, tail down, to the bathroom. I try not to laugh as I hear Evan say, “Get back in there” and shut the shower door behind them.
Minutes later, I hear Evan’s voice again. This time, in a gentler tone, repeating: "You're a good dog, Frank. You're a good puppy." And I think about the two of them, how they have been living together for so many years that Frank seems to know that suds and water, which he hates, are for his good. He will always try to escape. But he will also walk right back under the water if Evan tells him to. They have done this before. They have a routine. Frank gets to stink for a while, but then it’s time for a bath. No excuses.
I love them; the way they take care of each other and the way they take care of me. Sometimes, when he thinks I’m sad, Evan brings Frank with him. I hear a pair of feet and a set of paws ascending the stairs, and soon they are beside me, panting and smiling, ready to cure my melancholy. And they do. Every time. They do.
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