“I’m not a happy dog, guys.”

“What happened, Jewel?” Harry asks our guest who arrived yesterday for a short while. “You’re usually so happy when you come to play.”

“Only you and Aussie try to rush out that gate every time it opens.”

“Our mission in life is to escape at every opportunity,” says Aussie. “So why aren’t you happy, Jewel?”

“I lost my way, guys. I don’t know who I am anymore.”

“That’s sometimes a good thing,” I tell her.

“Don’t listen to her,” says Aussie.

“I know who you are, Jewel,” Harry says. “You’re a Great Dane. You’re the biggest dog I’ve ever seen.”

“Jewel, you’re at least three times as big as Harry and Aussie,” I tell her.

“Doesn’t mean she’s smarter.” From Aussie.

“I know I’m big, that’s not the problem,” says Jewel. “The problem is, I used to be a service dog. Taught, trained, battle tested. My boss took me everywhere with her, lots of medical appointments, get food, go see the family. She needed me!”

“Uggghhh,” says Aussie. “You liked it?”

“I loved it! That was my mission in life, to help and support her. She could even lean on me if she felt weak sometimes.”

“If our Boss ever tried to lean on me, she’d fall smack on the ground,” Aussie says.

“What happened?” asks Harry.

“Since this virus this came along, we don’t go anywhere. I’m not needed.”

“We don’t go anywhere either,” I tell her. “Hey, where is everybody—?”

The dogs rush up to the fence because Gala and T, the neighborhood horses, are coming down the road, accompanied by Ruby the German Shepherd. Aussie barks; Harry barks. Jewel coughs. Dogs look up at her.

“What’s that?”

“That’s my bark,” says Jewel proudly.

“That’s your bark?”

“I’m practicing to be a guard dog.”

Aussie sits back and laughs her heart out. “You’ll never be a guard dog with a bark like that. It doesn’t scare anybody.”

“You sound sick!” says Harry. “Do you have the virus? Get away from us!”

“I’m not sick, guys. I’m telling you, I need a new career. Here, watch this.” And Jewel scampers down the yard, gets behind the Kwan-Yin, stumbles, and scampers back.

“What’s that?”

“I’m trying out for dog-racing. You think they’ll take me?”

Harry giggles, trying to restrain himself, but Aussie laughs so hard she rolls on her back, legs kicking the air. “Was that supposed to be a run?”

“I ran as hard as I could. Next time I’ll make it as far as the shed.”

“You’re a Great Dane, Jewel, not a Greyhound,” Harry tells her earnestly.

“I’m dieting, trying to get into shape.”

Aussie is laughing so hard she can’t get up on her paws. Finally, she straightens up with a grin: “Any other career change? I don’t think you’ll make it in agility, hee hee hee!”

“You suppose I can herd some sheep? This is terrible. I’m used to working hard all the  time, to be reliable and dependable, and I can’t do anything now. I don’t know who I am anymore!”

“We’re all facing this problem, Jewel,” I tell her. “We’re all used to going out into the world with our identity in place, our schedule set, the usual places, the usual people. And now we can’t do that.”

“Maybe you could be a service dog on Zoom. Hee hee hee!”

“Ignore Aussie,” I tell Jewel.

Aussie gets serious. “Harry the Cur and I never forget who we are for one minute. We know our mission in life, which is to escape as much as possible. No virus can ever make us forget that. If only you hadn’t blocked the gate when you came in today, we’d have been out of here again, only you’re so big!”

“Don’t listen to them, Jewel,” I tell her. “First of all, you have your True Nature, which you never lose.”

“Here we go, Buddhist baloney,” says Aussie.

“I love baloney!” from Harry.

“Also,” I continue, “when you’re not one thing, you’re free to explore being something else. Like me, I’m no longer a wife or caregiver, so I’m free to explore new things. That’s good.”

“Don’t believe her,” says Aussie,  “she hates every minute of it.”

“I don’t want to be anything but a service dog,” says Jewel. “Born, bred, trained. I’m no good for anything else. When will this virus be over so I could get back to work? I want to get back to myself!”

“Nobody knows, Jewel. None of us may ever go back to be ourselves.”

“Except Harry and me,” says Aussie. “Our work, which is running away, is endless. We even took vows.”

“What’s that?”

Aussie and Harry sit back and recite:

“Beings are numberless, we vow to get away from them.

Delusions are inexhaustible, we vow to give up on them real quick.

Reality is boundless, we vow to watch TV.

The awakened way is unsurpassable, marrow bones are a lot better.”

Jewel looks dazzled. “Could you teach me that? Nothing like vows to give you a purpose in life.”