This is Sunday morning at our home:
Lori and I feed the dogs at around 8. I’ve already taken out the marrow bones (big for Aussie, small for Chihuahua Henry) the previous night to defrost. Lori, who’s the first one up, has already made sure to put them away inside the refrigerator, otherwise Henry, who recognizes Sunday morning better than any wall calendar, won’t eat his breakfast if a marrow bone is in a 100-mile vicinity.
When they’re both done with breakfast, I take the bones out; in the winter I’ll microwave them for a minute. As in everything, Aussie’s first. I hand out her bone and she gingerly takes it between her jaws, turns around and goes to her rug in the next room. I hand Henry’s small bone to him. He, less gingerly, grabs a hold of it and runs upstairs.
I then pick up a book to read or study with my coffee in the living room. The bone ritual will take about an hour, which means an hour of no-dog time. Very precious.
On her rug, standing up, Aussie licks the bone a few times, turning it round and round with her nose, removing and chewing whatever small meat is on it. When it’s stripped to the bone (sorry!), she goes down on her belly and gets down to some serious licking and gnawing, trying to wiggle her tongue into the marrow to get it out, making loud, smacking noises.
Her relationship with the bone is one of historical rivalry. Will the marrow elude her or not? She gnaws on it with Putin-like determination, sending missiles of tongue into the long bone, pummeling it into submission.
After a half hour’s battle, she gets up, circles the vanquished victim a few times, and goes out the dog door to pee.
Meantime, Henry, who finished his bone war ages ago, is standing in the shadowy hallway, looking on patiently. On her way out, Aussie makes sure to growl at him. The message is clear: God help you if you so much as take one step towards what‘s left on the rug! You’ll either die or be sent back over the border, not to Mexico but to the cartels.
Henry stays put.
Aussie returns, circles again, sniffs and touches the bone with her nose just to make sure there’s no smell of her small rival, moves the bone around some more, and finally goes back on her belly and resumes her gnawing. But it’s a more thoughtful, almost serene gnawing she does now, the kind we do after we’ve killed somebody, asking ourselves: Was this worth it?
Here and there she takes small breaks, looking up in the air, tongue out, engaged in reflecting on the bone and life in general: Is this something, or nothing? To gnaw, or not to gnaw? Is this bone done? Am I done? Is our relationship complete, or are there loose strings still lying about? And besides, what do I want to do when I grow up?
Meantime, Henry continues to lurk in the shadows. Patiently, doggedly (sorry!), he waits. Eventually, he knows, she will finish this weekly meditation and go outdoors to lie under the sun till her walk, and that will be his chance. He’ll grab the big bone, almost as big and heavy as he is, and lug it upstairs. His tail will dance in the air as if he’s just scored the treasure of Monte Cristo. He’ll lay it down by his bed, proud as could be. She hasn’t left him a morsel but he doesn’t care, just licks the stripped-down bone and gives it the final death bite with his tiny teeth.
During the ensuing week, the bone will find its way back downstairs for the sole purpose of destroying the harmony of the house. Henry will go back to it, Aussie will jump on him, jaws looming high, he’ll cry out and run away, and she’ll take it up again, back on her belly, taking her stand for private property regardless of the property, not too different from some locals here who will be waving the flag of private property long after we destroy the land.
At some point the bone will make it to the back yard, where someone will bury it. There, underground, it will find hundreds of its peers taking their revenge by barely letting the grass grow, waiting to be discovered by future archeologists who will wonder what kind of slaughterhouse we ran here and what sacrifices we offered to our gods.