Ponder was still a puppy, but her master was training her to be a guide dog for the blind. When her master got her she saw she was a nervous dog, which wasn’t ideal, but still believed she could tame Ponder to be an excellent guide dog some day.
But Ponder now stood at the newly installed doggy door with a grave decision before her. She heard the dirty dogs playing outside. It seemed like it had been hours since her master had left and she was as nervous and anxious as ever.
Her master knew Ponder had been getting nervous lately so last week she had taken the doggy gate off of the kitchen doorways. She wanted to give ponder more freedom to wander the house to see if that would help. But on the first day of freedom Ponder had chewed a hole in the arm of a sofa.
When her master came home and saw it, she said, “Bad dog!” Then she cried, and told Ponder, “That was my mother’s sofa. She used to rock me to sleep on it.” Ponder didn’t know the details, but understood the master’s mother wasn’t around any more. And Ponder went into her crate with her tail between her legs.
Ponder’s master was strange. She was different than the neighbor dogs’ masters who let their dogs play outside all day, eat poop, and when they got filthy, they just locked them outside for the rest of the night. Ponder’s master, on the other hand curled up on the couch as she cried for her mother and called to Ponder, “Come here little one.” And when Ponder crept closer, tail between her legs with as much sorrow and shame as Ponder thought a dog could hold, her master reached down, picked up her whole body, and placed her on the couch with her where she could hold her. She whispered into Ponder’s ear, “It’s okay little one. I still will try to make you into a great dog someday. You are so much better than the dirty dogs next door. You will help the helpless and lead the blind. You will change the lives of many. You just need to listen to me better.”
Ponder didn’t know all the words her master said, but she got the gist. She loved her master so much. So that night she tried to lick her face until all her tears were gone and this made her master smile.
But this week, realizing Ponder was still getting anxious, even with full roam of the house, her master put in a doggy door. She was hoping that going outside to run when needed would ease Ponder’s nervousness.
And that is where she was now. Standing before the doggy door, the sounds of the dirty dogs having so much fun outside, nervousness whelming so greatly within her.
She didn’t know where her master had gone, or how much longer she would be away. But she knew it must have been somewhere very good that she went because she had spent an hour cleaning herself and making her hair beautiful. She looked like an angel as she kissed Ponder on the nose that afternoon saying, “I need you to listen to me. The doggy door is for you to go outside and run because I know you get nervous. But do not play with the dirty dogs, because they roll in the mud, they eat poop, and they act like wild animals. Their masters aren’t training them like I’m training you. Dogs like that will never be good guide dogs.”
That night when Ponder came back in, she went right into her crate. She tracked mud everywhere, for she didn’t know how to clean herself. She panted poop breath, for she ate everything the other dogs had eaten. She was so ashamed that she could not seem to listen to her master when so much of her old dog nature raged within her.
When the front door finally unlocked and opened, Ponder hid in the farthest corner of her crate. And when her master stopped at the kitchen doorway and saw the mess everywhere Ponder whimpered. She felt so bad for letting her down. Why couldn’t she be like her master wanted her to be? If a dog could sob for being so sad and ashamed, Ponder would have done just that.
She heard her master’s voice. “Ponder. Come here.” It was stern, but not harsh. And something was wrong.
“Ponder, little one,”
Ponder’s little heart whimpered louder. Oh, she did not want to be found.
“Ponder, come here.”
Ponder heard her step into the kitchen and slowly walk towards her crate. Ponder cried so loudly she was sure she could be scolded for that as well.
“Ponder.” She had stooped and her voice was at the opening of her crate. Ponder hid her face as far as she could into her fur. But this time Ponder realized it was sadness in her master’s voice. Something really sad had happened to her master before she had gotten home that night. If only Ponder could have stayed clean, she would have licked away her tears. But she was so dirty and stinky she would not dare even touch her beautiful master. That beautiful hair. The perfume. The clean, nice smelling clothes. She would be the end of all that.
But Ponder felt hands reach under her. She felt warm arms lift her and before she knew it she was wrapped in the arms of her master. They were walking. She felt her wet fur getting on her master’s clean clothes. She felt her muddy paws dripping on the clean carpet. She didn’t dare open her mouth because of her horrible breath would ruin her perfume.
But sweet and tender words were whispered close to Ponder’s ear, “Ponder, you are more than this. I know you are sorry. And I will make you clean again. I will give you a bath, because I love you, little one. I will make you clean so that we can try again.”
And she carried Ponder to her own bathtub and bathed her thoroughly. Her hands spread sweet smelling stuff over every inch of her and scrubbed all the dirt away. For ten minutes she scrubbed. This was longer than any bath before, but she was probably dirtier than she had ever been before. At the end of the bath Ponder still would not open her mouth. But as she saw the beautiful smelling water draining away she put her face into it and lapped up as much as she possibly could.
Her master stopped washing her and Ponder could hear a smile in her voice when she said, “You ate some poop didn’t you.” Ponder just kept lapping the soapy water.
After her master had dried her off, and gotten into her own pajamas her master got back up onto her mother’s couch. She had a cup of tea and she called Ponder over to her.
Ponder scrambled from her crate and was immediately before her, ready to do anything she asked.
“Little one, I had a really hard night. And you didn’t make it any easier. But you have no idea how much I love you and I believe you can still lead the blind some day. But right now …” Her breath caught in her throat, “I could really use some of your sweet puppy kisses.”
As she said this, she broke into tears. Ponder was immediately in her lap licking for her face. She held onto Ponder tightly and even though she half-way hid her face from Ponder’s wet tongue it made her master smile.
Ponder did not understand how her master could still believe that she could some day help so many people. But Ponder did know what she could do. She would do everything in her little power to do anything for her master tonight. All her master needed right now was for her to be a puppy to her. So she did it with all her heart.