Jojo watched as Mark bolted from the school bus and ran up the drive toward the house. Her entire body seemed to explode with anticipation as she wagged her stub of a tail and placed her front paws on the fence.
“Hey, Girl!” Mark said. He opened the gate and took a small step back as Jojo burst through the opening and ran circles around Mark.
“She’s been like that all day,” Sandi said, leaning against the back door jamb and watching her son. “It’s almost as if she knows it’s the last day of school.” Jojo stopped her antics and stared at Sandi.
“Of course I know,” Jojo thought. “Mark’s been talking about this for weeks. What? Do they think I’m deaf?” She followed Mark into his room, sniffing at Sandi as she passed. Mark tossed his notebook into the trash and quickly changed from his school uniform into shorts and a T-shirt.
“Boy are we gonna have fun this summer!” Mark said. “I got a whole list of things we’re gonna do.” Jojo’s ears perked up as Mark ran down the list. “Tomorrow Joe and I are goin’ swimmin’ at the pond. Oh, don’t look so sad – you’re comin’ too.” He reached down and scratched Jojo behind the ears.
“Only if you promise to behave,” Jojo thought. “Last year you threw my ball in the water and laughed when I had to swim way out to get it.” She wagged her stub slightly at the memory.
She followed Mark into the food-room, where Sandi was baking brownies for her famous sundaes with homemade ice cream. Mark reached over to scoop up a glob of batter with this finger.
“Oh no you don’t,” Sandi tapped the back of Mark’s hand with her spatula. “These are for the block party tonight. That reminds me, would you go get the tables and chairs out of the garage? And be sure and get all of the chairs – the Parkers are coming over, too.”
“Aw, Mom,” Mark said. “Not the Parkers. Jessi always wants to play with us guys.” Jojo wagged her stump. She could always count on Jessi to slip her a morsel or 2 under the table.
“Now you be nice to Jessi,” Sandi said. “She may be a tomboy, but she’s a good kid.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” Mark sighed, obviously not too thrilled about the prospect.
Jojo followed him outside and supervised the setting up of the tables. Mark’s father, Tom, played ball with her for a while when he got home. That was nice.
An hour later, the neighbors began to gather for the summer kickoff block party. This would be the first of a series of weekly cookouts that would stretch through the summer. Sergeant Billings, who lived across the street, had the street blocked off for the festivities. The men fired up the grill and talked baseball, the ladies swam in the Olsen’s pool next door, and kids and dogs played basketball in the street.
The grownups called the kids in for dinner, and everyone gathered in a big circle holding hands and giving thanks. Jojo guarded the serving table from the other dogs during the blessing and checked the ground for any scrap that may have fallen in her reach. It was, after all, her yard.
The festivities continued late into the night. The grownups played bridge, while the kids gathered around the television to watch some pet detective track down a missing dolphin. Jojo wondered how a dolphin could go missing, or even what a dolphin is, for that matter. But as long as Mark kept petting her, that was all right with her.
After the last dog had left with his family, Jojo followed Mark into his room and jumped onto the bed. After her requisite two and a half turns, she settled down with her head resting on Mark’s legs. As she drifted off to sleep she thought about how nice to have a whole season all her own. The dog days of summer had arrived.
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