Grace held the flashcard in front of Aurora’s ice-blue eyes and waited. Aurora just stared at the card and yawned. Right in Grace’s face.
It had been a month since Grace began trying to teach her dog to read. According to the book she had purchased, they should be making some progress by now. Every day Grace held up the big placards boldly printed with a variety of words Aurora already knew: sit, down, shake. Always a stickler for details, Grace followed the instructions in the book to the letter. At first, when she showed the cards to her Siberian husky she called out the words printed on them. Then she lavished her big dog with praise (and more than a few liver treats) when she followed the command. After repeating this procedure every day for a few weeks, the dog was supposed to “read” the word on the flashcard and follow the command.
Maybe I should make a YAWN flashcard, Grace thought. She grinned as she imagined all the new cards she could create: yawn, look bored, lick your chops.
It was pretty ridiculous, she supposed. Teaching a dog to read. But, as a writer, Grace naturally believed reading was important. If her dog was capable of reading, then Aurora would read. Even if it was only a few flashcards with simple commands.
Grace began packing up her dog-reading supplies and Aurora plopped down on the sofa with a heavy sigh. She had just found a place in the freezer for the liver treats when Aurora started woo-wooing at the front door.
“Sure, you look alive when doorbell rings.” Grace kissed the husky on the muzzle. “You are a terrible student, you know.”
The U.P.S. man, who unknowingly held in his hands the pinnacle of Grace’s writing career, stood on her porch.
“The first copies of my book are here!” Grace, never so happy to see a man in uniform, hastily scribbled her name in the little box on the electronic scanner.
Aurora hovered over her owner’s shoulder as she carefully opened the carton. Then, there it was, nestled among the packing materials. Her first book in print, at last.
She held its shiny cover up to her face and wept. Aurora rose up on brawny hind legs and licked the tears from Grace’s cheeks. She hated it when Grace cried.
“It’s okay, Aurora. I’m fine.” Grace tried to reassure her, but she knew in her heart it was a lie. She was nowhere near fine. For the past two weeks she hadn’t even been able to sleep, opting instead to eat ice cream in her bathrobe while she and Aurora enjoyed late night movies on cable.
To make matters worse, no one seemed understand.
“Grace, you should be thrilled. You’ve dreamed of being a writer since you were a little girl. Now you’ve finally done it.” Her mother’s words had meant to encourage, but they only reminded Grace of her deepest fears and insecurities.
Sure, she was a published writer now. But, what if no one bought her book?
This is the thought that kept her awake a night. The thought that crept its way into her mind when she did the dishes and walked her dog. She was just an ordinary girl. Why on earth would anyone want to read something she had written?
Grace sank to the floor and clutched her throat. She felt as if she couldn’t breathe.
I wonder if this is what a panic attack feels like.
Grace expected Aurora to pounce on her when she hit the floor, but when the dog trotted into view she clutched a book between her powerful jaws. Aurora dropped the book in front of Grace and let out an anxious sled dog cry, “Woo woo.”
Then, to Grace’s astonishment, Aurora began digging at the book. When it flipped open to a page near the middle, the husky hit it with her paw and let out another woo-woo.
The young author looked down at the book at her feet. It was her Bible, opened to a familiar highlighted passage:
“For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Chills ran up and down Grace’s spine. “Aurora, how on earth?”
Then she wrapped her arms around her dog’s downy neck and asked God’s forgiveness. After all, she should have been the one reading all this time.
Teach Your Dog to Read by Bonnie Bergin, Ed.D. and Sharon Hogan, published by Broadway Books, New York.
Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Holy Bible, New International Version.
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