My dog is a border collie named Becky. We talk a lot. She knows tons of English. Usually I’m whispering so my husband, Bob, doesn’t hear.

“I’ll try,” I’ll say, when I know she wants to go out with Bob and play. Her favorite place to run and play is our fenced-in backyard.

When Becky hears, “I’ll try,” she leaps into the air and barks crazily.

Then I say to Bob, “Are you busy?”

His response is predictable. “No. Becky wants to go out. I’ll take her.”

Then I say to Becky, “It worked!” And she scrams to the back door.

Bob has no idea he’s been set up. This scenario happens a billion times a day.

My cats talk a lot too, but not to me. They conspire. They plan. They plot. Jordy, a tiny, black, three-legged cat, has figured out how to put his paws around a doorknob and open any door. We put up hook-and-eye locks.

Jordy and his three-legged brother, Ike, would run outside if we opened the back slider. (They’re indoor cats.) So, every single time that Bob is about to take Becky out back, we have to put the brothers in the bedroom — and lock them in. This sounds simple, doesn’t it? It’s not.

You see, they know that when Becky’s barking, we’re going to put them in the bedroom, so they hide under the couch. We have to actually move the couch to get them out.

From the beginning, when I say to Becky, “I’ll try,” until the final phase, when Bob and Becky go out to play, we’ve spent a good half hour orchestrating the operations.

We keep our toilet paper in a cabinet so the cats don’t decorate the house with it. We have to keep the toilet seat down so they don’t jump in. We have had to put a slide-bolt lock on each drawer. Before guests use our bathroom, we give them a set of instructions.

Throughout the night, I get out of bed to find the sources of crashing sounds. By morning, the house looks like a disaster zone. Lamps are on the floor; plant pots are shattered.

Although Becky is 10, I mourn her already. She looks at me, adoringly, through cloudy eyes. She fetches pine needles, although she has a hard time walking. She’d never know she was getting old. Only I do, and it breaks my heart to picture our couch without her on it.

But that’s for someday. Thinking about her ending doesn’t help. It only takes precious time away from what we have today.

And so, now that I hear her barking, I’m going to relish the moment of touching her face, kissing her beautiful forehead, and whispering, “I’ll try.” Then the ruckus will all begin again.


Award-winning nationally syndicated columnist Saralee Perel can be reached at or via her website:

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