Portion of each book sale donated to animal rescue organizations.
Lance continued to impress me. However much he may have suffered physically over the years, there were few signs of wear and tear. Despite the neglect and isolation, he showed no bitterness. He was a very spunky dog.
Following one of our walks, I returned Lance to the Schmidts’ property and hooked him up to his run. I made myself comfortable on the Schmidts’ lawn and pulled out a biscuit for Lance, sitting alongside me. Instead of letting him take it directly from me, I decided to lay it on the ground in front of him. I assumed he’d snatch it right up. He didn’t. He stared at it. Then he went for the treat with his mouth, but at the last minute, pulled back. Next, he began rolling his head around every which way possible.
What in the world is this dog doing?
Lance was kind enough to answer my question. Eyes still riveted on his treat, he started a ritualistic dance that I would witness countless times thereafter. While continuing to bob his head up and down and from side to side, he mixed in some fancy footwork. He sunk down on all fours and sprung himself into the air to his left. After landing, he sunk down again, and then propelled himself to the right. He went back and forth, performing a few sideways leaps in each direction. Again he lunged at the biscuit as if ready to snatch it, but at the last minute, backed off. He wasn’t done dancing. He assumed a crouching position by lowering his front legs until they were flush with the ground and resting his head on top of his paws. While he was down in the front, his rump went way up in the back. Then, he leapt up on his hind legs, front paws waving in the air as if he were shadow boxing. He did this for a bit before sinking back down into the starting position. Then, up he went again. He repeated this balancing and paw-waving act several times. Throughout the entire performance, his head kept moving as if it were on a bobble toy, his eyes remaining fixed on his prize. When the floor show was finally over, Lance eagerly devoured the biscuit.
Had I just hallucinated? No. So how to explain what I’d just seen? Where did this act come from? How on earth could an untrained dog put together such a complex dance routine? The entire program appeared too polished and rehearsed to be spontaneous, but I was pretty sure Lance never had a single dancing lesson in his life. It wouldn’t surprise me if this was the first time in his life Lance ever performed these moves, finally feeling he had something to dance about. Either he’d kept this artistry on reserve, waiting for just the right moment to premiere it, or I was in the presence of an old dog that could teach himself new tricks. Whichever the case, with talent like that, if he was my dog, he would have been a television star by now. Lance’s footwork deserved a name so I gave it one: the Aztec Side-step, a variation on the name of a seventies/eighties folk rock group (Aztec Two-Step, for you younger readers).
A few days later, we returned from another trek. Just for the heck of it, I started a little break dance of my own, very un-choreographed and extremely unprofessional. My hunch was correct. Lance—no treat required—immediately got into the spirit of things, showing off his more sophisticated gyrations. Ten-plus years old, and hard years at that, and here he was acting like a puppy. This dog was something else!
Eventually, it didn’t matter where we were. If the mood struck me, I’d begin my jig, knowing Lance would join in. It did my heart good to watch him. He looked so happy that I’d briefly forget about what his first ten years must have been like. No doubt forgetting the past wasn't so easy for Lance. It probably was impossible.
Over the ensuing months, we continued to perfect our individual dancing styles, often on the Schmidts’ lawn following a walk. No doubt the neighbors were quite entertained by our stellar performances. As for the Schmidts, who knows what they thought of all this? Who cares?