At 3 a.m. I push back the covers, grope with my toes for my slippers, pad down the stairs in the dark. Riley is right behind me. I free Rosie from her crate (she calls it her "cage," with scorn, but she actually likes it), carry her out the back door for her midnight pee.
Riley sits on the top step of the porch, watching over us, our sentinel. She finishes, I scoop her up, and Riley leads the way back into the house.
In the morning, he growls at her when she tries to jump onto the table as I fix her breakfast. He's warning her: That's not how it's done around here, kid.
Outside, he goes into beautiful play bows with her and races in big loops around the yard. She tears after him, tumbles ass over teakettle, stops to dig a hole. He comes back, barks, goes into the play bow again. Keep on point, kid.
After breakfast, she goes back into solitary confinement and he and I head out around the lake to say hello to the sunrise, the herons, the twittering morning birds. When did he stop pulling on the leash? I remember so clearly working with him on this, being endlessly frustrated, certain he would never learn to behave. But now he is walking nicely at my side. Yes, there's the occasional startle at a pair of racing squirrels, or a bark at a passing dog, but these days he ignores passing dogs as often as he barks at them.
Last night we made the mile loop past the Orchard Rec Center and back down Como, where we were stopped by a train. As we waited, my mind wandered--to work, and to the next few overly busy weeks, and talks to give and places to go, and when will Rosie stop biting, and ... And when the train finally passed and the bells rang and the guard arms lifted, I looked down, and there was Riley, standing quietly, waiting for my command, watching my face.
My Wild Boy, somewhere between Boscoe's long decline and the rise of the little wolverine we call Rosie, is no longer the wild boy, the little guy, the misfit we need to apologize for. He has become a true and steady friend, and a wonderful stalwart dog.