Mr. Blue Sky
Mr. Blue Sky is a cream-colored golden retriever, four years old and mostly past his frenetic puppy stage. He lives with a first-time dog owner, a single woman who named him after the Electric Light Orchestra song. (Although the song is cheerful, it has hints of melancholy, because Mr. Blue Sky isn’t going to live forever.) He’s a force of cheer and minor chaos. His swishing tail knocks things off the coffee table, and he barrels into kitchen chairs and topples them. But all is forgiven. You look at him, and the words, “Good boy,” automatically spring to your lips. Also, as his owner likes to tell herself, “Mr. Blue Sky is living here today.” What a good day it is.
Jolene is a brown French poodle, not a show dog but still pretty. At age 2, she came to live with a married couple. The wife wanted her badly, but the husband hated the idea of a dog, which led to quite a few fights about how they’d afford Jolene (a name the wife thought was pretty). After a short while, the husband did warm up to the dog, who liked to lie next to him on the couch when he watched football. The marital quarrels continued, and the wife accused her husband of enjoying the dog’s company more than hers. During the divorce proceedings, they arranged for shared custody of Jolene, who seems unruffled at the periodic switch in households, though she has a slight preference for the ex-husband, because his couch is more comfortable.
Lovely Rita is a border collie introduced as a puppy to a household with four kids, one cat, and two parents (one a Beatles fan). From the beginning, she showed a love of order and a need to impose it on her surroundings. She’s trained to get the kids out of bed in the morning and gently herd them to bed in the evenings. (She has also attempted without success to keep the cat from ever leaving the kitchen.) More recently, she has extended her responsibilities to the parents – chivvying the dad off the couch when he’s been watching TV for too long and nudging the mom to bed at one in the morning. Someone’s got to keep the household healthy and functioning, and that’s clearly Lovely Rita’s job.
Recently adopted by an elderly bachelor, Sergeant Pepper is a 6-year-old pug who struts around like a retired military officer with tons of stories about his glory days. He also emits peppery farts that flavor the air of his owner’s one-room apartment. The dog’s snores and snorts are preferable to the lonely silence of before, and although Sergeant Pepper pretends to be aloof sometimes (especially when denied a snack), really what he likes best is to cuddle on the couch and nap intensely at his owner’s side.
Mack the Knife
This five-year-old American akita was adopted by a married couple who silently switched his name from Mack to Mack the Knife because they find him a tad disturbing. Sleek and unreadable, he’s responsible for the uptick in dead squirrels and rabbits on his owners’ one-acre property. Recently, he’s expanded the scope of his activities to cats. A couple of strays at first (no one would miss them), but last week it was Ginger Snap, the neighbor’s tabby, who turned up in the hedge a bloody mess. Mack’s owners quietly disposed of the cat, and they won’t meet their neighbor’s eyes as he hands out flyers with Ginger Snap’s photo under the word MISSING. He suspects them, but there’s no proof, and really, why did he let his cat roam outdoors?