It was going to be good, it was going to be sooooo good, don’t you know Cedric could almost hardly stand the anticipation. Every few minutes, one of Cedric’s people would hurry about with something to add to the table, which he was careful to avoid. Especially since the meat was not done yet. Nevertheless, even before all the food was out and ready to be served, the smells that filled his nostrils had sent him almost all the way to heaven. The house was looking especially festive with a new bouquet of flowers; the aroma of bread baking in the oven filled the air; and just now, THE DADDY was grilling the steaks that he had bought the day before for their BIG EVENING.
In just a few minutes, one of THE BROTHER’s friends and his parents were coming over for food and fellowship, and everyone was looking forward to this little vacation from their regular routines.
“Are they here yet?” called THE BROTHER.
“Not yet, Honey,” THE MOMMY REPLIED. “Just be patient. They’ll be here before you know it,” she called over her shoulder, as she brought a stack of colorful cloth napkins to the table and began laying one next to each of the plates. “By the way,” she continued, “You can make the time go faster by sweeping by the front door. I know that is something you’ve been meaning to do, right?”
“Awww, Mom!” But, as Cedric watched from the corner of his eye, THE BROTHER walked over to the cleaning closet, retrieved the broom, and began vigorously sweeping by the door. Cedric decided that now might be a good time to move to a different locale to keep vigil.
Moving as inconspicuously as he could into the dining room, Cedric made a conscientious effort not to shake his head, as this would have been bad form. But even he knew how hard waiting was on a person. Especially toward the end. If he had had a watch of his own, Cedric would have been checking it constantly. As it was, he had to content himself with furtive glances toward the dining room clock, an impressive oversized time-piece covered with large Roman numerals. Yet, he couldn’t tell by looking at the clock that the hands were actually moving. Could the battery have died?
No matter. Cedric had no idea where spare batteries were stored, and even if he had been privy to such information, he lacked the dexterity to do the necessary work. Even Fluffy herself left such matters alone. “It’s just not worth the hassle! Do you really want to have to try to explain to THE FAMILY how you got the clock off the wall in the first place, and how you managed to crack or break both the front and the back of it?” she snapped.
Cedric started backing away as soon as she started yapping about it. Why all this fuss? He only brought it up casually a few minutes earlier, hoping for an easy way to pass the time. Instead, he looked for a quiet spot far under the table, where he sat down to take care of a few last-minute grooming routines while waiting for the guests to arrive. He took special care to make sure he avoided eye-contact with the now-stressed Fluffy.
While he was finishing his preparations, the oven door opened, letting out even more of that beautiful smell. His mouth was watering already, as he contemplated sinking his teeth into a lovely, soft, new piece of fresh bread with his name on it. A huge, welcoming smile started working its way across his face, just to be cut short by another one of Fluffy’s unwelcome remarks. “It’s not for you!” she barked.
“What are you talking about?” he demanded. “And why are you so snappy and impatient with me?”
“You really don’t know what’s coming?”
“I was expecting course after course of beautiful food, followed by stimulating dinner conversation, a few games, and lots of extra hands for petting!”
“Ha? Is something funny?”
“You are, Cedric! Do you really believe all this is for you?”
“You mean it isn’t?” Unexpectedly, Cedric felt his eyes start to water. “That’s just not possible! THE BROTHER and THE SISTER have been talking to me about this for days. Even THE MOMMY talked to me for several minutes this afternoon about the menu and the after-dinner board games they have scheduled. Why in the world wouldn’t we be included?”
Fluffy actually sighed. And was that a little tear he saw trickling down her nose?
“Fluffy, what aren’t you telling me?”
While Cedric waited for an explanation, Fluffy sighed again, licking her front paws for several long minutes before she finally looked up. “None of this is your fault,” she whispered, gently, this time. “When I was your age, I had all the same expectations.”
“What expectations?” Carefully, he raised one of his eyebrows higher than the other, flaunting this little trick because he knew that it drove Fluffy crazy to see that he could do something that she had never been able to master. While pretending to see to something on his front paws, Cedric threw a careless glance Fluffy’s direction, yet pretended not to notice her noticing him.
Was it working? Was he getting to her?
“I’ve gotta get outta here!” the older dog panted breathlessly, running down the hall into one of the bedrooms.
“Wait, Fluffy! Wait! Was it something I said?”
She had taken off too fast. Cedric wasn’t sure which door to take. If he went straight down the hall, he would end up in the master suite, where Fluffy usually camped. But that was so obvious. Maybe she didn’t want to be followed.
If I were Fluffy, he thought to himself, where would I go to be alone? Hmmmm. “Fluffy?” he called, as quietly as he could.
Was she in THE BROTHER’s room? THE BROTHER had a bed that Fluffy could turn into her own personal cave if she was stressed enough. He’d better start there.
Before he had traveled very far down the hall, Cedric could already hear the muffled sounds of quiet sobbing coming from under THE BROTHER’s bed.
“Is this a bad time for us to continue our conversation?” he whispered, leaning under the bed.
“What do you think, Cedric?” she sniffed.
“Can I get you anything?” he asked, softly.
“There’s nothing anyone can get me right now, you big oaf!!”
“Do you want me to leave? Or is it better for me to stay here?”
Fluffy sighed heavily, sniffed a few times, then sighed again. “You might as well just stay put, Cedric. I just heard the front door open. The people are here, and the party has begun.”
Cedric’s eyes lit up. But just for a second. A moment later, Fluffy spoke the words that sucked all the life and joy right out of the evening for him: “As I was saying earlier, Cedric, none of this is for you. Nor for me. This party is for THE PEOPLE. We think, sometimes, that they serve us – they keep the house clean, and bring in the food, and take out the trash, and arrange for treats and good treatment for us, and sometimes even entertainment.”
“Well, that’s good, isn’t it?” he asked.
“Where are you living, Cedric? Does this look like the Garden of Eden to you? Or are you living somewhere after THE FALL?”
Cedric had to admit that as good as things sometimes were, they had definitely left THE GARDEN. In fact, he doubted he had ever seen the place.
Without meaning to, he found himself sighing along with Fluffy.
“How old are you now, Cedric? Actual age, then PEOPLE YEARS.”
“Uh, let me see. My birthday was sometime last September (no one told me the exact date), and it’s August. I must be about 11 months. That’s not quite 7 in PEOPLE YEARS.”
“That’s right, Cedric. You are about equivalent to a five-or-six-year-old PERSON, which you’ll never be.”
“Whatever do you mean, Milady?”
Fluffy rubbed her face several times across the backs of her front paws. When she looked up, she sighed again. “This isn’t some carelessly thrown together spaghetti dinner, where you are encouraged to lick people’s plates when they’re done, or where you can jump into the first lap that looks inviting. This is A DINNER PARTY.”
“I knew that!”
“A DINNER PARTY. FOR PEOPLE.”
“I knew that, too.”
“I don’t think you do, Cedric, or you would know why I am feeling so stressed and depressed right now. You really don’t understand. And at your age, you can’t be expected to understand. Experience will bring you around. But it would be cruel for me to wish this hard experience on someone with such a happy, cheerful disposition as you still have.”
“What happened to you, Fluffy?”
She sighed again, but was no longer tearing up. “I was young and enthusiastic once. I loved MY PEOPLE and their friends, and having people over, and having parties. But over time, I learned that even though THE PEOPLE talk about me as if I am a part of THE FAMILY, in a lot of ways, I can never be.”
Cedric inhaled sharply, blinking several times to try to drive away a sudden attack of unexpected dizziness. Where did that come from? He wondered. It’s a good thing I’m already lying down, or I could be in a lot of trouble.
When he looked up, Fluffy was staring at him. “Are you okay, Buster?”
“My name is NOT BUSTER! And no, I am not okay. Not okay like I was before you came along to bust my bubble of overflowing happiness.”
“Well,” she sniffed, “It’s not like it was completely avoidable. No matter how long we live here, or how much we think that OUR PEOPLE really do love us, we’re just THE DOGS. We’re just THE SECURITY DETAIL. We’re THE TEDDY BEARS THAT KISS YOU BACK. But the one thing we will never be is THE PEOPLE. PEOPLE get steaks. DOGS get leftovers. If we’re lucky. Which we probably won’t be tonight because those are especially good steaks. I can tell by the smell.”
Cedric felt his spirits falling. But apparently, Fluffy wasn’t finished sharing bad news. She went on, “PEOPLE do important things. DOGS are told to move out of the way. You know, Cedric, if we hadn’t already moved out of the dining room, someone would have moved us down the hall with or without our permission. That’s what we can expect when PEOPLE have A DINNER PARTY.”
“Where are Cedric and Fluffy?” THE DADDY was asking. “Has someone already put them away for now?” Heavy footsteps thumped down the hall before THE DADDY poked his head through to see where Cedric and Fluffy had gone. “There y’all are! Well, you guys behave yourselves now. We’ll try and save you some leftovers,” he called over his shoulder as he shut the door. “If there ARE any leftovers.”
Fluffy actually poked Cedric as they considered these words. “Do you see what I mean now?”
Cedric sighed. “I’m beginning to.”
“Honey, where are those steaks? Did Cedric get to them before we could put them out?” THE DADDY asked, in tones that were an anxious octave higher than normal.
“Wouldn’t be the same party without the steaks, now would it, Sergei?” one of the guests was saying.
“Honey? What about those steaks?”
“Why can’t we find the steaks?”
The sounds of nervous laughter and shuffling feet filled the air for a few seconds, then THE MOMMY said, “Oh, yeah. I’m sorry. I put the steaks up high in the cabinet where Ceddie couldn’t reach it. He thinks steaks are only for him. In fact, if he could talk, he’d tell you he’s a people. Not just a person. That’s not quite important enough for our Cedric. According to him, he’s THE LEADER, and he runs the show. But what can you expect? Dogs! Can’t live without ‘em, and can’t live without ‘em!”
Several people laughed. Fluffy looked daggers at Cedric before she announced, “See? What did I tell you?”
Cedric felt his spirits fall even farther. Oh, the unfairness of it all! When he thought about all the many nights he had lost sleep while he was on patrol for these pompous, ungrateful people, he just felt sick. Why, why, WHY would they treat him like this? Didn’t they know how much he protected them? He worked hard for HIS PEOPLE. It was a shame they treated him and Fluffy so shabbily!
Fiercely, he blinked back tears. “Don’t tell me it actually gets worse than this,” he groaned.
“Oh, I’ve only just begun with the bad news. That was just the tip of the iceberg. But, wait! There’s more to this special offer! PEOPLE tell secrets. DOGS receive secrets that we can never share with anyone else. Some of these secrets give us a lot of new grey hairs. Especially the faithful dogs: the ones who really care. PEOPLE go out and have adventures. DOGS are told to just conform.” Fluffy stopped her to look Cedric straight in the eye for a full minute.
“It’s sometimes just too much, Cedric. I am getting too old for this kind of treatment! I am 13 years old already. That’s over 70 years old in PEOPLE YEARS. A real person that age would receive the best seat and the best food in the house, not to mention a ton of respect. What did I get in MY SENIOR YEARS? A puppy to rough-house with me when my bones are too old and fragile to appreciate this kind of treatment. Plus, now I have to compete with you for the stupid leftovers!”
Without looking her direction, Cedric began digging through the covers on THE BROTHER’s bed. “Look what I’ve found! It’s a minty treat THE BROTHER told THE SISTER he was saving for us. Would you like some? If it would make you feel better, I can let you have the whole thing. What do you say, Fluffy? And can I find you a better, more comfortable seat?”
Sobbing again. Fluffy’s whole face was a river of hot tears when she looked up at him. “That would be so nice, Cedric. Thank you!”
“You’re welcome,” he replied, pushing the treat toward her.
“You know, Fluffy,” he continued, “I really don’t think OUR PEOPLE realize how they are making us feel. Otherwise they would be a little kinder and gentler to us. Do you really think that they want to be mean to us on purpose?” As he spoke these words, Cedric meditated on some of Jesus’ words from the cross, spoken as he was dying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Jesus must have forgiven a lot of ignorant things! Cedric thought. Maybe He wants us to follow His example here.
Cedric closed his eyes for just the tiniest moment, intending to pray for just a minute or two. “Lord God,” he began, “You know how we feel. You know how disappointed Fluffy is in THE PEOPLE and THE PARTY. And You also know how much I was looking forward to a PARTY I can’t even attend. We feel used. We feel unappreciated. We feel like outcasts. And we feel this whole thing isn’t fair, and You should be doing something about it!”
Maybe he had said too much. Could one really talk to the High King of the Universe like this? On the other hand, Cedric had already heard a lot of TV preachers saying that God knows how we feel. “It’s no use trying to hide the truth about ourselves or trying to make ourselves look better than we are!” they all said. Cedric sometimes wondered if they were all, somehow, reading from the same script when they said that because he had heard those words so many times already he could practically quote them word-for-word.
Well, there was nothing for it but to be completely honest, if that was the case. “I wish You would do something about our low feelings and our low position. Would You please do something to help us?” he asked, biting his tongue a little even as he silently prayed the words.
Before he knew what had happened, Cedric felt a beautiful peace settle over him like a warm, snuggly blanket on a bitter cold night. His worries were somehow evaporating.
He didn’t know he had been sleeping until THE SISTER was patting his head. “Ceddie,” she said, “I have a little something I saved for you and Fluffy. Here it is,” she said, placing two small, but still generous, portions of steak in front of him and his sister dog. “I have to get back before someone sees me,” THE SISTER whispered. “But I knew you were feeling a little left out. I love you sweet doggies, and I’ll see you later tonight for snuggles, okay? Bye, now.” And with that, she left them, gently shutting the hall door behind her.
Fluffy was already eating her piece of steak, when Cedric reminded her, “This is purely the answer to our prayers, don’t you know! Did you know I had been praying for God to sooth our hurt feelings? And see? He showed us He remembered us, even when it looked like we were all forgotten and alone.”
“You prayed for this?” she asked.
“You taught me,” he replied, smiling.
“I did, didn’t I?”
“Don’t be too proud of yourself, old girl! THE MOMMY and THE SISTER also taught me a thing or two about prayer.”
“I believe you,” she said, starting to smile a little herself. “Next time, Cedric, if it’s okay with you, maybe we could pray together?”
“I’d like that,” he replied, trying to smile around the lovely, delicious, heavenly meat he was chewing.
Please note that because of an accelerated schedule this year, along with other writing commitments, “Moments with Cedric” will be appearing only every other week. Thank you for understanding.
Praying for God to open your eyes to the joys all around you and the ones you love,