The Bell

Living with Burke, I have become accustomed to packages arriving. The PPL guy and I are on a first name basis. When I ask Burke what has arrived in package form, I am often informed not only of the contents of the package, but that I already knew about this. She often informs me of the order at the end of a day of working and editing, when I am reclining on the couch and mentally drooling.

On a Friday in May the buzzer rang, the dog freaked out, and when I picked up the phone I was greeted by a familiar voice.

“Hello Damien,” he said. “I am here with one package.”  

“Hi Lukas. I’ll be right down.”

The package was a square. I brought it up.

“What’s this?”

“You know about this. It’s a bell. I told you about this.”

“What’s the bell for?”

She removed it. It was a small black and white spotted bell. The kind you put on the table and hit on the top to ring. It makes a perfect ding when you hit it, which I did several times until I was further informed of its purpose.  

“No, we put it next to the door and we ring it every time we bring the dog downstairs to pee. She gets used to it. Eventually, she will ring the bell herself when she has to pee.” She put it next to the door. “You know about this. I told you about this.”

I vaguely recall hearing something about a bell during an episode of Parks and Recreation. I nod so as not to look dumb.

“Sure. Yeah, sure.”

For two months I rang the bell each time I brought the dog out. I’d get her leash on, grab two bags (always two bags, a lesson hard learned), and then I’d ding the bell with my foot. When I did this, the dog would look at me with her curiously human eyes as if trying to figure out exactly why this dinging sound now accompanied our trips downstairs. I tried to explain it to her once, but it went over her head. The dog never learned to ding the bell herself.

About a week ago we were in the living room in the evening when we heard a little ding come from the hallway. We looked at each other.

“Did she just …?”

We walked into the hallway. The dog was standing next to the bell and looking up at us as if she had just spoken to us in English.

Walking the dog has become like any other chore in our house. And that means there’s always a bit of a tug-of-war over who has to do it. Mostly, we barter and negotiate with chores in the house. I’ll walk the dog if you do the dishes. I’ll cook and do the dishes if you bring out the dog tomorrow morning. Our dog is a notoriously early riser. However, when she rang that bell I was told (again, I guess) that we had little time to act.

“She needs to understand that if she rings that bell she goes outside to pee,” said Burke.


“I told you that before. You knew that.”


Neither of us had moved. The dog looked at us, wondering what it had all been for. Finally I broke ranks and grabbed her. “You do the dishes.”


The dog has learned that if she rings the bell, we give her attention. Then we bring her outside for a walk. The she gets a treat – her world’s goal. Sometimes we have to hide the bell from her so she won’t use it just to bring her out. She loves her bell. But I knew that. At least, that’s what I hear.

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