Toby comes flying across the yard to my come command. He's actually coming for the treat, but these days it's the behavior, not the motivation, that we care about. I've gotten as far away from him as possible before calling. Not to test him. But so that I can have longer to watch his Dumbo ears dancing in the wind of his sprint.
I am madly in love with Toby's ears.
The day we picked him out, his ears were the third thing I saw. The first and second were his color and his size. The darkest and biggest of the litter. And his ears. Oh his ears. Hanging like angel's wings on either side of that sweet face. Two of his brother's ears could have fit into one of Toby's.
Toby loves his ears, too. He'll lie on his bed not quite awake, not quite asleep, and suck on the end of whatever ear is on the bottom. The comfort of it is so great that he lathers the tip into a slimy dripping mess before he's satisfied enough to let sleep carry him into doggy dream fields.
I find similar comfort in his ears. To bury my face in their warm buttered toast fragrance and airy eider down softness is enough to smooth the jagged edges off most any day. Flopping them playfully up and down, back and forth, up and down again, makes me happy in an unreasoned and unfathomable way.
These ears have their own language.
Hung softly against his face as he wakes up they say, "Good morning. I missed you. The night was long."
Hung low and long during and after correction they say, "I'm sorry. I don't mean to be bad. I won't ever do it again. Please love me."
Pushed forward to frame his face in full glory they say, "I am a force to be reckoned with. Wanna play?"
Alternating soft and full glory when he sees us after we've been out of sight - no matter whether it's been a minute or hours - they shout, "I've missed you so much. I was afraid you weren't coming back. I'm so glad to see you."
Then there's the pushed back, aerodynamic look that occurs when he's tearing circles through the bird area and we're making it clear he's in for it when we catch him. Those ears are singing, "Look at me go! Isn't this fun?!"
He arrives at my feet, ears in the full glory position, bottom planted firmly on the ground, ready for the treat. I give him what he's come for, flop his ears and say, "good boy Toby-Tobe, what a good dog you are."
Before he has a chance to finish his treat, I slip away - as far away as I can get in our yard - and call. "Toby, Come!"
My heart lifts as his Dumbo ears fly him to me again. And just as it does every time we play this game, a tiny flicker of my heart expects to see big air beneath his feet.