Mu is talented because he enjoys his work, but he also has a skill for simply enjoying life. Mu is the champion of napping. Whether he is sleeping by himself on the couch or in a favorite chair, or if he is napping with one of his people, or the other dogs, Mu has a way of twisting himself into the nap, a ballet of sleep. He can curl up tight or sprawl out if he gets hot. He naps by the fireplace, often convincing someone to turn on the gas fire just for him. On a sunny afternoon, he will ask to be let out specifically to take a nap in the sun. Then he comes back in when he gets too hot, in about fifteen minutes. One day, on the ride home, he fell asleep with his nose pointed straight up in the air, and his ears dangling, and he managed somehow to make look like the most comfortable sleep ever. If I fell asleep like that, I would have to go to the hospital, and my neck would never be right again. Mu has a snore that is better than a cartoon dog’s snore. Sometimes it is a gentle little snore, like a cat purring. Other times, he really sounds like a cartoon dog, with his lips sputtering and flapping on the exhale. Every night, Mu sleeps against my back, or against the back of my legs. He turns in a circle and then dives into his sleeping position with his spine against mine. Even on days that he works, Mu sleeps most of the day. I should keep track some time. It must be at least 16 hours a day.
As much as he sleeps, you’d think he wouldn’t have much time left to enjoy other things. He really loves to play with the dogs, mostly Tino and Sky. He will grab a toy or a scrap of cardboard, and he will shake it while doing a play bow in front of one of the other dogs. During this ritual, he growls very low and deep. It is a scary growl, but also happy, like a parent reading a bedtime story to a child and making monster voices for effect. Mu’s monster voice is the best, musical and rich. Once the chase begins, the dogs sprint around the living room, bouncing off the couches or flying over them. Mu can change directions on a dime. Tino usually has more speed and momentum, and often goes flying into a wall or a door. At the off-leash park, Mu can fly over fences. When he was younger, during some searches, he would jump retaining walls as high as seven feet. He doesn’t jump quite as high any more, but most fences are easy for him to sail over. If I throw the ball to him, he jumps about twice as high as he would need to to catch the ball, and sails higher with the ball in his teeth as a kind of end zone celebration.
Mu also loves to eat, of course. If you have treats, he slams into a sit position so that his heels clunk on the floor, because maybe if he sits harder, he will get more treats and faster. All of the dogs get cookies in the morning, and it makes for a symphony of crunching, but Mu adds extra sound effects. He takes each cookie with a snarfling inhalation, again like a cartoon character. He doesn’t just enjoy his treats the normal amount the other dogs do. He adds an extra dimension to treat time with his own sound effects. The snarfling noises must make the food taste better.
One of the things Mu doesn’t particularly enjoy is having his picture taken. He often looks like I am burning his soul when I ask him to sit and I hold up my iPhone. I have gotten the best pictures of him when he is working or playing, or if I am holding cheese, of course. Even though he doesn’t particularly like having his picture taken, he usually is a good sport about it, and he knows there will be treats or play afterward. I have thousands of pictures of Mu, and at least a hundred that are really pretty good. My favorite pictures capture him in full enjoyment of his work or his play.
Eat, sleep, work, play, Mu enjoys it all. He knows how to live right. He makes an art form of everything he does. Often, while we are conducting a search in a residential area, he will be sniffing along, checking for cats, and he will suddenly tumble onto the lawn, and roll and snort, and get himself a good back scratch. Then after a few moments of that, he pops up and gets back to work. I make the same joke every time, because I’m always with a new person who hasn’t heard it before, that Mu has a contract that specifies 15 seconds of rolling on the lawn for every fifteen minutes of work. People often ask me how I will know if Mu finds a cat, and I reply that the signs will be unmistakable. He pulls hard on the leash and whines. If he just smells the cat but can’t get to it, such as when the cat is under a shed, then he inhales so deeply that you expect the cat to be sucked over to Mu and vacuumed right out of his hiding place. When he sees a cat in the distance, he will whine and bark and jump, and I pull him away so that we won’t displace the cat. He knows he gets the string cheese in my pocket when he finds the cat, and he sits with a clunk and whines for the cheese, and he makes the snarfling sounds as he takes the cheese from my fingers.
I enjoy my work because we help cats and dogs, and we save lives. Mostly I enjoy my work because I get to work with my dogs. We do something that can only be achieved by two species working together. Neither of us could do it alone. My dogs are my friends and my family, and I am very fortunate that my work allows me to be with them all day long. On top of all that, Mu’s love of life is infectious. He enjoys life so much that he makes all our lives better.