The puppy flung herself into the surprised officer’s arms.

It all started when Beloved, the puppy and I agreed to help out at a funeral attended by 300 people, including an honor guard, for a female officer. It was held at our church as the officer’s home church was too small for that number of people.

Beloved served on the altar, and I was supposed to help with ushering… but the crowd wasn’t familiar with the music, so instead I stood at the back and bellowed the hymns. Modesty aside, I have an Ethel Merman voice – I’m no great musician, but I’m reasonably accurate with a tune and my lungs are strong enough to take the lid off the church.

But I also had Miss M with me, in her puppy vest. I only had a small bottle of water with me, and after howling the first hymn at full volume, I was in sore need of replacement. I don’t care for the tap water at the church, and I knew there was a bottled water dispenser in the church office. So off we waddled.

I flung open the door and came face to face with all of the honor guards who weren’t actually on the altar (they were rotating throughout the service), where they sat in their formal attire. Oh, HELL but damn I can’t go to the kitchen to get a drink, not with a catering company in there and me toting a dog.

Excuse me, I muttered, as I headed for the cooler.

Miss M hesitated, walked in and I do not know WHAT happened but by gum, an officer sitting there suddenly had an overjoyed yellow lab climbing into his lap, her baseball-bat tail thunking at top speed into everything as she lost complete control of her licker… all over his face.

And that lovely man was just as enchanted with yon dog as she was with him. He almost had her off the floor in his arms after he recovered from the shock of a retriever who instantly decided he was her long-lost love.

Understand, it’s been more than a couple of weeks since that pup has seen shampoo.

Here! Rumbled another officer. Catch! As he lobbed a sticky lint roller at the dog lover.

I dragged the puppy away and, horrified, caught a glimpse of the man’s formerly black uniform. He was almost palomino with all the fur on his impeccably pressed outfit. Oh, my god.

He was actually really nice about it, although he had to use at least three sticky sheets to get himself cleaned up. Even then, he had a few stray blonde hairs here and there.

On the whole, Miss M was rather well behaved at the funeral, considering she was in the midst of distraught strangers for three hours. The worst behavior occurred when, while I was belting out the Cwm Rhondda (it’s the Welsh national anthem (pronounced COOM RHON-dah, roll the r) but it’s also the tune to a couple of hymns), she decided it was time for snackies.

Hymnal open to Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
Cwm Rhondda

We’ve been working on her tendency to tap us with her right front paw when she wants attention (and generally attention = treats). She was DONE and she wanted nibbles.

The church was packed to the gunnels and let’s face it, a guide dog puppy in training is a welcome distraction upon which to gaze when you’re in a really unhappy situation such as this.

Especially when she’s gleefully misbehaving. I was finishing up the first verse when I felt a tap on my leg. I’d been ignoring the nuzzling she’s been doing with her nose…

When you’re singing and everyone in the church can hear you because you’re freaking loud and almost no one else is singing at much above a whisper, you can’t really stop and tell the dog to put her darn foot down.

I edged away. The two ladies in the pew next to the aisle in which I stood were watching the pupper and giggling. I edged a bit further but there really wasn’t any room because we were already… well… rather full.

TAP.

Dog: Mommy I need snackies

Me, as subtly and rapidly as possible, in between verses: Knock it off.

Dog, poking me again: No I need snackies

TAP. TAP TAP.

More people noticed as the ladies started nudging others.

I stomped my foot to try to get her paw off my dress, a thin black jersey number.

Didn’t work.

TAP. TAP TAP TAP TAP TAAAAAAAAAP…

It felt like half the left side of the sanctuary was gazing amusedly. Meanwhile, the organ continued to whonk its way through the hymn, meant to be sung by a large crowd of harmonizing, hale-and-hearty faithful.

Instead, it was just me, an impatient dog and a couple of other Episcopalians in the distance familiar with the tune, but the sheer number of bodies in the church absorbed their voices.

Dog: you don’t get it I need snackies I really really really need snackies

I stood alone with a dog intent upon getting treaties with a hymn that kept pressing on… I couldn’t stop to correct her.

TAP. TAPTAPTAPTAPTAAAAAAPTAPTAP…

I cannot stand it any more. I considered singing “Stop it now!” instead of say “be thou still” but I figured neither the family nor the priest would appreciate my predicament.

Mercifully the hymn ended with no small amount of giggling on the part of the congregants – so I had the chance to get the dog outta there.

On the positive side, maybe it cheered up a few people during a really awful time. But we’re going to keep working on the begging.

In her vest.

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