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This is a story about Olive, who wasn’t actually a dog. She only looked like one.

She trained her masters early on to believe they were training her.

Well past the puppy stage, she maintained a strict regimen of two meals daily. The morning meal was expected the minute Mrs. Master stepped into her slippers. Of course, some mornings arrived earlier for Olive than they did for the Masters, and she diligently climbed the fourteen steps to Mrs. Master and her slippers, using her rubbery black nose as a bumper to push open the bedroom door. On the rare occasions when the Masters didn’t notice the sound produced by sixteen toenails repeating on a wood floor, Olive situated her rump and thick vigorously wagging tail between the aluminum mini-blinds and something not normally loud—an empty paper sack for instance. Mrs. Master, startled awake, moseyed sleepily downstairs, Olive at her heels, convinced it was her idea to get up early on those particular mornings.

Olive’s morning pills were given fancy names like filet mignon, beluga caviar, foie gras, and wild truffles from Italy. Mrs. Master tossed one after the next into the air, calling each by name. Olive enthusiastically caught the pills, letting Mrs. Master go on thinking that she thought they really were those fancy things Mrs. Master said they were.

Olive’s evening meal was served promptly at 5:30pm, until it was changed to 4:30, and then 3:30, slowly edging closer to 2:30. When asked, Mrs. Master had no explanation for the changes, except to say that Olive was extremely persuasive indeed.

When she wasn’t curled up in her comfy brown leather easy chair watching Mrs. Master write her book, she was in the kitchen helping her lady, who was nothing if not careless, dropping grapes and snippets of carrots, green beans, and broccoli, which Olive dutifully picked up—unless it was celery.

To Mrs. Master she was completely devoted—all day long.

But when it came time for bed, it was Mr. Master who was king. Recognizing his getting-ready-for-bed noises, Olive greeted him at the bottom of the stairs. Unbeknownst to Mrs. Master, Mr. Master treated Olive to a ‘cookie’ every night before he retired. After that Olive made a sweep of the kitchen floor for such treasures as almonds and toasted cereal flakes that Mr. Master left behind.

Almost every day, Olive went for a swim. Despite years of effort, she was unsuccessful in training the Masters not to notice her drying off on the wool Berber carpet.

The older she got the more selective her hearing became. “Are you wet?” once sent her scurrying for her kennel. “Out!” meant something. So did, “Come here.” Maybe she’s deaf the Masters concluded. But when one quietly asked the other, “Did you feed her?” although two rooms away, in a quasi-coma, Olive would appear suddenly, as if by magic.

She was in fact often mistaken for being in a coma. Some years ago, she took to sleeping in the supine position, on her back, legs up. The Masters found it unnerving when, without moving any other muscles, her eyes followed them as they passed.

Wherever the Masters were at any given moment, so was Olive. Whether under the table while they ate, between their chairs while they read or watched a movie, sitting outside by the pool or chatting together in Mrs. Master’s office, Olive was at their feet.

These were her peeps. And she had them trained just the way she liked them. She was in fact still working with the Masters right up to the very end. She never gave up on them.

It takes a lifetime to train these guys, she always said. Olive’s efforts paid off. The Masters were completely devoted to her—and miss her incredibly.

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