"Zachary, you want to come over for hot dogs?" I ask my nine-year-old neighbor as his head pops out the door.
"Yeah. I love hot dogs."
Orion zips out from behind my door and leaps towards Zachary.
"I think he likes me," he says, as Orion tries desperately to lick his face. Zachary has come into our lives at day one, stumbling out of a red van, back pack swinging from his shoulder, "Hey, I see you out here. Can I play with your dog?" Jumping skiddishly back from the six and a half week old pup, he asks if he can follow us inside to continue playing with him. Little did I know this was really a ploy to play Lego World on my computer for hours. However, Zachary is a good conversationalist and fills me in on fascinating new facts, and makes me feel like my apartment is a little community.
As Orion has grown, Zachary has decided to take an interest.
"I thought I'd come over and do some dog trainings," he says, peering around for my bag of treats. I tell him about how when we ask Orion to sit we need to say, "Good sit," before handing the treat. "Good paw." "Good come." "You see," I tell him as we're looping around the neighborhood, "a dog can learn words just like humans can. We get five seconds to reward him after the behavior he does. So if he does something well, we want to use the word of what he did so in those five seconds he learns what it means."
Zachary is bundled in my oversized sweatshirt because his mother works the night shift and we didn't want to bother his sitter. "This is like I'm buried in a dress!" he chuckles. I'm smiling at his expressions. His mom is from Honduras and English is likely not the first language he has learned, therefore, his expressions cause me pause. Lately he's taken to teaching me Spanish as well.
"Okay call him," I say as Orion stuffs his head into a shrub.
"Orion come!" Zachary shouts, and Orion comes tearing out of the shrub with a broken plastic garden pot dangling from his mouth. "Did you know that if you use a gentle voice he listens better?" he tells me.
"No, I didn't know that," I say, smiling at the ways Zachary confidently shares what he is learning about training dogs.
"You know, you're a pretty good Training Assistant," I say, "I'm glad you accepted the position."
"I know," he says, and we walk inside.