A cascade of barks and yelps led Maeve Conley to her kitchen window—and the sorry plight of her neighbor’s bulldog fighting to free his head from the household’s cat door.

Poor Rocco! She’d learned his name only because his standoffish owners occasionally tossed him tennis balls behind their high, picket fence: “Gooood boooy, Rocco!  Gooood boooy!”

Maeve couldn’t abide seeing the poor beast suffer. Her midafternoon languor fleeing, she donned her yard shoes and shuffled toward the neighbor’s house to ring their doorbell. She expected—and received—no answer: they both worked elsewhere, and they’d never shared phone numbers.

Maeve followed Rocco’s loud whines to the side of the house and found the dog struggling frantically to get free.

“You pathetic thing! You’ll rub your neck raw!” 

The dog needed attention immediately. Maeve leaned close to Rocco, clicking her tongue and venturing a gentle pat atop his head. Rocco growled so she pulled back her hand.

“Yes yes, I’d snarl, too!”

Rocco’s distress hastened her back to her house. About to phone 911, she recalled her grandson Tyler’s probing hand stuck in an olive jar—her brainstorm of necessity then being olive oil! Maeve went to her pantry, withdrew a bottle, and hurried back to Rocco.

The dog hadn’t let up, still tossing and jerking his head. Maeve didn’t hesitate: she liberally doused the dog with olive oil from neck to nose. Taken aback by this intervention, Rocco quieted and his tongue crept out as if to sample the oily bath. Cautiously, speaking softly, Maeve placed a hand just behind Rocco’s ears and rubbed, working in the oil. The animal appeared grateful of the attention, so Maeve continued massaging until his coat gleamed with oil.

“Now, be brave. Let’s see what we can do.”

Mindful of the dog’s formidable jaws, Maeve gently grasped the sides of Rocco’s head to align it with the opening, then began pushing inward. She heard the dog’s feet scrabbling inside to gain a purchase, felt a little movement—and the next instant watched Rocco’s head disappear back into the house!

Greatly relieved, Maeve now could catch her breath before jotting a note of explanation she eventually taped to the neighbor’s garage door. Exhausted by all the excitement, she elevated her feet and succumbed to the peace Rocco had earlier shattered.

Maeve’s rest prevented her from noticing the couple’s return, but upon waking, she did see her note had disappeared. Shortly after, she watched the couple pull from their driveway with Rocco peering out the car’s rear window. She also observed their return about an hour later, as well as the woman’s approach toward Maeve’s door.

As the doorbell rang, Maeve readied a gracious acceptance of the couple’s thank you. Instead, she encountered a scowling face. 

The woman waved a slip of paper at Maeve. “We’ve just been to the vet with our Rocco! Not only are there oil stains all over our furniture, the vet had to flush Rocco’s ear canals because of all the oil you carelessly poured on him.”

Maeve drew a deep breath but the woman allowed her no opening.

“His ears are a world of problems as it is! Why didn’t you call 911? They’d have known what to do in a case like this!”

“But your poor dog…”

The woman had already turned away.

Stunned by her neighbor’s ire and feeling a twinge of guilt, Maeve ate an unsatisfying sandwich, started but didn’t finish a chapter in a paperback, and finally gave in to the kindness of a night’s sleep.

The following Saturday, Maeve lugged her gardening chair to her flower patch out back, intent on pulling weeds. Hearing a crisp “woof” before she could settle, she spotted Rocco’s wagging form eyeing her from a gap in the picket fence.

She approached the dog, who whined earnestly as she leaned down to him. “Changed your tune a little, huh?” 

Through the fence, Maeve guardedly extended a couple fingers toward Rocco’s muzzle. He lavished her with licks.

She beamed, the warmth of a dog’s gratitude enveloping her.

“Well, you’re very welcome. I’m glad I could help.”