Been a rough few weeks for Merlin and him. Jack drew the line at firing a gun in the backyard and the base shooting range didn't allow dogs. So he had to play recordings. But Merlin's pretty much over the noise stuff. Oh, there's the occasional flinch at a siren, and the fire truck wail hits both dogs at just the right pitch, so that they howl along with it. But that's normal. Every dog he's had howled along with the fire trucks.

He's even forgiven Jack for all the homework. Instead of hiding under the desk he greets him at the door these days. It's a nice change from being barked at all the time. Jack grins at the memory as he hears the dogs bark in the house.

His leg bugs him, not that he told the Doc that. He limps up the stairs to his front door. This last mission wasn't any big deal. A meet and greet, some poking around looking for artifacts, some plant and mineral samples. It was just a lot of walking. He can't wait to get inside and rest his leg. Frasier said it was good for his leg to walk that much. He might have downplayed the pain and kept the limp to a minimum until he got into his truck. He's sick of the infirmary. He knows Frasier would have kept him overnight and he just wanted to go home, order some Chinese, watch hockey and play with his dogs.

At the turn of the key in the lock he hears stamping. Even though he's tired to the bone he smiles. Merlin's been doing this thing lately. The door swings open and sure enough Merlin's white front paws are stamping excitedly. His tail swishes and he grins up at Jack. Bella barks at him.

"Hi guys. I'm home." Merlin barks and rushes out the door. He turns and continues his little let's go for a walk dance.

What really makes it funny is only his front paws come off the ground. His back legs stay anchored. "Hang on, bud." Jack drops his keys off, dumps his duffel in the hall and grabs a beer from the kitchen. On his way to the living room he closes the door. Merlin slides in right before the door shuts.

Bella is already in the living room near his favorite chair. He knows the dog sitter came earlier, so they're okay for a while. He can drink his beer, pet his dogs and rest the leg before getting up again. Hammond's got them on downtime for a week. Frasier's been pestering him about more rest time in between missions. It's actually been good for other teams. The newer recruits have been getting more off world missions, not just training. SG-12 and 5 worked with the free Jaffa, SG-14 met with the Tok'ra(better them than him), and the two newest teams went on mineral and archeological surveys. Carter was thrilled at the lab time, Teal'c got to see his kid. Daniel wasn't terribly happy about staying Earth side, but he did get to catch up on some of the cataloging.

They were all raring to go for this last mission. The break time is good for a mental and physical rest. His team was sharper than they've been in a while. He's going to back up the doc on her recommendation to build in more down time for the teams. It might even cut down on injuries. Unless he has to gag Daniel.

He finishes his beer. Bella rests her head on his good knee. Her eyes close as he rubs her ears. She sighs happily. Merlin nudges his hand. Jack scratches the dog's hip. Merlin's tail wags slowly.

The relaxing time with the dogs, the slight buzz of the beer, and the aspirin he took helps his leg. He levers off the chair and Merlin stamps his paws again. Jack chuckles. "Yes, we'll go out."

Merlin and Bella meet him at the door. He grabs the balls and the new launcher that Teal'c bought him. Well really that Teal'c bought the dogs. Jack just holds custody of it. Bella is very fond of it. Jack has a new appreciation for it. He's able to toss balls for his dogs without straining his legs too much. He has a feeling Teal'c was doing some undercover work for the doc, but the dogs go insane with joy, so no complaints.

He hooks the leashes on the dogs. Can't hurt to ramble around the block. Well it probably will hurt later. But he's got more beer.

Merlin dives into the walk. Every tree, sign and trash can gets sniffed and sometimes marked. Bella marks her favorite spots and catches up on the news of the dogs.

After circling the block he uses the ball launcher. Bella leaps and chases the flying balls. Merlin tries to intercept them, but he's not as good as his mother. Jack flicks him enough ground balls that the young pup is happy. He likes running after low flying balls and pouncing on them.

His watch beeps. Time for some more pain killers for his leg. Janet gave him some heavy duty anti inflammatories 'just in case'. He can't sneak a lot past the doc. His leg is starting to throb again. He whistles for the dogs and they break for the porch.

Merlin takes one more look at the ball launcher and sighs.

"Tomorrow pup." Jack promises rubbing the dog's ears. "We're gonna head to the dog park and see your buds." Several of the puppy kindergarten class hang out at the dog park. The instructor encouraged the play for the dogs. Good socialization. Merlin wags his tail and heads to the kitchen when the door is opened.

Jack, for his part, calls in an order at his favorite Chinese place, swallows his meds and finds a hockey game. After soup, potstickers, orange beef and fried rice he feels a little sick, but the food was so good. He relaxes with his dogs and enjoys the quiet of his house.

At the dog's barking Jack sits up in bed. He reaches for a weapon that isn't there and his eyes pop open. Merlin is in the doorway with his leash in his mouth.

"Way too smart for me," he grumbles. Merlin barks again. A bit muffled to be sure. Once the dog is sure his human is up he trots up the stairs. Jack can hear the jingle of the leash as it bangs on the stairs. Merlin barks once more.

"Yeah give me a moment, dog." Jack makes a pit stop in the bathroom, splashes his face with water. He pulls on his running clothes and grabs his favorite sneakers on the way up. There are two black and white dogs waiting at the door for him.

"All they need are thumbs and I'm out." He mutters. He opens the door and they hustle out. "You're welcome." He knew he was getting really smart dogs when he picked them up off the side of the highway. He just didn't know how smart they were.

Thank caffeine that Daniel insisted on setting up the automatic coffee maker. There's a full pot waiting for him. With a travel mug full of hot caffeinated deliciousness, he sits down on the porch watching the sunrise.

Bella plops down next to him. He rubs her ears and neck and feels her tail thump. Merlin whines a little and drops his leash down at Jack's feet. He sighs. He did promise the dog park.

"Okay. Let's eat and then we'll go to the park." Bella's ears come forward at the word eat.

After some serious protein and the sacred sharing of bacon, not to mention another cup of coffee, Jack's ready for the dog park.

Merlin charges out of the house and is dancing around the truck. The dogs pile in and he buckles the puppy into his harness. Merlin likes to lean waaay out the window. The last time he let him out of the harness the dog nearly got his head taken off, leaning out the window. This way he can enjoy the wind in his ears and the smells, but not fall out of the truck. The dog whines a little as usual and squirms to get out of the harness.

"Nope, not working bud." Jack sets the last buckle. Bella is riding shotgun as usual. It takes longer to find a parking space for the truck than to get there.

He's learned to get everything out of the truck he needs before unsnapping his eager puppy from the harness. "I thought Charlie was bad." He mutters. Merlin is licking his hair and trying to stand up. Finally the buckle is released and Merlin yaps happily. Jumping to the ground he pees on the edge of the grass.

Jack releases the dogs into the dog park. Bella beelines to her friend and they start to race the fence. Merlin stays by Jack looking for his buddies. After a few minutes he is drawn into play by a few dogs.

Jack's able to relax a bit. He leans on the fence and idly chats with a few of the other dog owners. He's arguing his case for the Avalanche with another hockey fan when he hears someone call his name. The instructor at puppy kindergarten is smiling at him.

He smiles back. Her name escapes him at the moment. "Is this your preferred dog park, Mr. O'Neill?"

He chuckles. "It's really Bella's favorite." Bella trots over to him and inserts herself between Jack and the instructor. "And call me Jack."

"My name is Kira." She has a nice smile. Not as nice as say Carter's but nice enough. Bella is sitting on his foot. She makes no move to get to know the new person. He glances down at his dog. She's watching the other dogs. "Hmm." Jack thinks.

On the other hand, it's been a while since anyone hit on him. Well anyone who didn't have a snake in their head or lived on another planet. He shrugs and dredges up another smile. Soon he's got a date for the weekend, although date is a strong word for walking the dogs at the zoo trail. But she likes dogs, the outdoors and is interested in him.

His hockey buddy shakes his head. "Husky guy has been hitting on her for weeks. You come one day and have a date." The guy laughs. "Bob'll be ticked." Bob being the owner of the husky puppy Merlin is wrestling with.

Sure enough he comes over. "What's the secret, Jack?" He scowls.

"Hey, she asked me." He defends himself. "Maybe she likes guys with dogs," he says innocently.

It takes the guy a second. Then he laughs. "Yeah, probably." The three men laugh and watch their dogs.