Hobo dog

by Wolf Pascoe on June 4, 2012

We found the dog wandering the street. We took the dog home. We kept the dog.

Actually, Nick and Nora found the dog, a scruffy mixed terrier, black with a white stripe on his chest. They had gone to ride the new subway with another family from Fern Hill. I got a phone call.

“We found a dog. He’s really nice,” said Nora. “Everyone likes him. We’ll be home late.”

“I don’t understand,” I said.

“He has no collar. We took him to a vet and she scanned him. No chip. There’s no signs up anywhere. He’s obviously been out on the street by himself.”

“So, we’re getting a dog?” I said.

“I don’t see any other way.”

Later, we showed the dog to one of Nick’s teachers.

“Hobo dog,” the teacher said.

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COOKIE

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My first dog, Cookie, was also my last. He was a Cocker Spaniel, already in our family when I came along. He died when I was four.

“When can we get another dog?” I said, every chance I got.

“Someday.”

A couple of years later an aunt’s dog had a litter of puppies. We brought one home. I named him Danny.

What is it about little boys and puppies? It’s known that puppy dog tails are an ingredient of little boys. Perhaps that’s enough.

Danny stayed with us a week, sleeping in the laundry room. One afternoon I came home from school and he was gone.

“Danny was sick,” my mother said.

I don’t remember arguing, or even questioning. Danny was sick and he was gone. There would be no more dogs, except in dreams. That was the way of things.

A few years after that, when my older sister was about to have her first child, I dreamed she gave birth to a dog.

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AGENCY

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I could go on and on about raising kids to have a sense of agency (as distinguished from a sense of entitlement). It’s what we try to do here, and very hard it is, as neither Nora nor I were raised that way.

When Nick was two, we spent a month in a big house in Connecticut while I was working on a play. He fell in love with the gentle golden retriever who lived there. The dog was tolerant of Nick’s ear pulls, back jumps, and various other abuses.

When we got home I began taking Nick to the local dog park. He made friends with a half-coyote and a quarter-wolf. Mostly he liked little dogs.

When he finally learned to talk, one of Nick’s first words was dog?, as in can we get one?

“We have cats,” said Nora. Nora was raised by cats.

Cats or no, it wasn’t possible for me to listen to Nick’s request for a dog without thinking of Danny, the dog who disappeared.

“Why can’t we get Nick a dog?” I said to Nora.

“Dogs are a lot of trouble. When Nick’s ready to help, he can get a dog.”

Every so often, Nick would ask, “Am I ready yet?”

“Pretty soon,” said Nora.

I heard his childhood ticking away. But really, it was my childhood I heard ticking.

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SOUL

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The dog is a gentle, old soul, although he’s only a year old. Nick named him Stripe. Stripe’s digestion seemed a problem at first, but it’s settled down after a couple of visits to the vet. We walk him three times a day. He has play overs with the dog next door.

“So how come you decided to take the dog home?” I said to Nora the other night, hoping to learn more about agency.

“You wore me down,” she said.

“That’s it?”

“I didn’t think we’d find one nicer than this,” she said.

Stripe tries to be friends with our two cats, who want nothing to do with him. One cat runs away, the other hisses and bats at Stripe when he’s within range. Stripe whimpers and looks pitiful.

“Try to use your words,” I say to the cat.

“He’s a tramp,” says the cat.

“He’s sweet,” I say.

“I was here first,” the cat says to me.

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RELATED POST:

Living with animals

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YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY:

The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis. Okay, it’s about a horse, not a dog. But it’s the best of the Narnia books.

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EXPRESS YOURSELF!

Got a story about a dog? Just Add Father is listening. (Add your thoughts by clicking a few lines below below, where it says comments or add one. I always respond here.)

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Mitchell June 4, 2012 at 11:55 am

As always, this was a pleasure to read. And as always, it got me thinking. I need to write about dogs in my (our) life (lives). Thanks again for the inspiration.

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Wolf Pascoe June 4, 2012 at 8:10 pm

I’ll look forward to reading that.

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Pamela June 4, 2012 at 2:29 pm

I love that his name is Stripe.

You also made me feel better when you said you think it’s hard too. Thank you. That line between entitlement and agency is a fine one. A thin stripe.

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Wolf Pascoe June 4, 2012 at 8:12 pm

A thin and meandering stripe.

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Privilege of Parenting June 4, 2012 at 10:58 pm

I read this post at the vet this morning, but then stopped to hear a woman in the waiting room tell me about her 17 year old rescue who, fingers crossed, was not at the end of his life that had meant so very much to the woman. The dog’s name is Sparky (which was the nick-name of my mother-in-law, once-upon-a-time).

While my childhood dog also disappeared, quickly, to a “farm,” my big brother at summer camp was Danny. But he had nothing to do with me.

Here’s to dogs, to Stripe, to coyotes and wolves and to friendship around the ancient campfire.

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Wolf Pascoe June 5, 2012 at 7:31 am

My mother-in-law needed a nickname. Stripe would have done.

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Kyle Bradford June 5, 2012 at 6:54 am

“sense of agency” – maybe I missed something but I hope you expand on that sometime.

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Wolf Pascoe June 5, 2012 at 7:28 am

Agency=responsibility, in its true sense, i.e., having the ability to respond.

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Lori Thatcher June 5, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Great story. I’m so happy for Nick.
When I went to pick up my young teenage son and his friend, the plain-looking old yellow dog was waiting outside the bowling alley with them.
“No, we can’t take him home. He’s just looking for treats. He probably has a home somewhere near here.”
I knew Justin wanted a dog. His long-haired dachshund, Lady, had died more than a year ago. But I would rather have a pretty dog and this dog wasn’t.
We drove away and the mutt followed us, running down the middle of the street. Why us? Lots of other people were leaving at the same time.
We slowed for turns and traffic lights and although he moved to the side of the street, he didn’t give up, but actually gained on us for more than a half mile. Justin kept looking back, but I drove faster and we finally lost him.
We dropped his friend off and retraced our route to go home. Justin kept looking for the dog. He wasn’t on the long downhill where we had lost him or on any of the smaller streets.
I didn’t actually have to go past the bowling alley to get home. But Justin kept saying he was worried about the dog.
“Well, maybe we can find his owners,” I said.
When we drove in, the dog ran straight at our truck. Justin opened his door and the dog leaped into his lap, licking his face.
“I want to call him ‘Lucky’,” he said.
When I called the bowling alley, the manager said the dog had been hanging around for days and he was glad we took him, since it was mid-winter and had been really cold recently.
I posted a notice in the local paper.
No one replied and although the vet said he recognized the dog, he thought the owners had moved away.
Lucky followed Justin around for many years, and it turned out, in the end, that we were the lucky ones.

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Wolf Pascoe June 5, 2012 at 10:13 pm

I love this story. Meant to be, it was.

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Barbara June 5, 2012 at 9:34 pm

I love that you tried to get the cat to use its words. I had a Siamese for almost 20 years, so I know the chances of that. 🙂 Congratulations on finally getting your dog. Tramps are the best kind, by the way.
Barbara recently posted..Imagineers, Mountain Pinks, and Sweets of the Week

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Wolf Pascoe June 5, 2012 at 10:14 pm

I think we’ll all watch Lady and the Tramp. Maybe the cat will change it’s tune.

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BigLittleWolf June 7, 2012 at 12:33 pm

This is so poignant. Boys and dogs, yes. (And girls and dogs. I grew up with dogs and, well, cats, too…)

Our big, shedding, messy, lovable mutt was a rescued dog. She loved everyone – my little one especially who allowed her in his bed when he was tiny, as he was growing, and as she grew old and could no longer jump up onto his mattress, he was so gentle with her.

I’m glad for Nick – and for you – that Stripe will be part of childhood now, for both of you.
BigLittleWolf recently posted..Push

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Wolf Pascoe June 8, 2012 at 8:35 am

I love these stories. Dog as part of childhood, yes.

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