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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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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