Dog People

My family?  We’re all dog people.

They say that people can be divided into many categories, but when it comes right down to it, you’re either dog people or cat people.  I’m not saying there aren’t exceptions.  There are.  But for the most part, you either like the quietness and independence of a cat, or you like the neediness and loyalty of a dog.

We had a dog.  For  a few months or so when I was six, we had a tiny puppy called Snoopy.  Snoopy was a cute beagle mix, obviously black and white.  She was rambunctious.  She was adorable.  She was sweet.  She was a royal pain.   Full of energy and all of the best and worst of puppydom, she would love you one minute and bring you your mangled shoe the next.  Housetraining was not her strong suit.  She got into all manner of trouble, mostly because there just wasn’t anyone around enough to train her properly.  My mother had gone back to work, us kids were in school all day and my father was travelling for business.

One day, a few days before Christmas, Snoopy wasn’t there to greet me when I got home from school.  I later learned that my mother had taken her back to the pound, under my father’s orders.  The final straw was when she chewed the hose for our pool pump, a seventy or so dollar expense. Bye, bye, Snoopy.  We were all, including my mother, devastated.

So when our former neighbors had a stray Yorkie mix wander into their yard and make himself at home for several weeks, with no sign of leaving, not one of us had any hesitation at offering to keep her permanently.

Tasha was tiny.  I’m not sure how a male dog got the name Tasha; I think it was Mrs. E who named the dog before she realized the sex of it.  He didn’t shed, and he didn’t even bark that much.  We were thrilled to bring him into our home.  Even my mother would pick him up on her lap after a long day at work and pet him and kiss him and enjoy his curled up company next to her on the sofa.  Tasha brought a light into the little townhouse that was sorely needed after my mother’s twelve hour work days, my sister’s constant disappearances back to her old friends’ houses and my brother’s anger.

One day, though, after letting Tasha out of the front door to do his business on the tiny strip of grass outside, he bolted.  He ran down our small cul de sac and into the maze of townhomes that all looked identical.   He’d never be able to find his way back; everything looked the same.  I myself was still getting lost in the new neighborhood.

All of us went out to get him, shouting his name over and over until one of us found him.  The relief we all felt was palpable.  But I could feel the scratchy, raw worry under the surface of that relief; Tasha was a runner.  The reason he’d come to us is because our old neighbors found him;  he’d run from someone else.   And sure enough, the scene repeated itself over and over; neighbors would bring the dog back as he wandered farther and farther.  Soon my sister was having to use the car to hunt him down.

It was not a surprise to me one day when, after searching for hours and hours for Tasha, well into the darkness, that he could not be found.  We made posters, we told friends, we checked the pound.  Nothing.  As quickly as Tasha came into our lives, he vanished, without a trace.

Instead of turning to each other for support, we all pulled back a little bit more, into our own corners of existence; sharing the pain and sadness would mean acknowledging it.  Instead, we all swallowed it whole and moved on.  It was not the worst pain any of us would experience, but it chipped away a tiny little piece of who we were, as a family, as individuals, as people.

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