Puppy Dog Tails
What was your very first pet? Cat, dog, hamster, bird, turtle? Or were you not allowed to have any? Mine was Butch. I have no idea what his breed might have been, but he was fairly large with a tan coat and a big snout. I remember being taken to the open field behind our block where a crowd of people had gathered. Up on a slight hill were puppies and children, the mixture running together in a heavenly sort of dreamish joy. Next thing I knew I was up there on that hill, and puppies were licking my face and we were all—kids and puppies—running and rolling together. What is a parent to do when a child falls in love with a pet? God opened her palm and handed my siblings and I a clearance to happiness. Then we were off to our home, usually a dark and miserable palce. We spent every living moment immersed in the glow of water-mushed Purina, that red-checkered brand with the chuck wagon and chasing mutt. Puppy breath, like sweet elixir, woke us each morning. But soon came nibbles, then bites, then fleas and ripped dolls. Butch changed from tiny pup to a full-fledged Marmaduke. I tried walking him myself, to alleviate the trouble, but ended up being dragged across all the gravel streets of our block. After a few years of terrible behavior, Mom loaded Butch up in the car and told us he was going to live in the country. He'd be fine, just fine. I still don't know if that's true. Actually, I don't want to know if that's true. Long may he have lived.