Dog Days of Summer
By Marcia Thornton Jones
When Mom finally relented and said we could have a puppy, she gave my sister and me three requirements.
It must be a small dog.
It must be a male.
It must be a good dog.
At the Humane Society, my sister and I peered into the kennel of puppies as they tumbled and fought over a single bowl of food. Only one sat off to the side watching.
He was teeny-tiny.
He was a he.
He was being soooooo good.
He was perfect. Mom would be so proud of us!
We carried him in the house and placed him on the family room carpet. We were beaming.
The puppy took one tentative step. And then he toppled over.
“That dog is sick,” Mom said.
She was right. Mom stayed up all night with him, one hand on the tiny whimpering puppy who was so sick that it was doubtful he’d live through the night. But he did live. Then he thrived. And that quiet, well-behaved puppy turned into a hyper-active, non-stop, dog who delighted in escaping from our yard by digging, climbing, and even chewing holes in the fence. He could out-run and out-dodge the fastest of us.
We thought about naming him Sergeant. Or maybe Killer. But the only name that stuck was Muffles: a word Mom muttered in a moment of exasperation in order to avoid using language kids weren’t supposed to hear.
One day, during one of his infamous catch-me-if-you-can games, I chased Muffles on my bike. He led me up and down streets, finally disappearing into a maze of backyards. I stood on a corner, yelling for him. But then I saw a friend, and so I left that corner—left Muffles—to walk my bike down the street and around another corner for a quick visit. It wasn’t long before I heard the most mournful howling ever. I walked my bike back around the corner. There was Muffles, right where he had last seen me calling for him, his nose pointed to the clouds, howling over and over and over.
“Muffles?” I hollered.
My dog—the one who was impossible to catch—ran straight for me, jumped up, knocked me down, and became a tail-wagging, body-wiggling, face-licking, I’m-so-glad-to-see-you kind of dog.
That’s how we learned that Muffles wasn’t an escape artist trying to get away from us. He just wanted to play.
Muffles and I spent summer days lying on the porch that ran the length of our house. We took long walks, stopping to rest under shade trees. I rode my Schwinn bike (white with a seat to match the orchid pin striping), and Muffles ran alongside. At night he obediently settled on the chair in my room since he wasn’t allowed on the bed. But as soon as Mom finished tucking me in, he leaped straight from the chair to the bed and curled up on my pillow.
I loved that dog. Really. I did.
But the years passed, and I discovered other interests besides riding my bike with a dog running happily beside me. Things like shopping, slumber parties…and boys. I spent more and more time learning to be a teenager which meant Muffles spent more and more time sitting at the gate waiting. And waiting. And waiting.
Mom told me how unfair I was being. She encouraged me to spend time with him. I heard it as nagging.
One day she told me she found someone who had a farm that would take Muffles. A place where he could run. A place where he wouldn’t be sitting at a gate for hours at a time.
I was furious. How could she do that? How could she just give him away? I loved that dog!
But she was the one who saw his loneliness. His sadness. Saw the look of abandonment in his eyes. His grief.
I look back at those dog days of summer, and I grieve for that little dog who loved me better than I loved him. I wish I could tell him I am sorry. I wish I could relive those days so that I could give him the time and attention he deserved.
I wish I could have loved him better.