Kids and Summers
Dogs have been favorite of all and they have been mine too. I had coveted to have a pet dog ever since I was 3 years old. But, since dogs come with a lot of responsibility and need proper maintenance, my parents always resisted having one. More so, because they couldn’t afford one at that time. Years passed but my longing to have a dog never wavered at all. In fact, it grew stronger as I used to play with my friends’ dogs. I was 17 then. Zane, Mike, and Kruger, my gang had one dog each and Kruger also had a cat. Whenever I came home after school, I used to go out to Mike’s place and play with his dog, Charlie. He knew me well and thus, whenever I stepped on his door, Charlie used to come running at me with a twinkle in his eyes and wagging tail which always made my day. Even though I used to visit him for half an hour, he always made me feel like his own. Charlie’s love for me often made me think – had I had my own dog, this happiness which I get in bits and pieces would be constant and I could cuddle my dog any time of the day. I used to discuss a lot about dogs with Mike and Zane. Zane being an encyclopedia, always had some of the other information regarding everything, then be it pets or anything for that matter. Needless to mention, he was our part-time tutor as well. Kruger, on the other hand, was a very caring person I have ever met. Even though his kitty used to throw a lot of tantrums, he always took care of her like her daughter. Sometimes, it came to my mind that if ever I will have a dog I would also perhaps act like Kruger. But alas, my parents never entertained my wish.
It was summer and the vacations had just started. After a lot of planning, I had finally persuaded my parents that I would spend two hours playing at my friends’ place every day. This way it would also give me more time to spend with their dogs as well. We finally decided to meet at Mike’s and then we would go to Zane’s and the next day Kruger’s. Our plan started as we had scheduled. One day we decided that we would rather go and sit by the lake. That day Mike’s parents were out of town and they had asked Mike to not leave Charlie at home, alone. So, we took him along. I felt more than happy that Charlie would be accompanying us. It was almost 3 pm while we were returning from the lake after spending a great time chatting and fishing. It so happened that Charlie accidentally got lost while we were exploring the place nearby. We first thought he must be somewhere in the woods and would be hogging on some dead meat. But after an hour of searching, we heard him barking. We knew it was Charlie.
We had almost reached the other end of the woods which seemed a little scary and weird. There was this dilapidated house at a distance which seemed to have been there for years but nobody resided there. However, when we went closer we saw that Charlie had trespassed the gate and had gone inside the garden. He was barking at a guy who was standing near him and watching Charlie with mixed expressions. I was really scared to go ahead because the place carried an eerie vibe which Zane and Kruger also felt. But Mike is the bolder one amongst us went ahead and asked the guy to let him in. Surprisingly, that strange looking guy who we had thought would crib and yell at Charlie and us, didn’t say a word. He just waved his hand to signal Mike to come inside. We were standing at a couple of steps behind Mike so he could quickly go inside and bring Charlie back. But seeing the composed demeanor of the guy, we also mustered courage and joined Mike. Meanwhile, Charlie saw us and came to us wagging his tail. The guy actually knelt down and started patting Charlie and surprisingly Charlie seemed quite comfortable with him.
After talking to the guy for a while, Mike asked me – ‘Dustin don’t you think we should sit with John for a while.’ Both Kruger and Zane looked at each other and exchanged a tensed gaze because we were already late to return home. But then John said that he also had a dog which died a couple of years ago, and his eyes welled up. Hearing that, I just couldn’t leave. I wanted to know what happened to his dog. He called us in and asked us if we wanted to eat or drink something.
We went inside the door which creaked as if it had not been oiled for years. As we stepped in, there was this couch at a couple of steps ahead which, apparently, was of good quality white leather but had gotten ripped at places and had blemishes of spilled food on it which had changed the color of the couch. While we were squishing ourselves on the couch, John brought soda for four of us and started telling the story of Duke – his lab, who had died because of heartworm infection. He had tried a lot many options but it was of no use because heartworms had already blocked his dog’s pulmonary artery and he couldn’t breathe and finally expired suffocating.
His eyes welled up again while he was narrating how his dog wagged and licked all over his face when he used to come back after spending a long day at the field, farming. Though we got late that day, John had actually given us very useful information regarding the care dogs need and how one must maintain their grooming and eating habits to keep them healthy. Since he had lost his dog to a disease, he wanted us to stay very careful and safeguard our dogs in advance by using preventatives.
The way he told us how much he missed his dog and how his dog was a stress buster and a companion in his loneliness after he lost his wife to breast cancer, I was moved completely. In fact, Mike and Kruger who was not interested in staying back had also gotten teary-eyed meanwhile, after listening to the story. We finally parted after an hour and the way John told me what a blessing it is to have a dog in one’s life intensified my desire to have one now.
I remember telling the story to my parents when they asked why I got late. Also, I cried that day and fought with them to get one dog for me too. Well, something was being already planned which I had not known …