When I think of loyalty, I think of dogs. But what happens when a dog belongs to a married couple and one of them dies? What does a dog know of death? Of second chances? One thing a dog knows of, without a doubt, is the mood of his person…
So this is a challenge piece on the theme of Loyalty. It is also a Point of View exercise, written from the first person POV of the ugly old dog in the Widow Morris stories. Although the dog’s time line is not reliable, I suspect this happens just after “Meeting”.
At first there were two people. The bigger one, the Man, brought me home but he didn’t have much to do with me. The other one, the Lady, was the one I really belonged to. She fed me, and petted me, and taught me how to behave. She was a good teacher, and I learned where to pee and poop, and where to sleep.
The three of us started in a house that was always in the same place, on a street. Then we stayed in a smaller house that was pulled by oxen and moved all the time except when it was dark. The Lady had to teach me how to be around the other animals so I didn’t bother them. That was my favorite house because there was always something new to sniff and explore.
We found another house that didn’t move. It smelled more like our moving house than our first house; I liked that. And we all had new jobs. The Man went away nearly every morning to do his job, and he came back late every afternoon. The Lady’s job was to take care of chickens and goats and make sure everybody had food. My job was to bark when there were intruders, and to go wherever the Lady went if she wanted me to. My other job was to make my people laugh.
Things changed but I didn’t know it right away. Then I realized there were places the Man should be, but he wasn’t. I had never known him not to be there, and it felt strange. The Lady became very quiet. She didn’t move around much, and I spent a lot of time sitting with her because that’s all she wanted to do. She must have felt strange without the Man, too. She cried sometimes. Strangers came around for a while, but they quit doing that. My Lady talked to me, more than she did to the people that came around. I listened real well.
When missing the Man became a smaller part of our lives, the Lady talked to me less and we did more things. I liked that better even though there were still places where the Man should have been. Besides me and my Lady, there were goats and chickens and horses—Tramp and Jughead belonged to us, and there were other horses who stayed with us while we helped them learn to be happy. Strangers came by sometimes, to help fix things, but they went away and we stayed in our house that didn’t move.
One of those strangers started coming around often. I liked him. He was kind, and he rubbed my tummy just right, and he made the Lady laugh nearly as well as I did. His voice was soft and he smelled like leather and cows. But he started sitting where the Man had sat, like he was trying to fill in the places where we missed him. He sat in the same rocking chair on our porch, and in the same chair at the kitchen table. He wasn’t there nearly as much as the Man had been, but I worried a little about what would happen if the bigger man, the one that the Lady and I missed, came back and found someone different in his spot.
What if I went away and came back and found a different dog in our house? What would I do? I didn’t think I would want to share my Lady’s attention with another dog. I would probably bite him unless the Lady told me not to. I wouldn’t want her to pet another dog or to laugh at another dog; that was for me. Only me.
But then I thought…what if someone tied me up with a rope and I couldn’t come back? (That happened to me once when I got lost from the first house that didn’t move. I was scared, but The Man came and made the boy that tied me up let me go.) Would I want her to be sad, and not move much, and never laugh again? Or would I want her to have another dog to pet and to feed and to teach things to? She liked doing those things…
And thinking of it like that, I thought if she wanted a different man to be with her in our house because the Man we used to live with didn’t come back, well, it’s all right with me. Especially since this new one who smells like leather looks at her more than the first one did; he pets her more; and he works with her in the barn, which the other one never did and which makes her sing to herself.
We miss the first man. But the new man brightens the lady’s face in a way I’ve never seen before, and I like how that looks on her. It makes me happy.