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  • Writer's picturehelentdoan

Dog Tales

I was young so I'm not entirely sure how my older brother's dog, Sport, came to live with being my mother, my younger brother and myself. But I think it began when my brother drove up from New Jersey one summer to visit us for a few days, and when it was time for him to return home, we couldn't find Sport. By the time the dog eventually showed up, my brother was back in New Jersey, and we had acquired a dog. Since my brother was returning at Christmas, the plan was for him to take the dog back with him at that time. Sport soon installed himself in my heart, for each morning he'd come into my bedroom to greet me, his tail wagging and a toothy grin on his face. However, we soon learned Sport had a less endearing side: he was a runner. Most days he would bolt through an open door like greased lightning and disappear for hours at a time, then magically reappear at dinner time. The pattern repeated itself over and over, until one fall day when he didn't return. Days, weeks and months passed, and still no Sport. A day or two before Christmas, my brother and his wife arrived. Then on Christmas morning, I awoke to find Sport waiting beside my bed as though he had never been away. Everyone was so glad he had returned in time for my brother to take him back to New Jersey. If only that were the end of the tale! Sometime during Boxing Day, Sport bolted through another open door and disappeared...this time, for good. I have come to believe he had found new owners and returned to them. And that his Christmas visit was his gift to us.

My childhood friend has had a string of golden retrievers, but the one that stands out for me was Ali...short for Aligoté, a Burgundy wine. During my visit to my friend's Breckenridge, Que. home one summer, we were seated on the verandah, chatting and watching boats pass by on the Ottawa River. Ali was about a year old, and like most golden retrievers, loved to chew just about anything. This day, she took a fancy to my dollar-store eyeglass case, which she all but destroyed without harming its contents. I was amused by the event, but my friend was so embarrassed that she gave me her more expensive eyeglass case. Ali had a lot of character, and so when I was considering names for Kate's dog in my novel, Passage of Time, I chose Ali. Even though she is a German short-haired pointer, and not a golden retriever, she has a lot character...much like my current dog, Molly.

A few months ago, my boyfriend and I got Molly, a six-year-old British bulldog, from the local animal shelter. There was no transition period for any of us. It was as though Molly had always been a part of our lives, and vice versa. She loves to sidle over to sit with her back against the recliner chair to watch television. She is a gentle dog, except when animals show up on the screen. It matters not whether they are live critters, stuffed ones, or pictures of them. They are invading her realm, so she charges the TV. Not her most endearing trait. In our presence, she adheres to our no-dogs-on-the-furniture rule, but forget to close a bedroom door and leave the house, and the rule is forgotten. I'll return home and find her either rushing to her kennel, or already in it. I only have to say "were you up on that bed?" for her to tilt her chin up and look so innocent. But the telltale sign of a wrinkled bed cover gives her away. Her most endearing trait is her fetish for having the inside of her back legs rubbed. She lifts the leg being rubbed and stretches it out behind her as though performing calisthenics. Molly is the definition of a dog who has character. Don't be surprised if Kate's Ali inherits one of Molly's endearing traits in the sequel to Passage of Time.

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