Lost Little Puppy

Near the center of a big city there was a puppy.

He was a strange little puppy with mismatched eyes and shaggy fur. His breed couldn’t be determined, there were probably half a dozen mixed in there.

He lived in a gap between a dumpster and the red brick wall of an apartment building. It was the only home he’d ever known.

He’d been separated from his litter shortly after he was born. His mother and the other pups were spirited away by men from Animal Control, but he had been overlooked and left all alone.

So, there he was in the home he made for himself in that alley behind an apartment, across the way from a Greek restaurant. The only little piece of the world he knew.

It wasn’t much of a home, barely fit for even a mutt like him, but he’d never had anything to compare it to, so he was happy there.

He played with the pigeons when they settled on the alley floor to scavenge their meals, but the pigeons weren’t fond of playing with him, so they darted away as he ran after them with his tail wagging frantically.

He ate well, the leavings from the restaurant being dropped carelessly on the ground often enough that he was healthy.

One afternoon the dishwasher was dragging the garbage out to the alley and he saw this strange little puppy peeking out from behind the dumpster. He knelt down to see if the puppy would come to him.

With a little trepidation the puppy came out from the shelter of his dumpster home and bounded across the distance of a few feet to the young man.

Petted and patted, on instinct he rolled over onto his back on the dirty alley floor and exposed his belly for the dishwasher to rub it.

And rub it he did, with a huge smile on his face.

The young man reached into the garbage bag he was carrying and retrieved some of the more substantial scraps for the puppy and fed him from his hand.

The puppy whimpered as the dishwasher began to head back inside to where his work awaited, and the young man felt sad as the door closed behind him, separating him from the puppy in the alley

That was the first affection and human interaction the puppy had ever received, and he sadly returned to the space between the dumpster and the wall.

Hours later, while the puppy chased pigeons, the young man came walking into the alley from the sidewalk and the puppy immediately stopped what he was doing and ran to him.

The dishwasher scooped up the puppy and was greeted with an excited tongue lapping at his face.

The young man laughed and smiled and he carried the puppy home with him.

The puppy grew up there in the dishwasher’s tiny basement apartment, going for walks, getting baths, and eating like he never had before.

At night he would leap onto the young man’s bed and circle around until he could nestle up right next to him, and he would sleep so well that he never missed the pigeons.

He began to forget about the alley, the dumpster, and the scraps that used to be his meals.

For years he lived a life like any puppy would dream of having. He was loved and he was cared for.

He was happy.

One afternoon the dishwasher didn’t return home from work when he normally would. The puppy, now a dog whined at the door and padded away, returned again and did the same.

After a while he couldn’t help himself and he went to the bathroom on the tile kitchen floor, and for an hour or so after that he hid in shame waiting for the young man to punish him when he returned home.

For a couple of days that was how it worked for the dog. He would wait at the door until he couldn’t hold it any longer, he would go to the bathroom on the floor, and he would hide in shame for a little while before returning to the door again.

He was sleeping when the key turned in the lock and he was immediately alert and running to the door from the bedroom.

The smell was wrong. It was a stranger who walked through the door, but she smelled kind of like the young man. There were tears in the older lady’s eyes as she turned on the light, and the dog knew that she was sad.

The dog barked at her, not a threatening bark, but a question. He asked her where the dishwasher was.

Startled by the unexpected bark, the lady jumped.

She saw the mess the dog had left on the floor and she shouted at him, opening the door and ushering the dog outside.

He waited outside for a while and when the lady came back out she shut the door behind her before he could get back inside to his home.

She walked right past him without acknowledging that he was there, too distracted with the handful of items she carried.

The dog whined and followed her for a little bit before turning back to wait at the door for the young man to return.

Night came and he curled up and slept on the concrete stoop in front of the door. It wasn’t comfortable like the bed, but it was somewhere to wait for the dishwasher to return.

A few days later he had to leave the yard. He was hungry and he needed to eat.

He wandered around the neighborhood for a while, finding nothing.

He had walked for a good long while before a familiar scent drew his attention. He followed the scent until he found himself in a place that he’d all but forgotten.

He was in his old alley home and the pigeons flew away as he walked into the old, now remembered environment.

There was food there, like there always had been, but there was no dishwasher. He ate his fill and he made his way back home.

That became the dog’s routine for the next few days, returning to his old alley for food when he was hungry and waiting on the stoop for the young man the rest of the day and night. It was only a few days before a group of people showed up at home, one of them being the older lady from before.

They let themselves into the apartment and began moving things out; in the process they chased the dog away.

He had nowhere else to go, so he returned to the alley to eat and wait them out.

They were gone when the dog returned home a few hours later and he settled back in to his place on the stoop.

During the night it began to rain and he couldn’t get inside so he made his way back to the only other place he could find shelter.

The rain grew heavier as he ran toward the alley. It was a tighter fit than when he was a puppy, but the dog could still fit snugly behind the dumpster. He nestled into that space and fell asleep.

When the rain and thunder went away he returned home and continued with the same routine he had before, still waiting for the dishwasher to come home.

New people arrived only a week or so later, they shouted at him and shooed him away. He came back later, thinking it would be safe but those same people chased him away again.

He had no choice but to go back to the alley, and that alley was where he lived out the rest of his days.

He never saw the young man again, though he continued to hope that he would walk down the alley and take him back home; but he never forgot the young man and the home that he’d had.

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Part Thirty: Is This Thing Still On?

Even without my drug and alcohol history being a factor, my sexual history or promiscuity, and my overall bizarre way of going about things…with all of that taken out of the equation, I was probably never cut out to be a father. My own childhood did not prepare me well for fatherhood even though I did receive some excellent male role models (in the form of my maternal grandfather and a couple of amazing uncles) to compensate for my father’s shortcomings, as amazing as these men were it may have been a case of being too little too late though in a lot of respects.

That would be a perfect world scenario though, where I did not carry with me the burden of my own exceptional laundry list of shortcomings, and we are not living in a perfect world by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve had a longstanding tradition, or maybe just a habit, of fucking my own life up left and right and there was no reason for me to suspect that I wouldn’t produce a shit rolling downhill dynamic in the lives of my children as well.

Somehow I seem to have avoided that outcome, though I think that has more to do with them being good kids at heart than my skill as a father…they’re just good kids who may have also learned some sort of lesson from my mountain of mistakes.

When my oldest daughter was barely a toddler, I had the idea that it would be funny to buy her a puppy and place a two-way communication device on its collar so that I could raise her thinking that her dog was able to talk to her. I thought that it would be just fucking hilarious to spend a few years convincing her that her puppy was able to both understand and communicate with her. I would be her best friend by proxy of the magical, talking dog, telling her that no one else could ever know that I was able to talk, and that it was our secret.

I don’t know what my overall purpose for this would have been, other than playing a rather peculiar and possibly harmful prank on a very young girl I was supposed to be caring for and looking after, as well as possibly producing psychological damage in the process.

Luckily her mother was not on board with my fucked up little experiment, and she shot that plan down almost immediately upon my sharing it with her. Saner heads prevailed in that instance, and it wouldn’t be the last time.

A short while after our son was born we were in a local pet store where I saw a foot long baby Cayman alligator on sale for only a little more than $100 and I desperately wanted to bring it home with us. Once again it was their mother who put an end to that, asking me how we were supposed to keep something like that in our apartment, as it got larger. My solution was that we could place a children’s pool in our kitchen where it could grow up and that the kids would quickly learn to avoid it as it got larger or they might end up losing a finger or two in the learning process. Of course I wasn’t serious with my cavalier attitude about the children losing appendages; but I was in for a penny, in for a pound at that point, trying to justify the purchase that I ultimately did not make.

My brand of fathering is best described as being a series of barely controlled impulses sandwiched between impulses that I was unable to control sufficiently, with a light touch of emotional distance for flavor. It’s gotten better over the years, but not as much better as one might hope.

I am, by many standards, far too open and honest with my children…at least the older ones. There are few things I’ve shared with you that my oldest children did not already know, at least in broad strokes…because I always felt that they were best suited to get by in life if they were adequately informed, and I had made more than enough mistakes for all of them to benefit from the expertise I’d obtained through hard fought survival through the pitfalls my own limitless stupidity had set up for me.

I may be a fairly clear definition of the term total fuckup, but I always had rules in place. Even during the intervals where drugs and alcohol were a substantial part of my life, none of it was ever allowed to be anywhere around the apartment when the children were there with me. If someone had walked through the door with drugs on them while my children were present, there was a better than average chance that I would have been arrested for a particularly brutal assault within a matter of minutes. If my roommate (whichever one it was at the time) and I happened to have drugs in the apartment they were kept safely out of reach where there was no chance of the children getting their tiny little hands on anything they shouldn’t have.

It wasn’t until my oldest daughter was 15 years old when she saw me drunk for the first time, only because she happened to be awake far later than I had expected and was sitting in the living room when I walked through the door, and she apparently thought it was a terrific experience because she began encouraging me to go out drinking more often. My daughter enjoyed the fact that I was a fun, giggling sort of drunk…quite unlike my own father. I guess that I have that much going for me; at least I’m a pleasant drunk.

I know that I’m certainly not perfect, especially when it comes to being a father, but I can say with absolute certainty that I could definitely be worse. I’ve seen worse in my own life and in the lives of plenty of others, and I can vouch for the fact that we are, each of us, perfectly capable of being more than simply carbon copy versions of those who have failed us in our own lives.

I just had the pleasure of watching my oldest daughter graduate from high school, and I couldn’t have been more proud of that little girl who almost had a talking dog. Within that same 24-hour period my little brother and his former wife had their first daughter, and I’m proud of them as well. It’s a transitional period, for sure. My oldest child overcoming that final hurdle on her way to beginning her own life coinciding almost perfectly with their daughter making that first, gory slide into the beginning of hers.

Life is funny like that sometimes, in the good ways rather than the bad…and I’m fairly confident that I’ve done about as well as I can (considering my limited capabilities) to equip my own children for dealing with whatever might come their way. With a father like me, there was no shortage of surprise and shock along the way through life.