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A tug of war of the heart

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Six years ago I moved my dog's cedar bed from its spot in the bedroom to a corner of the living room, to make room for a bassinet - and even though the bassinet is long gone, I've never put the dog bed back. And I took the worn bedspread, coated with buff-colored dog hair, off the back seat of my Honda Civic and installed a child's car seat in its place.

A long time before my children were born, I found a puppy at the flea market. She looked like a caramel in a sea of Hershey's Kisses and when I stuck my hand down into the large pen on the grass, she climbed over the other nine puppies to lick it.

Although I had come to the flea market for a bicycle, I carried her home in my palm and named her Chesie, for the bit of Chesapeake Bay retriever in her.

After I broke up with a man I almost married, Chesie and I sat on the rug in front of the fireplace, and I cried into her fur.

In our little apartment, I talked to her when I walked by her, and each time she thunked her tail on the floor three times.

These days, though, 14-year-old Chesie is lucky if she gets her dinner on time and a couple of walks a week. Now, when I go to the park, I take my sons, and leave her behind. It's all I can do to manage two little boys; I don't have the energy for them and a dog who wraps the leash around my legs and doesn't hear me anymore when I call her.

I see what has happened. Now I'm reading bedtime stories, refereeing wrestling matches, and playing catch, and it has become a habit to ignore her. Walking her, combing her, and driving her to the vet have become chores for which I have little time or energy.

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