From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Be The Best You Can Be


Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.

~J. K. Rowling

“Harry has to go,” my mother said firmly. “That’s all there is to it.”

I turned my back on her — slowly, deliberately — and looked out to where our Doberman rushed around the yard. He looked like a clown with the yellow collar the vet insisted he wear. I could imagine how humiliating it must be and how it must itch. I’d try to pull it off, too, if it were me.

I bit my lip as I thought of life without my best friend. How could Mom do this? “You just don’t care about Harry anymore,” I muttered. “You think he’s too big and too much trouble.”

“That’s not true, young lady,” she said sharply. “Maybe I shouldn’t have gotten Harry in the first place. But I did, and now he’s hurting himself almost every week trying to jump the fence. This yard is just too small.”

I didn’t think the yard was too small. It had always seemed an endless space with its fruit trees, the prickly forest of raspberry bushes, the large shed, and the huge walnut tree that towered over everything. Every corner of the yard reminded me of an adventure — and beside me, in every adventure, had been Harry.

Sometime later in the week, my mother announced she had found Harry a good home: a farm with acres for him to run in and where he had work to do. Work? Why would Harry want to work when he could have fun with me?

It wasn’t long until I was out in the yard with Harry for the final time. The pain in my chest was so bad; I thought it would never go away. Harry, too, seemed to know it was our last day together. He walked slowly with his head down and his feet dragging through the grass. I was blinking to keep back the tears, angry at Mom and angry at Harry. “It’s your fault,” I told him. “If you hadn’t kept jumping the fence, you wouldn’t have to go.”

At my harsh words, Harry looked up at me. His eyes were like little black pools, sad and helpless. I couldn’t stand looking at him anymore, so I went back into the house.

Later, my older brother, Paul, came looking for me. “Aren’t you coming? Don’t you want to see Harry’s new home?”

“You go. You think it’s just great that Harry’s leaving us,” I said, my eyes never leaving the drawing I was coloring.

“Don’t be so selfish,” Paul said in that superior voice of his, like he was a hundred years older than me, not just two. “Harry will be much happier on a farm.”

I didn’t say anything, hoping he’d eventually give up and go away, which he did. I covered my ears when I heard the car start and pull away. I could block out any noise in the world, but I couldn’t stop thinking of my last hurtful words to Harry. They followed me for days after.

“What’s wrong with you?” Paul asked me one morning.

“Nothin’,” I said sullenly.

“It’s probably something stupid,” Paul sniggered. “Did you lose one of your dolls again?”

I glared at him. “It’s none of your business.”

“It’s none of your business… it’s none of your business….” Paul sang, mimicking my voice and dancing around my room.

“Oh, just be quiet!” I snapped at him. “I didn’t lose a doll…. I lost Harry… and when he went, I told him it was all his fault….” I could feel my eyes brimming over with tears, but this time I didn’t try to stop them.

“Don’t be such a baby,” Paul said. “Harry’s a dog — he wouldn’t have understood what you said.”

But I knew that wasn’t true.

I woke up on Saturday to a funny feeling in the air. It seemed to crackle all around me like it did when there was going to be a storm, but the sun was out. I heard whispering as I walked down the hallway, but it stopped abruptly when I reached the dining room. My whole family was eating breakfast around the table, and they were all smiling at me. I could see Paul’s feet dancing under the table as he struggled to keep still. His eyes gleamed at me with excitement. “We’ve got a surpri—”

“Shh!” Mom slapped his hand lightly.

I didn’t ask what was going on. I didn’t care about anything, unless it was Harry coming home. And so I didn’t say anything when Mom ordered us into the car or when Dad drove us across the bridge and out into the country. We went past rolling hills topped with trees, miles of fields dotted with cattle and sheep, and winding creeks. Finally, we stopped.

“Come on!” Paul gave me a push as he jumped out of the car. I opened my door slowly and stood on the rough path. I stretched and breathed in deeply. The air was fresh and cool, and it seemed as though there was never-ending space, miles and miles of it.

My mother marched up to the gate that surrounded the house, and we all followed. A man near the house put down his bucket and walked slowly toward us. He gave a long, low whistle, and two dogs came running down from one of the far sheds. One of the dogs was a shaggy sheepdog, and the other was a Doberman who looked strangely familiar.

“Harry?” I called. I started running toward him, but then stopped as I watched how his long legs seemed to fly across the endless space between us. He could never have run like this in our backyard.

Harry danced around me and barked.

“He wants to show you around,” the man said with a grin. “Why don’t you go with him?”

So I did. I let Harry show me the sheds where the pigs burrowed in straw and the chickens laid their eggs, the paddocks where he rounded up sheep, and the veggie garden he helped to protect from wild animals.

I was still smiling when we all got back into the car. There was no need to feel upset and sad about Harry anymore. I realized that sometimes changes can be hard, but still be for the best. It helped when I finally saw that Harry was where he belonged.

~Kristie Jones

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