Dusty, the Wonder Dog

Dusty, the Wonder Dog

From Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul

Dusty, the Wonder Dog

When I was a kid, my godparents, Uncle Nell and Aunt Frances, brought me a four-month-old puppy. She was half German shepherd, half collie. As her pink tongue tickled my face with wet licks, it was love at first hug.

My family named the puppy Dusty. Although I wanted to lay sole claim to her affections, in a family of seven kids, no one lays permanent claim to the family pet.

Dusty was our dog, not my dog. We soon realized that she had the patience of Buddha. My baby sister often transformed Dusty’s warm fur into a nap-time pillow— falling asleep on the rug. Like a protective mother, Dusty waited—without moving—until my sister woke.

Dusty doubled as a school crossing guard, too. Monday through Friday she’d walk us kids two blocks to St. Patrick’s Parochial, looking both ways to check for traffic before allowing us to cross the street. We’d wave goodbye as we entered the door, knowing Dusty would be waiting at the school door to claim us at the close of the school day.

Of all the contributions Dusty made to our family, one incident stands out far and above all others.

Late one night, Dusty rushed to my parents’ bedroom. She barked and barked. When she got no response, Dusty raced upstairs to my bedroom and my brothers’ bedroom and barked again and again. When she failed to fully wake us, she flew back down the steps and returned to my parents’ room. Finally, she got Mom’s attention.

“What are you doing, Dusty?” Mom snapped, still halfway in dreamland. Dusty persisted. Finally my mother gave in. “Okay, what is it?”

Dusty whined and rushed out of Mom’s room. Thinking the dog needed to be let out to relieve herself, my mother followed Dusty to the front door.

When Mom opened the door to let her out, Dusty tore across the street, not stopping to do her business as my mother had assumed. Then she discovered what Dusty already knew. The house across the street—where my best friend, Marianne, and her family lived—was on fire. All of Dusty’s middle-of-the-night craziness had served a purpose: she’d been trying to call for help.

My mother alerted the fire department immediately. Soon, the firemen in their trucks roared up the street, squelching the blaze and saving my best friend’s family from harm and their house from total ruin.

My mother refused to take credit. “It was Dusty,” she told the firefighters. “She saved them. Not me.”

I put my arms around my dog’s neck and kissed her square on the tip of her wet nose. “Thank you for saving Marianne,” I whispered into Dusty’s tan and black ear. “You’re the bravest dog I’ve ever known.”

Dusty wagged her tail and licked my face. That old familiar rush of puppy love overtook me. I smiled and promised to let her sleep in my bed for the rest of her life.

Mary Saracino

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