Moving Day

Moving Day

From Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul

Moving Day

He was a street dog of indeterminable pedigree. Not too big, but scrappy.

He found my husband on St. Patrick’s Day, 1988. A New York City police officer, Steve was patrolling the Park Slope section of Brooklyn. The skinny blond dog with the white stripe on his face and stand-up ears he never did grow into, fairly leaped into the patrol car through the open window.

I got the call that afternoon. “Can we keep him?” My big strong husband sounded like a kid.

We kept him. Steve named him Patrick, in honor of the day he’d found him. We didn’t know how he’d ended up a homeless pup. But it didn’t matter. He was safe now. The vet estimated that he was about six months old and that he’d been on the streets only a few days. He was healthy, but awfully hungry.

I fed him boiled chicken and rice, easy on his stomach, and determined to start putting some meat on the ribs that were a bit too prominent. After that meal—and after every single meal I fed him for the rest of his life—he thanked me with several sloppy kisses on my hands.

Things were hectic that March. The kids were growing and we were in the process of moving into a larger apartment.

Patrick watched with an odd expression; but it was an odd move. We didn’t really pack. We simply rolled everything into the hall, loaded it in the elevator, went two floors down and rolled the stuff off and into the new place.

The new apartment gave our kids their own rooms. Patrick’s space was an alcove at the end of the hall leading to the master bedroom. I cut a piece of carpet to fit his “room” and piled his toys in one of the corners. I bought “Dawn Lane” and “Michael Lane” signs for the kids, so of course I bought a “Patrick Lane” sign for him. I think he liked it. When I put it on the wall he licked the sign, then me.

March 17 became his birthday. On the first anniversary of the day he found us, I threw a “Patty Party,” inviting all the grandparents. I’d done it tongue-in-cheek, but it became an annual event. We got Patrick a kelly-green birthday hat and a big matching bow tie. Another dog might have been embarrassed; Patrick wore them with pride.

To repay us for rescuing him, Patrick protected us with zeal and an unerring ability to tell good guy from bad. He could pick the “perp” out of a lineup a block long. He knew guns, too. When Steve cleaned his service revolver, Patrick would eye him strangely, from a safe distance, as if to say, “What’s a nice guy like you doing with a thing like that?”

In 1992 Steve retired. We bought a house in Jersey near my folks, but couldn’t close until October. The kids stayed with my parents so they could start the year in their new school. We brought them home on alternate weekends. Michael’s room now became the “Box Room.”

Every day I knelt in that room, placing breakables on the pile of papers, wrapping them up and tucking them into boxes. And every day Patrick watched from the room’s other doorway. I told him all about “our” new house and described the fun “we” would have.

Our last night in Brooklyn approached. We’d lived in that apartment four and a half years, and in the building for fifteen. Though excited about moving into our own home, wewere a bit sad to leave the citywe’d lived in all our lives. Patrick understood. He patrolled the apartment restlessly, sniffing every nook and cranny as if to commit to memory the security of the only loving home he’d ever known.

We closed on the house on Friday, then drove back to Brooklyn with the kids. The “Box Room” was nearly full, but the packing paper still lay on the few square feet of remaining floor, ready to protect our last-minute treasures. I gave the kids their “Dawn” and “Michael” boxes, instructing them to finish packing their toys. We had something quick for dinner. I don’t remember what. I only remember what happened after.

I walked into the kitchen and happened to glance into the “Box Room.” I was stunned.

“Hey, guys,” I called. “You won’t believe what Patrick did.” They followed me through the kitchen. Patrick poked his nose in from the living-room doorway, a very worried expression on his face.

There, nestled in the canyon of cartons, lying right on top of the newspaper used for wrapping breakables, was Patrick’s favorite toy.

I said, “Patty, are you afraid we’re going to move away and leave you? Is that what those other people did to you?” He didn’t need words. His eyes told me.

“Well,” I told him. “You don’t have to worry. We’re not going to leave you. You’re coming with us.”

Then I rolled up his toy in the paper. I’d planned to put his things in the “Patrick” box. Instead, it went in with our dishes. It seemed the thing to do.

His bushy blond and white tail wagged like mad, and if asked under oath I’d have to swear he laughed. We all wound up in a heap on that stack of papers, getting licked to death by one very happy—and grateful—dog.

I’m sorry to say I’d never considered Patrick’s feelings through that whole tumultuous process; never thought he was worried as he sat day after day, intently watching me wrap up and pack away our things; never realized he didn’t know he was part of the “we” I kept mentioning. After all, he’d been with us four and a half years and we’d moved with him before. But I guess the vast amount of packing required for this move dredged up old memories and threatened his sense of security. Elephants never forget; dogs don’t either.

When I think about Patty now, all I can say is: I’m thrilled he picked Steve. He brought joy to our lives that we would have sorely missed otherwise. He left us in November 1997 andwe stillmiss him. He’swith us, though, in a pretty wooden urn—and he smiles at us every day from his picture, dressed so smartly in his kelly-green birthday hat and matching bow tie.

Micki Ruiz

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