A New Home

A New Home

From Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul

A New Home

“Mom, watch out!” my daughter Melissa screamed as a drenched brown pooch charged under our van. Slamming my foot on the brakes, we jerked to a stop. Stepping out into the freezing rain, we hunched down on opposite sides of the van, making kissing noises to coax the little dog—who, miraculously, I hadn’t hit—to us. The shivering pup jumped into Melissa’s arms and then onto her lap once she sat down again in the heated van.

We were on our way home from Melissa’s sixth-grade basketball game. Her once-white shirt with the red number 7 was now covered in dirty black paw prints. I stared at themess as she wrapped her shirt around the small dog.

“That shirt will never come clean!”

“Well, at least we saved his life,” she frowned as she cuddled him. “Running through all those cars he could have been killed.”

She continued petting him. “He’s so cute. And he doesn’t have a collar. Can we keep him?”

I knew how she felt. I loved animals myself—especially dogs. But I also knewthemess theymade. Dogs dig through the garbage. They chew up paper, shoes and anything else they can fit in their mouths. Not to mention the little piles and puddles they make when you’re trying to housebreak them. I didn’t need a dog. I loved the clean, bright house we had recently moved into, and I wanted to keep my new house looking just that—new.

I glanced at the ball of brown fur and the black mask outlining his wide, wondering eyes. She’s right. He is cute.

The smell of wet dog escalated with the burst of heat coming out of the vents, bringing me to my senses. I turned the heat down and shook my head. “Melissa, we’ve been through this before. I told all four of you kids when we moved into the new house: absolutely no pets.”

As we pulled into the drive, she said, “But Mom, it’s the middle of February. He’ll freeze out here.”

I glanced at the pup licking Melissa’s fingers. “Okay,” I decided. “We’ll give him a bath, keep him for the night and call the animal shelter tomorrow.”

Still frowning, Melissa nodded and slid out of the van. Carrying the dog in her arms, she entered the house. By the time I reached the door, the news was already out.

“We’ve got a new puppy!” Robert, Brian and Jeremiah chorused.

“I’m afraid not,” I said, as I took off my shoes. “We’re only keeping him overnight.”

Wiggling out of Melissa’s arms, the pup scampered across the room and jumped up on my couch.

“Get down!” I shouted, pointing my finger at him and toward the floor.

He licked his nose remorsefully and sat there shaking.

“Mom, you’re scaring him.” Melissa scooped him into her arms. “C’mon, boy, I’ll take you to my room.”

“Ah-ah,” I corrected, “bath first.”

All four kids crowded around the puppy in the bathroom. I listened over the running water as each became excited over every splash the dog made. Their giggles brought a smile to my face. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to have a dog.

I glanced around the kitchen with its shiny black-and-white tile floor. Picturing a dog dish, with food and water heaping into a sloshing puddle of goo, I turned toward the living room. With this messy weather, I envisioned my pale-blue carpeting “decorated” with tiny black paw prints. Not tomention the shedding, fleas and all the other things a dog can bring. I shook my head. A dog will ruin this place.

After his bath, Melissa brought him out wrapped in one of our good white towels. He looked like a drowned rat, except for his big, brown puppy-dog eyes. The boys raced around the kitchen getting food and water.

The water sloshed back and forth in the bowl. “Be careful, Jeremiah,” I warned. “You’re gonna spill—” When Jeremiah heard my voice he stopped with a sudden jerk. Water splashed onto his face and down the front of shirt and blue jeans, soaking the floor.

I ran to get towels. When I returned, I watched in horror as the pup tramped through the water. Even after his bath, his feet were still dirty and left muddy little prints all over my kitchen floor. “Wipe his feet and put him in your room, Melissa. Now!”

Melissa snatched the dog up, with the boys traipsing at her heels. I sighed as I wiped up the mud and water. After a few minutes, the floor shined like new, and laughter erupted from Melissa’s bedroom.

My husband, John, came in from work moments later. “What’s so funny?” he asked after he kissedme on the cheek.

“A dog.”

“A dog?” he asked, surprised. “We have a dog?”

“Not by choice,” I explained. “It ran under the van. And of course I couldn’t just leave him in the middle of the street.”

John smiled. “What happened to no pets?”

“I told them he’s going tomorrow.”

After John joined the kids he came back out. “You know, he is really cute.”

“Yeah, I know.” He didn’t have to convince me; my resolve was already slipping.

The next morning, the kids mauled the dog with hugs and tears. “Can’t we keep him?” they sobbed. I watched how he gently and tenderly licked each one as if to comfort them.

“I promise we’ll take care of him,” Melissa said.

“Yeah, and I’ll water him,” Jeremiah added. I smiled, remembering the incident the night before. “But I won’t fill his dish so full next time.”

How could I say no? He’s housebroken. He’s cute. And he’s great with the kids.

“We’ll see,” I said, as they scooted out the door for school. “But first, I’ll have to call the dog pound to make sure no one is looking for him.”

Their faces lit up as they trotted down the drive. With John already at work, the pup and I watched from the door as the four kids skipped down the street. Once they turned the corner, I grabbed the phone book and found the number for the animal shelter.

The lady at the shelter informed me that no one had reported a brown dog missing. However, she instructed me to put an ad in the local paper about him for three days, and if no one responded, we could legally keep him for our own. I called the newspaper and placed the ad. Although I had mixed feelings, mostly I hoped his owners would claim him.

Each day, the kids would ask the same question, “Did anyone call?” And each day it was always the same answer: “Nope.”

By the third day, the dog and I had spent so much time together that he followed me around the house. If I sat on the couch, he’d jump in my lap. If I folded clothes, he’d lie by the dryer. If I made dinner, he’d sit by the refrigerator. Even when I went to bed, he’d follow, wanting to cuddle up with me.

“Looks like we have to come up with a name,” I said Sunday morning at breakfast.

The kids cheered and threw out some names. When we returned from church, I played the messages on our answering machine, my heart sinking when I heard: “I think you may have my dog.”

After speaking with the lady, I realized that Snickers was indeed her dog. She explained she’d be over to get him within the hour. As we sat around the table, picking at the pot roast, tears flooded our plates like a river. Even I had grown attached to this sweet little dog.

When the lady arrived, I met her at the door. I clenched a wet tissue in my hands and invited her in. She took in the scene: four mournful children sitting in a huddle around the little dog and petting him, while Snickers, perched on Melissa’s lap, licked her tears away.

After a long moment, she said, “I want you to have him. I can see you love him and we already have another dog.”

I gave her a hugwhile the kids cheered in the background.

Snickers has definitely left his mark on our house. Still, I wouldn’t trade his muddy paw prints for anything—not even the nicest-looking house in the world! For, although he makes little messes sometimes, he has filled our hearts with love. Before Snickers came into our lives, we had a new house. Now we have a new home.

Elisabeth A. Freeman

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