MY VERY OWN DOG

MY VERY OWN DOG

From Chicken Soup for the Child's Soul

My Very Own Dog

You are never given a dream without also being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it, however.

Richard Bach

My very own dog. I can have my very own dog? These thoughts were swirling in my head as I stared at the black-and-white print of the newspaper ad:

DOG TO GIVE AWAY.
LAB AND COLLIE MIX.
GOOD WITH KIDS.

I had begged and begged my parents for a dog.

“Come on, Dad! Our yard is huge. I’ll take care of it,” I pleaded. “I will!”

Up until then, his only response had been, “We’ll see.”

My hopes had always hung on the edge of a cliff, ready to go crashing down. But this was the day that my hopes soared to the sun. My dad had pointed out the ad to me; he made the phone call; he drove us in the van across town to pick up the dog. All the while, I was thinking, My very own dog, my very own dog. Visions of a peaceful dog sleeping next to me danced in my mind.

“Her name is Grace,” the owner told us. “She’s good, but she barks at the traffic.” She sighed.

I nodded, barely hiding my excitement. When I grasped Grace’s leash, it tingled in my fingers. Her pink tongue lolled out as she panted heavily. “It’s okay, girl,” I soothed her. I rubbed her golden fur and traced the thick black stripe down her back with my fingers.

“It’s okay. We’ll be home soon.” Grace looked at me with untrusting brown eyes.

Dad pulled into our driveway. I swung the side door open, and Grace took off like a rocket. I had a firm grip on the leash . . . or so I thought. It snapped, letting Grace free. My very own dog raced down our sloping backyard, under the white picket fence, and into our neighbor’s yard. She circled that yard once and slipped back to ours.

“Grace! Grace!” I yelled. “Come back here!”

I screamed her name repeatedly. Dad called her. Mom joined in the chorus. We begged. We pleaded. But our voices meant nothing to my very own dog.

Dad looked at me. “She’s your dog. She’s your responsibility. You’ll need to figure out how to get her back.”

“I don’t want her back!” I yelled in frustration. “How can I have a dog if she won’t listen? I can’t do it!” A big tear rolled down my cheek.

“Try some food,” Dad suggested.

I set out a pan of cool water and some fresh dog food. “Grace . . . Grace!” I kept yelling, even as my voice went hoarse. Grace paced along our side of the picket fence. Finally, she slinked up to lap the water. The moment I stepped toward her, leash in hand, she bounded away.

“Grace!” I stomped my foot.

My very own dog . . . my dreams of petting her . . . of feeding her . . . of playing with her . . . were running away. I finally sat on the grass and watched her pace. What if I never caught her? What if she bolted into the road and a truck ran over her? My tears of anger became tears of concern.

Just then, Grace bounded past me, across our driveway, and into another neighbor’s yard—the one with the cat.

“Oh, no,” I groaned. I followed her as fast as I could. I noticed Mary-Jo standing in front of her house. I waved halfheartedly.

“Is that your dog?” Mary-Jo asked.

I could feel red creeping into my face. My very own dog.

“Yes.”

“I think she likes Peter,” she replied.

I turned to see Mary-Jo’s husband sitting on the grass with his hand extended toward Grace. He had a rope in his other hand. His voice was soothing—like hot chocolate. “Come here, girl . . . come here.” Grace hesitated before creeping closer, her head tucked to the ground. She nudged his hand. He rubbed her behind her ears. Unnoticed by my very own dog, Peter slipped the rope around her head.

“Amazing,” I said.

Peter smiled. “Just use a little gentleness and a quiet voice.” He handed me the rope.

“Thanks,” I said. “Sorry for your trouble.”

“No problem,” Mary-Jo said. “Enjoy your new dog.”

As I tied Grace to the tree in front of our house, she looked at me with sad brown eyes. She seemed to be apologizing. I crept closer to her, my fingers snuggling into her fur. She nudged me.

I sat down next to her to enjoy her company. It was just like my dream. Nothing was in our way now. I could handle Grace—no problem.

“Promise you won’t run away again?” I whispered.

She blinked.

“I guess if you do, we’ll have Peter to help,” I said.

I wasn’t sure, but I think she nodded her head in agreement. So I hugged my very own dog for the very first time.

Kathleen Bracher

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