In 1999 we adopted a dog with a name tag that read “Arrow.” We liked the name and loved the dog, who’d been rescued from a shelter by a friend on his very last day (an extra one he’d been given past his scheduled “due date”) of life. She couldn’t keep the dog because she already had one and lived in a small apartment, so she called us.
A Shepherd-mix, this dog proved to be smart and inquisitive and loveable; but during the first eight months he lived with us he also showed himself to be a very young one-year old pup. He ate furniture. He stole food from the table and then laughed when we blamed one of the kids. He scratched at curtains and made a miserable nuisance of himself.
We went on vacation, one of those family jaunts that we took in our van each year, and put Arrow in a local kennel for safe keeping. He must’ve thought he’d been sent to jail because after we brought him home from the kennel he was the most wonderfully behaved dog in the world. He stopped eating the furniture, rarely stole food, didn’t scratch stuff, and obeyed the house rules, such as No Sitting on the Furniture.
That last one always made Arrow smile. When we went out we’d pull out of the driveway and there was Arrow, standing on the sofa, paws on the back, looking out the window, watching us leave.
Arrow showed off his smarts in many ways. He and I had a morning routine. I got up at 5AM so I’d get on the road to work by 630 or so, and still have time for breakfast and reading some of the newspaper (old-fashioned as that seems). Arrow, of course, wanted to run outside to do his euphemistic business. He sat in the kitchen while I set up the coffee maker and put a cup of water in a pan. When the water began to boil he walked to the back door, because he knew I’d be pouring in the oatmeal very soon. That’s when we went outside, I got the newspaper, and Arrow made a beeline for the grass.
My daughter’s piano teacher came every Thursday night at 8. Since she was afraid of dogs, we put Arrow in his crate, a large cage leftover from when we had to lock him up during those first tenuous months when he couldn’t be trusted home alone.
After the first few weeks of being sent to the cage at 8PM on Thursdays, he began moving in there at 7:55 on his own, anticipating when the piano teacher would arrive. We didn’t really need to shut the cage door, either. He’d just lie there, snout on his paws, looking out at the kitchen.
Arrow had his antics. He sometimes went for a run around the block, zipping along so fast you couldn’t catch him. Once, my daughter called me from the burger joint up the street where she worked after school to report that Arrow was standing outside the store looking at her. Another time or two or three he managed to cross Lake Avenue (a very busy street) to shop at Petco. I don’t know if he stole any treats while he was there, but he often came home licking his chops.
A few times, I got in my car and drove around looking for him. Other times I didn’t fret. He knew where he got fed. Still, I never liked it when he ran off like that. Eventually it got to where he’d never do it when I was around, only when I wasn’t… like when I traveled for days at a time due to work, or worked late, or on the weekends.
He and I shared a lot of good times. He and my son shared some as well. My daughter was the only person who could give Arrow a bath. He did whatever she wanted, no complaints. Once, she took him to school to present a “How to Train Your Dog” project when she was in 7th grade.
He and I enjoyed one- and two-hour long walks together. We went to the dog beach three or four times a week. In the autumn, when it got dark early, we’d often stay until the sun went down. Sometimes I’d fish while he galloped across the sand. Sometimes I read and sometimes I listened to the radio, especially on Saturday evenings when Garrison Keeler was on NPR.
Eventually, Arrow grew old. At the beach he limped when he walked on the sand. He stopped running around. He stopped snooping at the water’s edge (he never went for a swim). His legs hurt too much, so he didn’t enjoy his old pastimes.
Walks were short now. I often had to pick him up and carry him home when he stopped at the middle of the block and refused to continue.
And so the end came. He suffered a heart attack, which came on him while at the vet’s, where’d he’d been taken because he acted so sick that morning.
Yet he lives in our memory, as all good dogs should.
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